An all-honors student and varsity soccer player, Luc LaChance could have had his pick of colleges when he left Slippery Rock High School in Butler County.
Instead, he chose to enlist with the U.S. Marines, where he will be trained as an infantryman — what the 17-year-old describes as “the common soldier.”
Eric Enslow, a 25-year-old Shaler Township resident with a master’s degree, joined the Navy after an exhaustive search for teaching jobs in Southwest Pennsylvania. His choice in the military was an intelligence job, which he was denied because of student-loan debt.
Sarah Szczypinski of Crafton, in Allegheny County, missed the threshold to apply to be an Army officer by one point on the armed services aptitude test.
The 23-year-old, who had earned a biology degree, thought the recruiter might submit a waiver to get her into officer candidate school. Instead, she was told to take the test again in six months or enlist.
“I was a little devastated,” said Szczypinski, who enlisted and left Nov. 12 for basic training.
Each of these Pennsylvanians are high achievers who might have expected to walk easily into the military service job of their choice. But, as the U.S. military brings troops home from Afghanistan and reduces the number of recruits for budgetary reasons, services that once were thought to be the employer of last resort are now being much more selective.