September 30, 2005
Police Attack Counter-Recruiters in Massachusetts
According to a report posted to the Western Massachusets Indymedia site, local police maced and physically assaulted people protesting the presence of military recruiters at Holyoke Community College. The crowd of more than fifty did not back down from the half-dozen cops and ultimately forced the National Guard recruiters to pack up and leave.
The protest was organized by the Anti-War Coalition, a local chapter of the Campus Antiwar Network. The post asks people to register their sentiments about the police activity by calling the school at 413-538-7000.
Mainstream Media Catches On: Recruiting is Failing
A widely syndicated AP article today confirms what Counterrecruiter and others have been reporting for months - military recruiting is in serious trouble. Despite assurances from the DOD that things are improving, as the recruiting year comes to a close, the prospects for the year to come aren't looking too hot for the US Armed Forces.
The Army is closing the books on one of the leanest recruiting years since it became an all-volunteer service three decades ago, missing its enlistment target by the largest margin since 1979 and raising questions about its plans for growth.
The Army has not published official figures yet, but it apparently finished the 12-month counting period that ends Friday with about 73,000 recruits. Its goal was 80,000. A gap of 7,000 enlistees would be the largest -- in absolute number as well as in percentage terms -- since 1979, according to Army records.
The Army National Guard and the Army Reserve, which are smaller than the regular Army, had even worse results.
The active-duty Army had not missed its target since 1999, when it was 6,290 recruits short; in 1998 it fell short by 801, and in 1995 it was off by 33. Prior to that the last shortfall was in 1979 when the Army missed by 17,054 during a period when the Army was much bigger and its recruiting goals were double today's.
While the press seems to have jumped on this story, at least one person in the Army has his head in the sand about the recruiting crisis - which the AP reports "officials" insist is "not a crisis." Captain August Murray was a military recruiter for four years, and he's penned a new book called "Military Recruiting," packed with "lessons, tips and advice" from Captain Murray's "four successful years of recruiting for the New Hampshire National Guard."
"Recruiting is a life-changing business," said Murray, who now serves as an instructor for the University of New Hampshire's Army ROTC Battalion. "Recruiters literally change the lives of their recruits. I hope they realize what a wonderful opportunity they have to make a difference."
Yeah, I think that the friends and families of the 2,154 American soldiers who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan would agree that recruiting is a life changing business. (See the recent Village Voice article for more on that, and the proposals to honor the American troops by bringing them home and preventing any more deaths, of Americans, Iraqis, Afghanis, and who knows where next.)
September 29, 2005
Your Turn... to Die?
The Defense Department has a new ad campaign, extensively described in a massive New York Times article today. It encourages children and parents to talk about enlisting, in a new strategy targetted at "influencers," possibly in response to the recent decline of parental support for joining the armed forces.
The camera tracks a mother's field of vision as she hovers over a checkbook and a calculator lying on her kitchen table. She looks up as her daughter, a young African-American woman, sits down to speak with her.
"Look Mom, if I decide I still want to be a doctor when I get out, I'll have had four years experience as a nurse or an X-ray tech or an O.T. specialist working with real patients," the daughter says, speaking directly into the camera and into her mother's eyes. "That's why I want to enlist in the military; it'll be good for my career. What do you think? Mom?"
The campaign is scheduled to launch on October 17th, and seeks to fight the dwindling numbers of new recruits, as the war in Iraq and around the world drags on. It's designed by a Massachusetts ad agency, Mullen, whose other clients include Eastman Chemical and General Motors. "This is advertising that is designed not to look or feel like advertising at all," Edward Boches, chief creative officer at Mullen told the Times.
The Times article also notes that the Army's ad spending "has almost doubled since 2000, to about $290 million this year, according to Army data," and that the Army "expects to spend at least $1 billion on marketing under a five-year contract that it plans to award sometime this winter."
But Carrie McClaren of Stay Free Magazine wonders whether this campaign is going to shore up the recruiting numbers. She writes:
"... I can't for the life of me figure out how this upcoming campaign made it out of focus group. The first thing that came to mind when I saw this image from one commercial was "It's your turn . . . to die." I mean, they might as well put target lines around this woman's face! Considering that the number one reason young people don't sign up for the military is to avoid getting killed, I give this campaign a week before it's shot down."
Even the Times agrees that the DOD has a hard job ahead. In the coming months, the article ends, "the Army's marketing and recruitment machine will be challenged to prove wrong the old joke that even the best ads cannot sell a troubled product.
"I think people in the armed services are racking their brains to come up with new recruiting messages," Professor Segal [a sociologist at the University of Maryland] said. "But I don't know that they've come up with anything that's worked."
September 11, 2005
Recruiters Target Hurricane Survivors At Astrodome
From the Wall Street Journal:
- "Ten U.S. Army recruiters are offering volunteer help for Katrina evacuees at Houston's Astrodome. But the recruiters, struggling to keep enlistment up during Iraq war, are also available with options for the jobless. "Our intent is to approach the evacuees at the right time for them,'' says Army spokesman Douglas Smith."
Fresno Marches Against Military Recruiters
A march in Fresno. Coverage on the Indybay.org website:
A march and rally of around 50 was held in downtown Fresno today (September 10, 2005) to encourage students to "opt-out" of being contacted by military recruiters. Organizers for the march said that under The No Child Left Behind Act public schools are obligated to furnish the contact information of students to the federal government for use by military recruiters. At the rally in front of the Navy recruiting center, participants were told that many students and parents may not know they have the legal option of opting out by signing a form requesting that the school administration not supply their personal contact information for military recruitment purposes. Schools are not financially penalized for informing students and parents that they have the right to opt out from being contacted by military recruiters. Pictures and full report here.
September 06, 2005
Pentagon Targets 3-Year-Olds With Chuck E. Cheese Recruitment Spot
From Victoria Harper's "Babes in Warland" posted on TruthOut.org:
- The toddlers were at the pizza parlor to celebrate Kristina's 3rd birthday. A dozen youngsters jumped and clapped their hands as a giant rat, Chuck E. Cheese, came out to greet them. The Iraq War was far from my mind.
If you have never been to Chuck E. Cheese, it is a mix of carnival and play park, with so-so pizza, lots of video games, coin operated kiddie rides, and arcade games like ski ball.
When the birthday party settled into eating pizza and birthday cake... a series of large screen TVs came to life to show Chuck E. Cheese TV. The program was, at first, MTV-like. Performers in large animal garb sang and danced through an idyllic scene with herons and alligators. A man clad in a blazing yellow shirt and red vest skipped across the screen, singing and snapping his fingers to the lively music. The scene shifted to a person dressed in a dog costume fishing in the lake with 3- and 4-year-old children and then shifted again from pictures of the children to mothers holding small babies. Although it was disjointed and a bit crazed, it was what one might expect at Chuck E Cheese.
Then my jaw dropped: the MTV segment shifted to a promotional piece compiled by the Department of Defense! The promo showed happy, smiling soldiers in Iraq handing out toys and candies to delighted children. This was followed by a series of scenes showing war planes, tanks and more happy soldiers. This production lasted for 5 minutes of the 15-minute CEC TV show. Throughout the segment, the large animated puppets' eyes shifted toward the TV as they nodded in approval and clapped. Then their eyes shifted back to the children, who were spellbound by the movie.
Several telephone calls I made to Chuck E. Cheese headquarters were not answered. Finally reaching someone at the local outlet, one of over 500 company owned and operated locations, I learned that the CEC TV show was a regular part of the offerings at all CEC sites and that it was run a number of times during each day.
I was stunned. Chuck E. Cheese, a place for 3-year-olds to have a birthday party, was playing promo films for military recruitment to the babies and their "youngish" parents! The problems with military recruiting in high school and middle school have been well documented, but now the Pentagon is targeting an even younger group!
September 01, 2005
Milwaukee school board votes to educate about military recruitment
By Bryan G. Pfeifer, via Milwaukee Indymedia: On August 25 the Milwaukee School Board voted to increase awareness in the school district and provide more information to parents about the “opt-out” provision in the “No Child Left Behind” act. The administration also pledged to review the activities of the military recruiters...It will now be up to the counter-recruitment movement to hold the board accountable and to see to it that real action is taken.