What's keeping military-age Philadelphians from being all they can be?

High dropout, crime, and obesity rates, to name a few factors.

According to a report from Mission: Readiness, a national nonprofit organization of retired generals and admirals, Philadelphia's young adults lag behind the national average for military eligibility. Between 80 and 90 percent of 18- to 24-year-old city residents, the report's authors say, display deal-breaking deficiencies in at least one of what retired Lt. Gen. Dennis Benchoff calls "the three M" categories: medical, moral, and mental. Roughly 75 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds are ineligible nationwide.

Speaking at the 23d Street Armory, Benchoff and others - including District Attorney Seth Williams - fixed their attention primarily on the "mental" shortcomings of Philadelphia youth.

Citing studies touting the success of early-childhood education, the military men lobbied to sustain or increase state and federal funding for prekindergarten programs.

Tops on the group's wish list: a shift from the classic K-through-12 paradigm to a pre-K-through-12 system when Congress votes on whether to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Mission: Readiness, according to national director Amy Dawson Taggart, has not conducted similar studies in comparable cities. The group chose to focus on Philadelphia, she says, in view of the legislature's already-strong commitment to pre-K education.