You and the Military
by Alan Shapiro
Student Reading 4:
Recruiters meet resistance
The Army announced in June 2005 that it had missed its recruiting goal for the fourth consecutive month. The Pentagon said at the same time that the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve and Air National Guard also missed their goals for sending new recruits to basic training. And the Marine Corps, for the fifth straight month, missed its contracting goal to sign recruits for future basic training.
According to the New York Times, one result is that "the Army is having to turn to more high school dropouts and lower-achieving applicants to fill its ranks, accepting hundreds of recruits in recent months who would have been rejected a year ago, according to Army statistics." The Times quotes David Segal, who directs the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland: "The overall quality of the force today is lower than it was a year ago. It means they can anticipate more problem situations with recruits in the training cycle." (New York Times, 6/11/05)
New Army rules also make it easier to retain pregnant soldiers as well as those who abuse drugs and alcohol or have committed minor crimes.
"CBS News has reported that from asking teens to lie to their parents to guiding them through duping the drug-test system, recruiters will go to many lengths to get young people to enlistÖ.Each Army recruiter must enlist two people a month into the serviceÖ.Army officials said last week they have investigated 480 allegations of impropriety by recruiters since Oct. 1Ö.Eight recruiters have been relieved and another 98 have been admonished."
In May 2005 the Army suspended recruiting efforts for one day "to allow commanders to emphasize ethical conduct and 'refocus our entire force on who we are as an institution,' said Maj. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, the chief of Army recruiting." (CBSNews.com, 5/20/05)
In addition to recruiting shortfalls for enlistees, the Army is also running short of National Guard and Reserve soldiers, many of whom have been sent to Iraq and whose tours of duty are ending. About 35% of U.S. troops there are such soldiers.
What is happening and why?
The U.S. is in its third year of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Almost daily come reports of the deaths of American soldiers. Roadside bomb explosions are the most common cause, especially in Iraq, but there are also firefights, snipers, suicide bombers and attackers with grenades in both countries.
By the end of August 2005 the American death toll in Iraq had exceeded 1,870. Since there is no end in sight to U.S. combat in Iraq, there is no end in sight to the lengthening list of dead soldiers, not to speak of the much greater numbers of Iraqi deaths. A lower level, but still deadly, insurgency continues in Afghanistan.
At the same time organizations and parents, teachers, coaches, and other youth advisors in some high schools have begun to challenge military recruiters. The spark is often the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. This Bush administration legislation, intended as a school reform measure, includes Section 9528, the "Armed Forces Recruiter Access to Students and Student Recruiting Information."
The U.S. Department of Education states that all high schools receiving funds under the act must "provide military recruiters the same access to secondary school students as they generally provide to postsecondary institutions or prospective employers. For example, if the school has a policy of allowing postsecondary institutions or prospective employers to come on school property to provide information to students about education or professional opportunities, it must afford the same access to military recruitersÖ.[The high school] must provide notice to parents of the types of student information that it releases publicly. This type of student informationÖincludes such items as names, addresses, and telephone numbersÖ.
"Additionally, Section 9528 requires that parents be notified that the school routinely discloses names, addresses, and telephone numbers to military recruiters upon request, subject to a parent's request not to disclose such information without written consentÖ.The notification must advise the parent of how to opt out of the disclosure of directory information and the method and timeline within which to do soÖ.Schools that do not comply with Section 9528Öcould jeopardize their receipt ofÖfunds." (www.ed.gov)
In May 2005 the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico filed suit against the Albuquerque Public Schools "for failing properly to notify parents of their option to prohibit public schools from directly sending their children's contact information to military recruiters. The ACLU charged that the school district's current practices violate students' privacy and due process rights, as well as provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act" The ACLU argued that "at a time when people who enter the military face the very real prospect of going into battle, parents should have the right to control what the U.S. Department of Defense knows about their children and how easily they can recruit them to become soldiers." (www.aclu.org)
At about the same time, Seattle college student demonstrators walked out of classes and marched on recruiting offices; the Garfield High School Parent Teachers Student Association (also in Seattle) passed a resolution banning military recruiters from its campus, jeopardizing $15 million in federal funding.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, several hundred college and high school student protesters appeared at a 230th birthday celebration of the minutemen's opposition to British troops in 1775. Some wore white T-shirts with words hand-lettered in red declaring, "You Can't Bribe Us to Die" on the front and "You Can't Bribe Us to Kill" on the back, referring to Army enlistment bonuses. (www.alternet.org, 6/16/05) Parents in Whittier, California, complained that their school district had not informed them of their right to "opt out" of any release of information to military recruiters. The district has since introduced a check-off form for parents to do so.
Representative Mike Honda, a California Democrat, has introduced legislation (HR 551) that would prevent military recruiters from getting student information unless students and parents first gave permission. (For details, see his website, www.honda.house.gov.)
Counter-recruitment activists at a meeting convened by Educators to Stop the War are organizing two weeks of counter-recruiting activities from Sept. 12-24 in selected New York City high schools, culminating in demonstrations at recruitment centers on September 23.
"Mothers and fathers around the country said they are terrified that their child will have to be killedóor killóin a war that many see as unnecessary and without end," the New York Times reported. "Around the dinner table, many parents said, they are discouraging their children from serving." Said one parent: "The point is not whether I support the troops. It's about whether a well-organized propaganda machine should be targeted at children and enforced by the schools." (New York Times, 6/3/05)
In an article critical of military recruitment efforts, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote, "Recruiters with a gift of gab go into the schools with a glamorous pitch, bags full of goodies for the kids (T-shirts, donuts, key chains) and a litany of promises they often can't keep. The kids don't hear much about their chances of being maimed or killed, or the trauma that often results from killing someone elseÖ. It is highly questionable whether most high school kids are equipped to make an informed decision about joining the military, which is exactly why they're being targeted. The additional knowledge and maturity gained in the first few years after high school make it easier for a young man or woman to make a wiser, more meaningful choice, pro or con." ("They Won't Go," New York Times, 6/13/05)
1. What questions do students have about the reading? How might they be answered?
2. What quotas must Army recruiters meet? As it has become more difficult for them to meet quotas, what recruiting tactics have drawn criticism? Why did the Army suspend all recruiting efforts for a day in May?
3. What are the No Child Left Behind Act regulations for military recruitment? Why has the application of the act drawn protests? In your high school, have parents been informed they have the right to deny personal information about their children to recruiters? If so, how? If not, why not?
4. Do you agree with Bob Herbert? Why or why not? How equipped do you think you are "to make an informed decision about joining the military"?
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