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The Army has instructed field commands to make sure they are in compliance with an international treaty to prevent children from participating in combat.
As a signatory to the Child Soldier Protocol of the 1992 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the U.S. has agreed to not force anyone under age 18 into military service, or to employ such soldiers in operations involving direct combat.
To ensure compliance, the Army established a policy in 1993 that prohibits the assignment or deployment of child soldiers to duty stations outside the continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and U.S. territories and possessions.
The policy applies to soldiers of the Regular Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve, with no provision for waivers.
While the assignment branches of the Human Resources Command routinely screen the ages of soldiers who are placed on overseas assignment orders, the command has no visibility of soldiers who are assigned individually or in unit sets for deployment by field commands.
In a mid-January directive to all commands, the Office of the G1 at the Pentagon instructed installation commanders to make sure their overseas processing centers bar the deployment of soldiers under age 18.
While the Army allows the voluntary recruitment of 17-year-olds, such young people only can serve with the consent of their parents or legal guardians.
Less than 10 percent of the 80,000 soldiers recruited annually by the Army are 17 years old, according to Recruiting Command.
"The average age of recruits runs 21 to 22 years old," said Douglas Smith, USAREC spokesman.