The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
A&M System’s Title IX director suspended after supporting Biden's Title IX changes
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
Mexico fans react after Mexico F Julián Quiñones 73rd-minute goal during the MexTour match between Mexico and Brazil at Kyle Field on Saturday, June 8, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
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Ian Curtis, Sports Reporter • June 11, 2024

As soon as the Mexico-Brazil soccer match at Kyle Field was announced, Jacob Svetz and Caitlin Falke saw an opportunity.  The match was scheduled...

The Fighting Texas Aggie Band performs at halftime during Texas A&Ms football game against ULM at Kyle Field on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.
Gridiron glory to multi-event marvel
Shalina Sabih, Sports Writer • June 7, 2024

Special teams: Special events  “My favorite thing about an event is seeing the people come into the stadium and seeing their excitement...

Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
'I was terrified'
April 25, 2024
Chris Hemsworth as Dementus in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.
Review: ‘Furiosa’ is a must-see
Justin ChenJune 4, 2024

My jaw dropped open in 2016. Rarely in life does that happen, but the viewing experience of “Mad Max: Fury Road" was something to behold....

Texas A&M pitcher Chris Cortez (10) reacts during Texas A&M’s game against Oregon at the NCAA Bryan-College Station Super Regional at Olsen Field on Saturday, June 8, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
One step away
June 8, 2024

Opinion: Stronger minds make a stronger nation

Photo by Photo by Hannah Shaffer

Cadet commander Connor Fortier leads the Corps of Cadets for the final time on the Simpson Drill Field as a part of Final Review on Saturday, April 30, 2022.

When people think of national security, the first thing that comes to mind usually isn’t pre-K education. What military leaders like myself understand is that we can’t have a strong military without investing in American children and their families. In order to have the safest, strongest nation possible, we need young people who are healthy and prepared to succeed in any career path they choose, including military service.
Unfortunately, our current investments aren’t cutting it, and we are already seeing the consequences. The Department of Defense recently released an updated review of our nation’s military readiness, and their findings are shocking — 77% of 17 to 24-year-olds can’t qualify to serve in the military due to a combination of behavioral issues, education deficits and medical disqualifiers.
Even worse, this number is six percentage points higher than the figure released in 2017. If this trend continues, it will drastically impede any attempt to bolster our future national security. How can we have a strong military if no one is eligible to serve in it? And, if these young people aren’t qualified for military service, how many other careers will they not be capable of pursuing?
To help find a solution to this problem, I joined Mission: Readiness, a national, bipartisan organization of over 800 retired admirals and generals calling for smart investments that help ensure children stay in school, stay fit and stay out of trouble. What we found is that further investments in early childhood education and disqualifiers, as many of our country’s recruitment issues typically stem from challenges children face early in life.
Affordable, high-quality child care and pre-K programs are proven to help kids foster future academic success, healthy habits and social development. Infants and toddlers in quality child care environments receive nurturing, stimulating environments that are necessary for proper development. A report by Council for a Strong America highlighted a longitudinal study of more than 1,300 children that found that children in higher-quality child care were better prepared for school at age 4 compared to children in lower-quality child care. At age 15, they were still performing slightly above their peers and had significantly lower levels of behavior problems.
These statistics show that quality child care and pre-K programs build a successful early foundation that helps children grow up to have the choice to serve in the military or follow other paths successfully. By neglecting these programs, we strip young Americans of that choice.
As a father and a commanding officer, I can attest personally to the difference these programs make in the lives of children and parents. The Department of Defense has known for years the importance of prioritizing our youngest children, and has led the nation in creating a successful child care program through the Military Child Care System, or MCCS. The MCCS is the nation’s largest employer-sponsored child care program. It is successful due in part to providing adequate training and, importantly, competitive compensation for child care professionals.
We need to do in Texas for working families what the United States military has done for service members and expand our early childhood education sector to build a better foundation for the next generation of Americans. Fortunately, the Texas Prenatal to Three Collaborative released policy recommendations to the state legislature earlier this year that can be used as a roadmap for improving early learning programs.
These recommendations include expanding child care slots, especially in rural areas of the state that often suffer from “child care deserts,” improving child-teacher ratios in the classroom and increasing funding to ensure care is more affordable for parents. Expanded funding to child care providers can also help train and attract qualified professionals by offering them proper compensation for their critical work.
By taking these steps, we can help aid early education and child care providers and help reduce the barriers for future military candidacy. We all need to recognize what the military has known for decades — any investment in our next generation and those that help teach and care for them is an investment in our national security.
Major General Darren G. Owens, U.S. Army (Ret.), Class of 1973, is a member of Mission: Readiness.

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