July 31, 2005
Thank goodness for the colonies
With recruiters still struggling to meet their reduced monthly quotas in the Continental US, the New York Times reports that the Army is turning to United States Territories:
From Pago Pago in American Samoa to Yap in Micronesia, 4,000 miles to the west, Army recruiters are scouring the Pacific, looking for high school graduates to enlist at a time when the Iraq war is turning off many candidates in the States.
The Army has found fertile ground in the poverty pockets of the Pacific. The per capita income is $8,000 in American Samoa, $12,500 in the Northern Marianas and $21,000 in Guam, all United States territories. In the Marshalls and Micronesia, former trust territories, per capita incomes are about $2,000.
And while the Times cites patriotism alongside poverty as a motivation for enlistment in the US territories, the "tie between military service and economic advancement is clear to many young people here.
"It's the benefits," said Arnold Balisalisa, who took the [military] aptitude test here in late June. Taking a break from his $3.25-an-hour job at a McDonald's, he said: "It is better than staying on this island. There's nothing going on here. I'm 19, and I have never even been to Guam." "
In the Congressional hearings mentioned in Counterrecruiter's last post, Rep. McHugh (NY) said "“I just have to begin to wonder, however, at what point can we continue to buy a force.” In the Continental US, that might get more difficult. But with tourism drying up and manufacturing jobs in the garment industry being lost to China, the US territories in the Pacific seem likely to be fertile ground for recruiters promising signing bonuses and money for college.
July 27, 2005
Iraq is the elephant in the room
The House Armed Services subcomittee recently discussed how the war in Iraq is hurting recruiting, according to an article in Star and Stripes, the "Department of Defense-authorized daily newspaper distributed overseas for the U.S. military community."
"Deep into a four-hour congressional hearing on why the active Army and its reserve components are missing recruiting goals, Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., turned a spotlight on the elephant in the room.
The war in Iraq, Snyder said, is unpopular with many Americans, a fact that needs airing, given the all-volunteer nature of the U.S. military.
Until that moment in the July 19 House armed services subcommittee hearing, blame for recruiting shortfalls had focused on negative news coverage of the war, an improving economy, the pace of military operations and an unexplained drop in propensity of parents and other “influencers” of American youth to recommend military service.
Nothing was said of a nation that, polls show, is souring on a war that was launched to destroy Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and shifted, after none was found, into an open-ended occupation and a Herculean effort to turn a fractionalized Muslim nation into a democracy.
David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, blamed the slow recruiting partly on "older advisors" advising young people against enlisting. The Army’s personnel chief, Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, mentioned " 'skewed' news coverage." And "Vice Adm. Gerald Hoewing, the Navy’s top personnel officer, pressed for a 'national communications strategy' to emphasize the 'positive things that are taking place around the world.' "
The Air Force personnel chief, Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady, said “a barrage of negative press” combined with “a reduced ability to have access to young people to tell our story in schools” hurts recruiting, although Brady said the Air Force is hitting its numbers and quality goals.
Rep. McHugh suggested that new enlistment bonuses may help increase the recruiting numbers, but said “I just have to begin to wonder, however,” said McHugh, “at what point can we continue to buy a force.”
Recruiting's so bad, even the Brits have noticed
The Army's low recruiting numbers are drawing international attention - the BBC has a front page story today on how the war in Iraq is pushing people away from military service. The piece notes that "In this time of war for a growing number of Americans, fatigues symbolise just one thing - service in Iraq." So a recruiter featured in the article wears "a blue shirt and chinos" instead (see image at right of recruiter Sergeant Harold Ziegler).
But the change of clothes doesn't seem to be working too well:
"[The] face of Iraq that most people see are the images of a bloody war which is sapping the will of a nation to bolster the ranks of its all-volunteer army.
Lt Colonel James Carafano, a military expert, said: "We've had to try to recruit people to an all-volunteer force while there are still active operations going on - people actually getting shot at for this length of time - that is kind of what is new."
July 24, 2005
Army admits goals will be missed; Military wants more sacrifice
The Army has admitted that it will not meet its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999. The service's top personnel officer, Lt. General Franklin L. Hagenbeck, attributed the recruiting failures to "an improving economy, competition from private industry and an increasing number of parents who are less supportive of military service," according to the New York Times.
The article notes that the Army had deployed an additional 1,200 recruiters to America's streets for the summer months in hopes of boosting enlistment, but that it still expects to fall short when the recruiting year ends on September 30th. The Army has recruited 47.121 people through the end of June, the Times reports, and hopes to hit 80,000 new enlistees by October. And that shortfall is despite a new set of recruitment incentives, with new recruits promised rewards totalling "up to" $104,000.
But it's not all about the Benjamins.
Gen. Peter Pace, the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who served as a recruiter in Buffalo for three years, said the military must appeal to American youth in other ways.
"This is not about money and benefits; this is about message," General Pace said at a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday. "If we let our young folks and middle-young folks know how much we appreciate their service to their country - there are thousands and thousands of young men and women out there who want to serve this country."
On that note, another article in the Times notes that many men and women enlisted in the military are feeling abandoned by an American public that they feel is asked to sacrifice little for the country's on-going wars.
"For most Americans," said an officer with a year's experience in Iraq, "their role in the war on terror is limited to the slight inconvenience of arriving at the airport a few hours early."
Well, why isn't the public being asked to plant victory guardians or buy war bonds?
David C. Hendrickson, a scholar on foreign policy and the presidency at Colorado College, said, "Bush understands that the support of the public for war - especially the war in Iraq - is conditioned on demanding little of the public." ...
"The public wants very much to support the troops" in Iraq, [Hendrickson] said. "But it doesn't really believe in the mission. Most consider it a war of choice, and a majority - although a thin one - thinks it was the wrong choice."
Demanding little of the public certainly precludes a draft. But with the recruitment numbers so low, what's the military to do? The article mentions a new non-military sort of recruitment, a way for professionals to lend temporary assistance to the military without the messy obligations of a multi-year deployment: the possible creation of "a Civilian Reserve, a sort of Peace Corps for professionals."
"In an interview, Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, said that discussions had begun on a program to seek commitments from bankers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, electricians, plumbers and solid-waste disposal experts to deploy to conflict zones for months at a time on reconstruction assignments, to relieve pressure on the military."
July 20, 2005
OK, kid. You don't want to join. How about your dad?
The Defense Department has asked Congress to raise the age limit for military recruits from 35 to 42. According to a report from the Army Times, this is one of a series of what defense department officials are calling “urgent wartime support initiatives.” They're also proposing to increase various cash incentives and initiate the Army Home Ownership program, which would set aside funds for a new recruit to use to buy a home at the end of enlistment.
July 18, 2005
In the Backwards World of Recruiting, Promotions are Discipline
"Turns out even though he violated the Army’s strict recruitment guidelines -- and officials promised swift corrective action – Kelt has instead been transferred to another recruiting office where he has been promoted to supervisor.
The Army says he’s the perfect person to be in charge of other recruiters since he experienced first hand what happens when ethics rules are broken.
The Army says it prosecuted 325 cases of recruiter fraud last year. Thirty-five of those were relieved of duty, hundreds more were given reprimands."
Kelt was accused of threatening recruits with arrest if they didn't enlist. One of these potential recruits was 20-year old Chris Monarch, who called a Houston recruiting office and spoke with Kelt about joining the military. After making an appointment with Kelt, Monarch changed his mind and cancelled the meeting.
"I said I'm a volunteer firefighter and eventually gonna try to go career with it and I'm just not interested anymore and I hung up the phone," Monarch said.
But the recruiter wouldn't take no for an answer -- with a phone message threatening Monarch with arrest if he didn't show.
"By federal law you got an appointment with me at two o'clock this afternoon at Greenspoint Mall." said Kelt. "OK, you fail to appear and we'll have a warrant, OK? So give me a call back."
In fear, Monarch called the recruiter back.
"He said, 'Oh Chris, don't worry about that. That's just a marketing technique I use,"' Monarch recounted."
The CBS story also notes that the Army needs over 101,000 new soldiers this year. And this is putting pressure on recruiters, who face declining enthusiam for the military, along with a continuing decrease in new recruits.
"It's very stressful," said former recruiter Jeffery Bacon.
Bacon says he's been busted from Sergeant to Specialist for not meeting his quota of 24 soldiers a year.
"I'm losing my house because I'm losing my job, you know. I'm in financial debt," Bacon said.
July 15, 2005
Military Recruiters Feel Pressure
From NYC Indymedia:
The New York City Counter-Recruitment Campaign, a diverse coalition of anti-war activists, demonstrated in front of military recruiting offices on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn this afternoon.
Many students were on the sidewalk, holding signs like the one Brian Lewis, a second year student at the New School, held: FACT: 75% of Blacks and 67% of Latinos experience racial discrimination. Lewis is working for the summer with Youth Activist Youth Allies (YaYa), a group that helps youth to get paid to do activist work. Lewis told me, "It important to take a stand against military recruiters who are preying on poor people. Coming to black neighborhoods. I'm taking a stand today and saying no."
Read the article (with photos)
July 06, 2005
Air Force Plans Large Expansion of JROTC Programs
The magazine PeaceWork is reporting that the Air Force plans to expand its high school Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program by 200 schools by 2007. There are currently 746 high school programs. The Air Force plans to add 46 schools this fall and 75 in both 2006 and 2007. PeaceWork has published a list of the 46 new schools. The magazine has also obtained a list of 207 schools on the Navy's target list for new JROTC programs.
NYCLU Demands Military Hand Over Info On Student Recruitment Tactics
From the New York Civil Liberties Union:
- Concerned about student privacy and abusive practices by military recruiters, the New York Civil Liberties Union today demanded that high-level military officials produce information about recruiter policies and practices and about how students and parents can file complaints against recruiters. The demands came in the form of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to each of the military branches and in the form of letters requesting information from the head recruiters of each military branch...
The FOIA requests demand information about the tactics and conduct of military recruiters, the criteria by which recruiters target students, the information they give to students about military careers, and complaints filed by students and their families. The letters to the recruiting commands of all four military branches ask what if any mechanisms they have in place to deal with complaints and to protect student privacy.
“We hope that these requests will elicit more information about the methods and goals of military recruiters and what students, parents, and teachers can do when they don’t behave appropriately,” said Jeff Fogel, NYCLU Attorney.
July 02, 2005
Like Father, Like Son
From the NY Press:
- "With supreme guts and righteousness, President Bush went into Iraq," Gov. Pataki told the Republican National Convention last August. The place erupted with applause. It was all very stirring.
Almost one year later, Pataki's son Teddy is, with supreme guts and righteousness, seeking a three-year law school deferment from the Marines, which last week commissioned the recent Yale grad as a second lieutenant.
The governor, who himself received a medical deferment during the Vietnam War because of poor eyesight, has said he hopes his son is granted the deferment. Of course he does. No doubt all the parents of New York's nearly 100 war dead also wish their children could have gotten deferments. But they couldn't. They got killed instead.
During the run-up to the invasion, Pataki was one of Bush's biggest war whores in the Northeast, taking his pro-war stump speech on the road to warn New Yorkers about the imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Since the governor's support for the war has yet to waver, it is more than a little annoying to hear him publicly wishing for his son's deferral.
If the cause in Iraq is even half as important as the governor has led us to believe, then surely his son is more needed in Fallujah than in some Cambridge lecture hall. If, on the other hand, the governor no longer considers the war important enough to justify his son's immediate contribution, then he should speak up as loudly as he did in the winter of 2003. Which is it, George?