By Mr. Paul Boyce (FORSCOM)August 1, 2008
The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command will open the Army Preparatory School Aug. 4 at Fort Jackson, S.C., to give qualifying young men and women an opportunity to earn their General Educational Development (GED) credentials before they begin Basic Combat Training (BCT).
The four-week pilot course will be open only to recruits without a high school diploma and who have scored in the top 50 percentile on the military aptitude test and meet or exceed all other physical and character standards for becoming high-performing Soldiers. The ultimate goal of the program is for qualifying students to earn full-fledged high school diplomas.
"This program is meant to give young Americans an opportunity," said Gen. William S. Wallace, Training and Doctrine Command's commanding general. "It reflects the fact that a sizeable number of very capable young Americans leave high school because of circumstances beyond their control, such as going to work to support their families. If they meet all the other qualifications, then they deserve an opportunity to earn their GED and serve in the Army. The Army Prep School provides that opportunity."
The prep school also will help the future Soldiers prepare for the rigors of Basic Combat Training (BCT) by immersing them in physical fitness training, discipline, and life skills.
"My concern is that the health and fitness of America's youth is rapidly becoming a national security issue," said Wallace. "If we hold ourselves to a very high standard -which we should - to physical fitness, morals, values and intellect, then it's my judgment that the Army, and perhaps all branches of the military, need to be proactive in seeing that those standards are maintained. It's our obligation to the nation to help qualify young people for the military and serve the nation."
The Army will evaluate the prep school throughout its first year and, if results are favorable, consider expanding the program at Fort Jackson or open facilities at the Army's other basic training installations: Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Sill, Okla., and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. TRADOC is currently working with the South Carolina Department of Education to enable the granting of high school diplomas sometime next year.
"Today only 28 percent of the 17- to 24-year-old population qualifies to wear a military uniform. The other 72 percent fail to meet minimum standards on education, character, or health," said Wallace. "We will not lower our training standards, so we're faced with helping raise the health and education standards of our young people who want to serve."
Once fully operational, the school will accommodate 60 new students or more each week. At full capacity, the school will educate 240 recruits at a time in core academic subjects over the course of four weeks, which may be expanded to ten weeks.
"This is the right thing to do for our youth, our Army and our nation," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commander of Accessions Command, the Army's recruiting arm. "We are a nation of opportunities where people overcome past setbacks and usually end up excelling. Reflecting our national heritage, the Army has always been where citizens find new opportunities."
During its first year the school is expected to yield nearly 3,000 graduates who have earned a GED and been introduced to Army life. They will move directly to basic combat training, followed by advanced individual training.
For more information, news media may call: Contact: U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Public Affairs Maj. Mike Kenfield, telephone: (757) 788-3506