On Tuesday, sports talker Colin Cowherd said that the US military is made up of people who have “no choices” and who join for the money, “to pay bills.”
“My sympathy goes to the military members in this country,” Cowherd said toward the end of Tuesday’s show. “Socio-economically, no choices, paid almost nothing, lose a limb, lose a life. That, I feel sympathy for.”
“We know most people that go into the military in this country — they need the military often to pay bills. That is is almost a federal safety net financially, and by the way you’ll take shots. You’ll be sent two or three times to a raging inferno in the Middle East. That stuff scares me. That stuff I’m worried about. There’s loss of life there.”
Cowherd is using a liberal stererotype to describe Americans who volunteer to serve in the armed forces.
The fact is, Cowherd doesn’t know the facts at all.
George Washington University conducted a study of education in the military in 2013. Based on 2010 data, GWU found that military members are significantly more likely to have high school diplomas and at least some college experience than the general population.
According to GWU, while 59.5% of the US general population have a high school diploma or some college, 93.6% of US enlisted military personnel had the same. And while just 29.9% of the US general population have a bachelor’s degree or more, 82.8% of US military officers have at least one college degree. That’s because it’s very difficult to even become a US military officer without a degree. It can be done, by enlisted personnel making the jump to the officer corps, but it’s difficult. The vast majority of US military officer enter the military with a degree, and often from either ROTC programs or the military academies.
Cowherd also said that US military personnel get “paid nothing.” He is wrong about that too. While it is true that there remain some compensation issues at the lower end of the military pay scale, that covers a tiny percentage of the military force, and the US military officer corps is very well compensated. GWU finds that compensation is 88% higher than their civilian counterparts with a bachelor’s degree. Pay for military officers with advanced degrees is 47% higher on average than civilians with advanced degrees.
The Heritage Foundation also studied military enlistees, their socio-economic origins, education levels, and demographics. Cowherd is wrong on every single count.
- U.S. military service disproportionately attracts enlisted personnel and officers who do not come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Previous Heritage Foundation research demonstrated that the quality of enlisted troops has increased since the start of the Iraq war. This report demonstrates that the same is true of the officer corps.
- Members of the all-volunteer military are significantly more likely to come from high-income neighborhoods than from low-income neighborhoods. Only 11 percent of enlisted recruits in 2007 came from the poorest one-fifth (quintile) of neighborhoods, while 25 percent came from the wealthiest quintile. These trends are even more pronounced in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, in which 40 percent of enrollees come from the wealthiest neighborhoods-a number that has increased substantially over the past four years.
- American soldiers are more educated than their peers. A little more than 1 percent of enlisted personnel lack a high school degree, compared to 21 percent of men 18-24 years old, and 95 percent of officer accessions have at least a bachelor’s degree.
- Contrary to conventional wisdom, minorities are not overrepresented in military service. Enlisted troops are somewhat more likely to be white or black than their non-military peers. Whites are proportionately represented in the officer corps, and blacks are overrepresented, but their rate of overrepresentation has declined each year from 2004 to 2007. New recruits are also disproportionately likely to come from the South, which is in line with the history of Southern military tradition.
The fact is, the present US military is the most educated fighting force in human history. Our all-volunteer force comes more from the middle and upper income brackets than from the lower income brackets. The global war on terrorism has been underway for a little over 13 years now, so a majority of the US military have volunteered not just for a “federal safety net” program, as Cowherd believes, but to defend America from the threat of terrorism. They have joined knowing that we are engaged in war overseas, and they are serving with unprecedented professionalism, skill and bravery. Rather than cluelessly insulting them, Cowherd should be honoring and thanking them.