Is our Army really broken? I've asked a number of active duty soldiers, military leaders and even a former POW shot down early in this war. All agree we could use more resources, like armor, and improve the care we give returning soldiers ... but none has used the term “broken,” or even come close to it.
Amidst the allegations that our Army is so beleaguered, there are those who say we just don’t have enough soldiers to fight or finish. So, with the question of recruitment of new military men and women in mind, I went to meet those who’ve set their sights on keeping America safe, whatever the cost — teenagers signing up for our all-volunteer Army at a time there’s no denying where they're headed or what they'll face.
My crew and I visited West Point in upstate New York. It's impressive by all appearances; there’s magnificent historic buildings, through which many generals, whose names you know, have passed through. It's worth a look, if you enjoy military history as I do!
So what about these "kids" — cadets as young as 17 — so determined to be admitted, that they work their way through an elaborate and challenging application and interview process to even be considered for a slot at West Point? Where does their commitment to serve — even kill if necessary to defend — come from? Are they so different from the "video game" generation of kids at other colleges across this nation?
Deanna Comstock says she’s wanted to be a West Point cadet since her Dad brought her to West Point when she was six-years-old. Now she’s in her second year. “I was enamored from that point on. I bought a patch in the gift shop. It’s still on my desk now, and I'm 22 and so it’s been a long time,” she said.
Deanna’s already served as an MP in Iraq before starting her West Point stint. “I'd love to play video games and sit in my room, I just don't have time. Right now my country is at war, it suffered some pretty horrendous attacks and I'm from New York so that really hit home. I could be a part of this to advance freedom in the world, and I went for it, and decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
Lieutenant General Franklin Hagenbeck is the Superintendent at the U.S. Military Academy and previously served as the Director of Personnel for the Army. “This is the best Army that America has ever had,” he tells me. “The kids that sign up are extraordinary. Two out of three of the males in America today between 18 and 24 years old are not even qualified to walk through our recruiter’s door in any of our military services. Now, maybe that’s an indictment on our society, perhaps so, maybe both, but about a third of those who are qualified, they are coming through the door at unprecedented rates, and I can't say enough good things about them. “
Nick Hill could have gone to any number of colleges on a baseball scholarship. He’s a systems engineering major at West Point with a 94mph lefty pitch. A senior about to graduate, Nick echoes what I hear from active duty men and women most already serving multiple deployments. “If we don't fight the enemy abroad, they'll fight us right here at home,” he says. He believes the Iraqi people deserve the same chance we do — to have freedom.
Nick’s a unique cadet and we’ll tell you his story on Fox Report tonight as well as when I host Fox News Live this weekend. With that fast pitch, discipline and determination, many in the major leagues have already taken notice. But despite the big money contracts likely to come his way, he’s a soldier first and foremost. “f I'm given the opportunity then I'd love to pursue that, but if not, you know, serving my country is the thing I'd love to do as well.” Nick says.
Veronica Finch is another senior cadet with resolve. “I knew that I wanted to have a four-year college experience with service, and I thought that West Point would be a challenge and being here I've found that it’s been both. My resolve to serve my nation not only stateside, but overseas has been something that has been strengthened within me, coming here,” she said.
Cadets get overhead announcements of comrades who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the war we’re waging … their lives. Cadet Paul Cheval explains, “We hear an announcement in the morning in honor of the ones who passed away and we honor them with a moment of silence. For me personally it reinforces the importance of being here at this academy. It strengthens my resolve and reaffirms the importance of what we are doing.”
Deanna has gotten the call every military man and women dreads ... notification members of her unit have been killed by insurgents. Still she believes strongly in what we are doing. “You don't really understand what’s going on there unless you're there. It’s very real.” I ask her what she would tell a high schooler considering military service. “It’s very important that high school students realize this is not just some far away war” Deanna explains. “This war has been brought to our homeland, and it could be at any time, and we need to be diligent in fighting that off.”
Jamie Colby joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in July 2003 and currently serves as a news correspondent and anchor of "FOX Online" on Saturdays and Sundays (2 p.m. – 3 p.m. ET). She anchored coverage of the passing of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI from Rome. You can read her complete bio here.