Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Signing Up or Opting Out Military recruiters and counter-recruiters wage war

This weekend past, we were invited guest speakers on an impressive panel for Cost of War conference, public invited, in Bend, Oregon. Among the people we met while there, was Bruce Miller, an editor of the weekly news publication, The Source. He did an interview with us, but that's not why I'm blogging this; more that I was impressed with an article he published in the previous week's Source on military recruiting in the schools.

I learned something I did not know, and thinking since I scan everything related to the troops, how did I miss this, I was pleased to learn and I quote from the Source article;

Early this month, U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, a Democrat from California, introduced a bill that would have reversed the current law and prohibited recruiters from contacting high school students unless their parents specifically approved of it first. The measure was promptly shot down by the House Republican majority.

“It’s been summarily put on the shelf by the Republican leadership,” said Jay Staunton, Honda’s press secretary. “He [Honda] may be able to tack it onto a defense appropriations bill, although I would expect it to meet strong resistance from the majority party.”

Hey thanks Mike Honda for your efforts, and would that more Legislators would step up to the plate to publicly endorse life over death or maiming in combat for our young . Yet even so, there are the few; Rep. Woolsey, Congressman Jim McDermott, and now Rep Mike Honda.

"Student Privacy Protection Act, H.R. 551"
To Rep. Honda's office: Fax (202) 225-2699 or E-mail –
To the MCC Washington Office: Fax (202) 544-2820 or E-mail –

*H.R. 551 has the following cosponsors: Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Sam Farr (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jim McDermott (D-WA), James McGovern (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ron Paul (R-TX), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-CA), Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (D-OH), Diane Watson (D-CA), and Robert Wexler (D-FL). Right now, there is no similar version in the U.S. Senate.

Am I overlooking other legislators who have taken action to show displeasure with the war in Iraq and work on behalf of their constituency; the silent voices of the warriors?

Read the article at the Source, and please urge your own local newspapers to report on the aggressive recruitment efforts going on in our high schools across the nation under the 'No Child Left Behind' act of President Bush. It provides some level of federal funding to the schools, in exchange the schools provide the contact information (names, addresses, phone numbers) of high school students 17 and older to the military recruiters who are then able to actively dog a student incessantly in misleading and aggressive pursuit of recruitment.

The school personnel ought to know of the opt out, in which a parent can request their child's contact information not be provided to military recruiters. School personnel have a responsibility to inform parents of the shift due to the No Child Left Behind; but lost federal funds and can fairly well guess how school personnel might be torn between the needed funds and putting a young person at the mercy of military recruiters who are very willing to mislead our young into signing a contract for military enlistment.

Quoting again from the Source;

“The main draw that the military has is the Montgomery GI Bill, the promise of money for college,” he said. “They make it sound like it’s almost going to pay for your whole college. They’re promising 50, 60, 70 thousand dollars for college. In reality I don’t see veterans getting those kinds of dollars when they get out. The estimates I’ve seen are that about 25 to 30 percent [of veterans] don’t get any [college] money at all.”

Recruiters also use the bait-and-switch routine, Grueschow said, falsely promising recruits that they’ll have their pick of training and assignments.

In their recruitment pitches and advertising, he said, the armed forces “oversell programs they think are going to be attractive to kids. Obviously not everybody is going to be a jet pilot. There are a lot of pretty mundane jobs in the military.”

Instead of taking a recruiter’s promises at face value, Grueschow said, kids thinking about enlisting should read the fine print: “It says right in the standard enlistment form you sign that your pay and benefits and job assignment and all that stuff can be changed at any time. The actual agreement you sign is very clear that there really are no guarantees, and yet [recruiters] use the word ‘guarantee’ pretty regularly.”

Local recruiters have quotas they’re expected to meet, Grueschow said, and if they fail to meet them they could lose their posts as recruiters.

“Being a recruiter is considered kind of a plush assignment,” he said. “If they don’t meet their quotas regularly, they’re going to get transferred out”--maybe to Iraq.


But other branches of the armed forces aren’t doing so well. Voice of America News reported last week that two years after the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the number of volunteers is declining.

“At a Senate hearing this week, the Army’s vice chief of staff, General Richard Cody, said falling numbers are a concern,” VOA reported. “The Army National Guard missed its goal of recruiting 56,000 new soldiers last year, and the Marine Corps failed to reach its enlistment goal for the first time in almost a decade. This year, the active-duty Army is 6 percent below its month-by-month recruitment goals, and the Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard and Navy Reserve also are falling to meet their recruitment targets for 2005.”

As their job gets tougher, recruiters are likely to face increasing pressure to round up enough bodies, which will mean offering more enticements to prospects. Already, according to Grueschow, military recruiters are wooing likely candidates almost as intently as college football coaches trying to sign an All-American high school quarterback.

After getting a young person to sign on the dotted line, he said, “A good recruiter will be calling that kid practically weekly, checking in with him. They have activities, weekend events and stuff. They make it sound like they’re required, but you don’t really have to go to those.”

Grueschow also made the important point that a recruit’s commitment isn’t final when he or she signs the first enlistment agreement.

“One thing most people don’t know is that if you sign up, until you’re ready to go to boot camp you can back out of it,” he said. “There are two swearing-ins, the first one when you sign up and the second one usually on the morning you leave for boot camp. Up until that second swearing-in you can walk away and no action will be taken. Of course, your individual recruiter isn’t going to tell you about that.”

For her part, Debby Rutkai thinks military recruiters shouldn’t even be allowed on high school campuses. Making a decision to join the armed forces and risk your life, she argues, is fundamentally different from deciding what college to attend or what civilian career to pursue.

“Oftentimes the military recruits young people for positions such as truck mechanic,” she said. “Someone else I know wanted to get education toward some kind of medical degree. Usually if you want to get a job here in town as a mechanic you don’t have a requirement to then go to war. To me that’s a whole different thing. They [high school students] understand that to a degree, but not fully what they’re getting into.”

Heed the information, and print it, and share it in your own community. Be a mentor to a 17 year old under pressure from family, friends, school to make career choices and ask yourself if you are truly willing to let a naive youngster become the cannon fodder for the Iraq war.

You can find the Opt Out form here, print it out, parent to sign if student under 18 yrs; student to sign if 18 yrs or older and give the signed form to school principal or administrator.

the Source - Bend Oregon Newspaper

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President George W. Bush's statement in March 2006 after 3 yrs of war "a future President will have to resolve war in Iraq"


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