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SLUG: 7-39808 U-S Army Recruitment Controversy


TYPE=English Programs Feature



BYLINE=Andrew J. Baroch



EDITOR=Rob Sivak 202-619-2023


INTRO: Faced with declining wartime enlistment numbers and charges of inappropriate or abusive recruitment practices, the U.S. Army [has] called for a one-day halt to its recruiting operations nationwide this week [on Friday May 20th]. VOA's Andrew Baroch reports the pause has renewed public debate over the Army's recruitment tactics.

TEXT: Army officials ordered recruiters to stand down -- in military terms, to halt all regular activity and stay at their stations, in this case, for one day. The 75-hundred Army recruiters nationwide are required to take the day to review the ethical and legal guidelines of their job in the wake of reports of recruiting abuses.

In Texas recently, an Army recruiter allegedly threatened a high school student with arrest if the student changed his mind and decided not to enlist. The recruiter didn't have the authority to threaten the young person with legal action. In Colorado, another recruiter allegedly suggested a student falsify his high school diploma and conceal drug abuse from Army drug testers.

Bill Carr, the U-S deputy undersecretary of Defense for military personnel policy, says these incidents - if proven true -- are rare.


In the event of any cheating, misrepresentation or encouraging people to do that, it is simply a practice that recruiting services of the Army, Air Force and Marines would go after it [the problem], correct and eliminate it. It's not what the nation wants of us, not what we want of ourselves nor will tolerate in the recruiting function. If anything like that is mentioned and if a recruiter is not operating honorably, then they shouldn't remain a recruiter. I would observe that the vast majority of recruiters are doing a terrific jobs and staying well within the proper, ethical bounds and so forth.

TEXT: Still, U-S Army officials report more than 300 substantiated cases of allegedly improper recruiting tactics last year, a 60 percent increase in five years. Many recruiters reportedly have resorted to aggressive tactics because they've had a hard time meeting the Army's recruiting quota of two enlistees a month. Enlistments are down, experts say, due in large measure to the more than two-year old Iraq War.

The recruiters, who visit more than 20-thousand high schools a year, have also been challenged on some of the campuses by anti-war activists, who call themselves counter recruiters.

Mahdi Bray is the executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, which is part of an association of anti-war, religious groups that oppose the military presence at high schools.


Within the last three years, we've found that more high schools have really opened their schools to military recruiting. Sometimes, they do it through assemblies. There have been actual assemblies in which recruiters come in and pitch [sell the idea] for joining the military. Sometimes, there's after-school participation in the gymnasium. Sometimes military recruiters go in and they make it look glorious, adventurous, things of that nature. We're concerned that when schools open themselves up to military recruiters, it's a kind of quasi-endorsement of the process and that young people are quite impressionable.

TEXT: And a little-known provision of a 2001 education reform law known as No Child Left Behind allows Army recruiters to gain access to valuable information -- names, phone numbers, and addresses of 17 and 18 year old students.

But Bill Carr of the Defense Department says the Army's not getting special treatment at high schools.


The way the rules are set up in the federal government -- whether it's military recruiters or yearbook companies -- is that schools would announce their intent to release certain information and parents would make the choice if they wanted to opt out of that release of that information. So schools provide parents those choices, and they decide whether or not the information would be available to military recruiters, yearbook companies, or to any of the host of third parties that the school might be interested in disclosing the information to.

TEXT: Mr. Carr adds that, in his view, the Army recruiter has been a welcome presence at school events.


You might find him at a sporting event. You might find him at a [sports] practice -- in the event that those, in that case, who are physically fit or leadership-oriented students want to talk to a recruiter or make themselves available. Aside from that, they would perhaps contact students and see if the student is interested in talking with them and try to make an appointment. The student may or may not be interested. I would say that anything that informs American youth about the military is going to turn events in the military's favor. The military is a noble institution that has a lot to offer [young] people.

TEXT: Especially in the financialarea: a yearly salary that ranges from 20-thousand to 50-thousand dollars a year. Mashdi Bray of the Muslim American Society says many young people find the money hard to resist.


There is a tremendous pressure when you look at the economic situation in America, when you look at job opportunities, when you look at the [dwindling] opportunities for middle class and working class kids to go to college today with the increase in college interest loans about to go up, to double almost in July, with the cutting of Pell grants [federal aid for tuition] and other things of that nature, and with the military coming along and saying, 'We can resolve all these for you,' certainly that's, within itself, economic pressure and incentives for people to consider the military.

TEXT: Bill Carr of the Defense Department says that, except for isolated cases under investigation by the Army, there's no pressure of any kind put on the teenagers.


That patronizes the young person and assumes that they somehow can't make decisions for themselves or process information when it's presented to them. I don't see that trend among American youth. They know very well what the options are before them and what's right for them. The young person is going to have concerns about the sacrifices, what is the probability of me being exposed to risk. All of that is discussed objectively. The person makes a choice and hopefully it's the same choice that 200-thousand (people) make annually in order to serve in the military and take advantage of the opportunities and move forward. It would be smug on anyone's part to assume that the volunteer is being cajoled or taking on the decision to enlist and to serve as something other than what's right for them based on the facts presented and making a wise choice.

TEXT: Army officials say recruiters contact approximately one million young people each year and of that number, about 200-thousand sign up. Anti-war activists say their message to students is clear and simple -- no matter what the Army recruiter says, you can always say no. (SIGNED)


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