SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- As the military continues its troop drawdown, you may have a tougher time enlisting. It's happening as we begin the transition out of "war time." In his State of the Union address, President Obama said we'll cut our forces in Afghanistan by half by next year.
Kason Newman is a machine; a pull-up, push-up, intense-enough-to-throw-up machine. But the only thing that used to be mechanical about him was his line of thinking. It was consumed by the military.
"I've always been interested in the SEALs, stuff like that, Navy SEALs, Special Ops, always played the video games, watched the movies; it just highly interested," he said in between sets at the gym.
That's where it stopped -- at interest.
"I just never thought I could get that fit," he said.
Newman knows how competitive enlisting has become, especially for something as elite as Air Force Special Operations.
"It's like a 90-percent attrition rate," he said. "A lot of people fail out either due to not being fit enough or mentally strong enough."
Across the board, fit and strong is more important than ever for military hopefuls like Newman. The military is cracking down on eligibility requirements that are relaxed during war time. The Army estimates 35 percent of its personnel will be pushed out due to tighter criteria: no visible tattoos, no misdemeanors, no obesity.
Not only is the military more strictly enforcing the physical requirements it already has, but it's also adding some new ones as well. For example, starting next year, women in the Marines will no longer just have to do a flexed arm hang. Instead, they'll do pullups, a minimum of three, just like the men.
"It is intense. The competition is definitely higher," said Lt. Col. Troy Wisdom.
Wisdom is over Missouri State University's ROTC program and says the numbers aren't dropping but scholarships are.
"I've been here a year and half. We've probably lost 50 percent of initial national scholarships my first year here."
Wisdom says his pool of applicants is constantly increasing in quality.
"We're very selective," he said.
After six months of grueling training, Newman is quality.
"My confidence is outrageous right now, but in check, yes," he said with a laugh.
He leaves for basic training in June.
Wisdom says competition is good and shouldn't discourage people from pursuing a career in the military. He says, if you meet all the eligibility requirements, you'll get in.
The Missouri National Guard is in a bit of a different situation. The head of recruiting for southwest Missouri says the Guard is growing, even creating 300 new jobs.