SUSANNE M. SCHAFER
Associated Press
August 27, 2008

FORT JACKSON, S.C. (AP) — Austin Swarner left high school to care for his mother while she fought a losing battle with cancer. Tony Brown wanted to begin supporting himself and left two classes shy of a diploma. Haelee Holden got tired of trying to make it through school while flipping burgers until 1 a.m.

But the U.S. Army, eager to fill its ranks amid wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, doesn’t see them as dropouts. They are recruits who only need a GED before they’re ready to begin basic training.

And so, the Army formally opens its first prep school Wednesday.

“It’s academic immersion,” explained Col. Jeffrey Sanderson, chief of staff at Fort Jackson, home of the Army’s largest basic training school. “Our studies show that with only three out of every 10 people of military age being capable of joining the Army, we are going to have to do something different.”

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