Three retired military leaders focus on education

HATTIESBURG,MS (WDAM) -  According to three retired generals the future of the U.S. Military depends on preschoolers, or at least how they are taught at that age.

The generals released a report at the African American Military Museum Wednesday showing 80% to 90% of young Mississippians, ages 17 to 24 do not  qualify for military service because of poor quality early child development and learning programs.

Retired Major General Buford Blount says through an organization called Mission: Readiness Military Leaders for Kids, more than 100 retired military leaders are trying to improve educational programs throughout the country, and are calling on lawmakers to help.

"Make them aware of some of the successes that states have, some of the programs. There are a lot of good programs out there. Making everyone aware of the programs that do work, and try to help the federal government and state government implement some of the at their levels," said Blount.

According to the statistics, other causes include kids not graduating on time, dropping out or not passing the military basic exam.

"The exam focuses on math and problem solving. Even though they may not have graduated from high school they haven't had the quality education to pass the entrance exam for the military," said Blount.

Other disqualifications are criminal records and weight problems.

"They got to be physically fit. In Mississippi we have a obesity problem. We are the fattest state in the nation. That is another key factor. We are trying to address that with the school lunches," said Blount.

Retired Major General Larry Harrington adding these issues cause a diminishing affect on the military.

"It comes down to boots on the ground and the quality of individual soldiers, sailors and airmen that are out there. Those service men and women that have the intellectual skills, have the physical capabilities and capacity. Having that drive to make it what it is," said Harrington.

But with the help of the government they can implement strategies like a 40-year study done at a preschool in Michigan which raised graduation rates by 44%.

High-quality education and graduation rates also cut crime, and the National Institutes of Health are developing nation wide programs to reverse obesity rates.

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