Nobody Asked Me, But. . . - You Are Recruiting the Wrong Sailors

By Commander Don Braswell, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Why would this work for the Navy? By comparing the class rank and ASVAB, you’ll get a more complete picture of your incoming recruit. Class rank mirrors work ethic. ASVAB only measures aptitude. Class rank shows that a future sailor can keep track of six to eight classes for four years with different teachers; they can juggle many assignments; and they can perform reasonably well in multiple subjects. It is all too easy for a smart, lazy student to make a 70 in his high-school classes and graduate. Remember, every potential recruit who scores below 35 on the ASVAB is also a high-school graduate. It takes a genuine effort to get out of the bottom 35 percent of graduates.

How does the Navy correct this error? It’s simple and easy. (The difference between simple and easy: It’s simple to quit smoking. Just don’t light a cigarette and inhale. It’s not easy to quit smoking.) The Navy should give equal weight to high-school class rank percentage and the ASVAB. Class rank is easy to find. It is usually noted on high-school transcripts or available from high-school counselors. Recruiters then use a combined score in exactly the same way that the services use the ASVAB today. This new criterion probably does not require Congress to act. It has ample legal precedent in the civilian world, and it brings admission to the Navy more in line with other competitive admissions processes. It can probably be implemented tomorrow with a simple directive from the Bureau of Naval Personnel (It might take two days if BUPERS insists on conferring with legal counsel).

Let’s finish with two hypothetical recruits, Ted and Sam. Ted makes a 75 on the ASVAB. Great score! But Ted is ranked in the bottom 5th percentile of his senior class. In polite academic circles Ted is considered an “underachiever.” A division CPO would just call Ted lazy.

Sam makes a 45 on the ASVAB, but he’s ranked in the top 50 percent of his class. Sam is considered an “overachiever” and hard worker. Who do you think makes the better sailor? Using today’s criteria, the Navy will send the lazy Ted to A-school, and the hardworking Sam is probably non-rated.

As a former commanding officer, I cringed when I saw a “Ted” come to the squadron. Not surprisingly, Ted usually departed 18 months later with an other-than-honorable discharge. Smart-but-lazy usually couldn’t hack it in the Navy. The CPOs and Sam were glad to see him go.

Commander Braswell currently teaches principles of technology in Texas. He was a former commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 25 (VFA-25) and retired in 2009.


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