US Army recruiting problems

#1
The empty promises of an army under siege

MANCHÁN MAGAN

Sat, Jan 24, 2009

The US army spends billions on touring schools and recruitment offices with promises of college fees and thousands of dollars in bonuses to meet its quota of 100,000 recruits a year. A group of war veterans, however, say that the targeted teenagers are only getting half the story, writes MANCHÁN MAGAN.

THE SANTA FE PLACE shopping centre in New Mexico is like any other US mall – clumps of teenagers in skater-boy or emo-girl clothes slurp oversized drinks as they wander aimlessly around Gap, Victoria’s Secret and Radio Shack, yet at the far end, between JC Penney and the Pretzel Zone, is something quite alien: a line of army, navy, marine and air-force recruiting offices, all with glossy airbrushed images of gung-ho young recruits in high-tech battledress and Apache helicopters looming overhead.

“Are you army strong?” demands a sign above a panel of photographs of local youths who’ve just enlisted. Their names, schools and the unit in which they will serve are listed – as well as the most important line, the cash bonus each receives upon entry and the extra funds promised for college education. A mischievous-looking Hispanic boy from Mesa Vista High School is getting a $20,000 (€15,418) bonus as well as a possible $37,000 (€28,524) for his college education, while a curly-haired blonde girl from Santa Fe Community College gets a whopping $37,000 (€28,524) for joining a mortuary-affairs unit.

That morning on NPR radio a woman recounted her experiences in mortuary affairs in Iraq. “I saw brains leaking out from heads, and saw eyes that had been popped out of sockets,” Charlotte Brooke recalled. “Bodily fluids dripped on my boots.” Could that be worth a $37,000 bonus – even in a poor US state such as New Mexico where the average annual income is less than that?

Inside the army recruiting office the atmosphere is ebullient. The team of recruiters, which covers 27,000km of mostly desert, has been unusually busy all day with kids looking for information. Senior officer sergeant first class Pilar Sauceda says the army would like him to think that this is due to a recent $1.35 billion (€1.04 billion) “Army Strong” advertising campaign, but he isn’t so sure. He’s just glad of the break. His job has been getting increasingly difficult as the number of dead service personnel continues to rise – last year was the highest since the war began. As recruit numbers decrease the army has had to lower its acceptance criteria, allowing in more high-school dropouts and applicants with low aptitude scores and criminal backgrounds, and also giving more waivers for medical problems, such as attention deficit disorder.

The army needs 100,000 new recruits each year, according to Sauceda, and he and his men are expected to meet a recruitment target each month – the pressure gets higher as the month goes on. If they don’t succeed they may find themselves strapping their battle-gear back on and being shipped out. Amid allegations of unethical behaviour, the US army closed all recruiting offices for a day in 2005 to retrain them in proper practice. Sauceda promises his men behave well. He wants to shake off the image of recruiters as “used car salesmen”.

“People expect the truth,” he says. “The parents and girlfriends will look me in the eye and insist, almost threaten me, to bring their boy back alive.”

Most of the recruiters’ time is spent going around high schools, youth events and public festivals – anywhere they’re likely to come upon young people who are uncertain about their future. The army’s recruiting manual outlines that each student should be contacted at least three times. “First during the summer . . . this plants awareness of the army in their minds. Remember, first to contact, first to contract . . . You will probably need to tailor your sales message.”

THEIR WORK IS made more difficult by “counter-recruiters” – voluntary groups of concerned parents and disillusioned military veterans who aim to inform students about the recruiters’ “misinformation”. Tim Origer is a Vietnam veteran who helped devise a full disclosure recruitment programme for the organisation Veterans for Peace. They use it when the visit schools to provide information in response to the recruiters’ pitches. Origer says the “truth” offered by most recruiters follows the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Unless you ask the specific “right” question you will not be told, for example, that the contract you sign is binding only to you, not the army, and that the fees promised for college are not guaranteed. Only 5 per cent of recruits get the full amount offered, while two-thirds get nothing at all.

“War is not about winning hearts or minds; it’s about killing the enemy before they kill you,” Origer and his fellow Iraq and Vietnam veterans tell the teens in schools. “Kids need to know it’s not just smart bombs and surgical strikes – the building you blow up might contain an insurgent, but women and children too. You have to live with that for your life.”

Despite their differences, Sauceda and Origer have much in common – both proudly list youngsters they have managed to “convince” in the last few days. Origer accepts that he cannot compete with the recruiters’ resources: they tour schools and public events with Nascar sports cars, mobile rock-climbing walls and military Humvees equipped with computer games and rifle simulators; he relies on what he calls the students’ “inner bullshit detector”. He tells them how he is still haunted by the memory of the night he and his men blew up a Vietnamese shack because it had a candle burning inside – only later to discover that it was occupied by an elderly man who had got up to go to the lavatory.

“They know we’re telling the truth,” Origer says. “We’ve no quota to fill.” But he readily admits that his group aren’t as engaging as the recruiters, who are specially chosen to be the army’s poster-boys – the brightest and best. They are the “sort of person you’d trust – the friend you’d want to have,” Origer says. On a MySpace page, one of Sauceda’s recruiting officers describes himself as having “a Bachelors degree in being smooth and a minor in slappin the taste outta yo mouth”. Another says he’s a “quiet, shy guy . . . you know, the kind that holds on to a red stapler and you’re kind of weirded out by because you know he probably has guns . . . lots of guns”. In contrast, Tim Origer describes himself as “a grizzly Vietnam Vet with a prosthetic leg”.

As the Iraq war becomes increasingly unpopular, Sauceda finds it more difficult to gain access to schools, particularly in wealthier areas. Principals and guidance teachers restrict access, although by doing so they endanger their funding.

In 2002 Donald Rumsfeld enacted a law that gave recruiters free access to all public secondary schools and made it compulsory to provide them with pupils’ private contact details as part of the “No Child Left Behind” initiative. This, backed up by the Pentagon’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps database (which contains details of 30 million 16-25-year-olds, including e-mail addresses, mobile numbers, ethnicities and extracurricular activities) allows Sauceda and his men to target students individually.

Sauceda says that at first, he looks for students with a bold, determined gaze – patriotic, flag-waving youths. After that, he tries to find the ones who need help paying for college. His aim is to become a friendly, trusted figure in the students’ lives and to inform them of the options available.

THE ARMY PROVIDES a stable, rewarding career and, for many, it’s their only hope of college. Sauceda acknowledges that the $400-a-month wage is low, but says the cash bonus, healthcare and college fees make for a fair offer. He is always upfront with the recruits. The first question they ask is, “will I end up in Iraq?”, and he admits that in all likelihood they will. After their nine weeks’ basic training they could be shipped out within 72 hours if they are in a rapid deployment unit. He tries to avoid the students who are obviously afraid of him, the ones who think he is out to ensnare them.

Tim Origer says that he often finds himself face-to-face with recruiters as they trail each other around various schools and youth events and he realises that they have a lot more in common than they would like to admit.

Both groups, he says, recognise that army life is brutal, that 18 US soldiers commit suicide each day, that post-traumatic stress disorder means many veterans are not fit for college, even if they do end up getting the promised funds, but the basic truth is that for many young people in New Mexico the army offers the only chance of escape from the spiralling poverty that entrapped their parents and grandparents. It’s a risk worth taking.

As one of the teenagers hanging around the mall said when I asked him what he thought of the recruiting offices, “they’re still trying to draft us, the only difference is that now it’s an economic draft”.

© 2009 The Irish Times
Link
 
#3
You have to consider the sources used for one thing.

"Veterans for Peace" - Is a Heavily Leftist Organization of the disaffected. Some of their "Veterans" have expanded the truth at times of their Service.

IVAW is a Typical offshoot Organization infamous for "Ranger" Jesse Macbeth and Numerous other fraudulent Veterans.

Jane Fonda, of NVA Propaganda photo fame is a supporter. Thats telling for anyone who understands what her actions did for Morale to those Serving in the US forces in Vietnam.

When they mention the statistic that 2/3's of G.I.'s do not get any College Money, there are numerous reasons why- Not all are the US Army's fault.

I have watched Soldiers sign up for schools and then when it cuts into their Free time, decide to walk away from continuing their education. Last Year I watched as 7 NCO's took a Distance Learning term every Tuesday & Thursday at the Armory. After 3 months time, only 1 still was producing schoolwork, and He did finish.

Field Training, Deployment, Familiy, Friends all pull on the G.I.'s time


Now, the Obligatory Brains leaking onto Boots quote.....

If she's working as a Mortuary Affairs Specialist(Fancy New speak for Graves Registration) that comes with the job, dealing with the dead, especially in a war. I'm sure those of you who have served Operationally have seen far worse, I have images I'll never forget. But then I knew I wasnt joining a knitting circle back in 1981.

As to educational standards being lowered, thats true. However, the USA's Most decorated Servicemember in WW2 never got past the 5th grade-Audie Leon Murphy. I Myself was a Non Regents Diploma Recruit with a New York State GED(General Equivalency Diploma, I wasnt Stupid, but a lazy 17 year old bored with public schools which didnt encourage academic achievement in My Area of NYC). My testing scores were high enough to be offered a slot at the USMA Prepatory school, Ft. Monmouth(I declined).

I was a Field Artillery Surveyor (MOS: 82C10)bored out of my skull, and volunteered for Infantry training as it was more exciting to me than the T-16 Theodolite of the Survey Section. Having a Father who served, Grandfathers who served, Great Grandfathers in the Irish Brigade of the American Civil War, I was under No Illusions about the Infantry being a Dirty, unromantic Life.

Now the Bullsh_t about the recruiter being sent to fight if he cant make quota is total Shite. If a recruiter cant make quotas, he may recieve Less than stellar NCO Ratings, May be passed over for Promotional consideration, even transferred to another district. But the writers fiction of "Sorry here's your gun- get on the Plane" is cheap fantasy for those wouldnt know how the US Army works.

As to why a Young Man joins, Yes, you usually find a range of reasons from Patriotism to Adventure to needing a Job, or hoping to learn a marketable skill for later Civilian life.




9 Weeks and off to Iraq is Bullsh_t though.

Army Basic Training is 9 weeks long as is, then the Soldier goes off to Advanced Individual Training(AIT) for whatever skillset he has enlisted for. They can be 3 weeks or 5 months and longer.
 
#5
https://www.benning.army.mil/198th/

OSUT(One Station Unit Training for Infantry (11B) is 14 weeks long, but that Combines Basic & AIT together. Reserve Infantry School is 2-3 weeks long dependent on Location. A Trainee coming from another Base(say Ft. Sill, OK) would fall in with the Infantry trainees at week 11.

Camp Ethan Allen in Vermont runs a Infantry Reclassification course that pushes the Soldier Physically with its Mountainous terrain and Foot Marches with Full Body Armor, Rucksack and Rifle or Machinegun. (they also run the Army's Mountain Leader Course). The 10th Mountain Division is a Mountain unit in name only, keeping it for tradition, not employment. The VT. National Guard does have a Mountain Trained Unit- the 3rd Bn,172nd Infantry

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/army/3-172in.htm
 
#6
hardly news more like propaganda...
 
#8
The bonuses paid to my mate to re-enlist in the Army Reserve, were significant enough to allow him to pay a hefty down payment on a house.
Several local National Guard and Army Reserve units, I have contacts with, have no issue recruiting the numbers and quality of personnel they seek.
So ina pretty unscientific way, my information says to the answer "is it worth it", the answer seems to be a resounding "Yes"

As to Training, it has been mentioned that after "Basic", there is AIT. So no one is in the army 9 weeks and then straight off to Iraq...

On a generic note, it is my experience, that American soldiers have less time spent on their personal training, than was/ is the case in the British Army.
I personally put this down to an American doctrine that places its emphasis more heavily on the whole army as a system matched against its opponents. As opposed to the British Army that seems to place a greater premium on the individual soldier's capability.
 
#9
Both groups, he says, recognise that army life is brutal, that 18 US soldiers commit suicide each day,
Hmmmmm, 4000 plus KIA since 2002, and 6570 suicides each year.

8O
 
#10
xromad said:
Both groups, he says, recognise that army life is brutal, that 18 US soldiers commit suicide each day,
Hmmmmm, 4000 plus KIA since 2002, and 6570 suicides each year.

8O
yeah that did sound compete nonsense
i have heard that the regular US army are undertrained tho
seems like theres a real gap between army and USMC
 
#11

Nice post.
 
#13
#14
#15
jay2o said:
Tartan_Terrier said:
jay2o said:
wait, is the starting pay actually $400 a month?? or is that a lie?
It's either a lie or a misprint, I'd guess at a lie though!

http://www.goarmy.com/benefits/money_basic_pay.jsp?bl=Careers+&+Jobs
haha i was on that exact page looking it up :eek:
that article is complete bull
Actually for the first 4 months the pay is $1,294.50 per month. This is for a recruit without eligibility for bonuses. Bonuses can be for a needed civilian skill, education past high school (Uni degree bonus is $8000 per year) Also, recruits are housed, fed and clothed by the Army. When they are allowed to live off post they get additional allowances for food and housing that vary with the cost of the area. Soldiers who must work in civilian clothes also receive a civilain clothing allowance in addition to uniform allowance. Of course if a kid walks into recruiting and already is fluent in certain foreign languages there is a large recruiting bonus.
 

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
#16
Seems like US squaddies are offered much stronger financial incentives than their UK equivelents....what is the Queens' Shilling worth in today's pound sterling?

Of course, officers and even squaddies can volunteer for training course - but is there any uni educational allowance/benefit in the UK Army?
 
#17
IndianaDel said:
As to Training, it has been mentioned that after "Basic", there is AIT. So no one is in the army 9 weeks and then straight off to Iraq...

On a generic note, it is my experience, that American soldiers have less time spent on their personal training, than was/ is the case in the British Army.
I personally put this down to an American doctrine that places its emphasis more heavily on the whole army as a system matched against its opponents. As opposed to the British Army that seems to place a greater premium on the individual soldier's capability.
I find that quite interesting, so there must be different components fo the US army linking together, what if part of the chain is broken, do Individual US soldier have the authority to make a command decision and use their own initiative ?

One interesting point I would like to ask, I have heard of stories of Non US Citizens joining up, with the promise of US Citizenship at the end of their service, is this correct and if so how long is the minimum term before they can apply for Citizenship or is it confered automatically ?

So for example, if you just came off the plane at JFK and walked into Time Square Army office and enlisted there and then, would you get accepted ?
 
#18
semper said:
I find that quite interesting, so there must be different components fo the US army linking together, what if part of the chain is broken, do Individual US soldier have the authority to make a command decision and use their own initiative ?

One interesting point I would like to ask, I have heard of stories of Non US Citizens joining up, with the promise of US Citizenship at the end of their service, is this correct and if so how long is the minimum term before they can apply for Citizenship or is it confered automatically ?

So for example, if you just came off the plane at JFK and walked into Time Square Army office and enlisted there and then, would you get accepted ?
I'll second semper's question. What is the current situation regarding a non-US citizen/non-resident wishing to join a branch of the US Armed Forces? From what I can tell, nothing can happen until a Green Card is obtained. Perhaps there is an 'unofficial' procedure?
 
#19
If memory serves you don't have to be an actual citizen to join the armed forces merely be a permanent resident and military service apparently gives you some advantages when trying to convert that into full citizenship.
 
#20
Since I did it, I'll answer your question. You need a green card, aka permanent residence. That requires a relative, often a spouse, who is also a permanent resident or ideally a US citizen. You apply. It takes a while, depending on the office handling your application (I was extremely lucky with <6 months flash to bang).

Illegal immigrants occasionally enlist with false documentation. If this is discovered after a certain period of time (a tour), that person will not be kicked out but will instead be tracked towards legal citizenship. Anyone who's risked their life for America, deserves citizenship (unless, of course, they were hiding a nasty criminal record).

What can't green card holders do? Hold a security clearance. So, intelligence, etc., is right out. So is becoming an officer. For that you require citizenship.

The procedures used to be lax back in the days of Vietnam. People like Rick Rescorla, I believe, were not as bound by red tape.

Now citizenship: since 9/11, we've been at war for the purposes of eligibility for citizenship based on wartime service. Bush signed a law that eased the path to citizenship for service members. That means in practice that anyone who's finished training and/or received an 'honourable' or 'general under honourable conditions' discharge can apply for citizenship, which is both free and a little faster than the regular route. For the most part, green card holders can apply as soon as they get to their first permanent duty station. A substantial minority waits or even forgets.
 

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