The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY)
May 8. 2023 / Pat Alviso / Peace Club Alliance - What to do when you are rained out of a parade? That was the dilemma Rachel Bruhnke and Pat Alviso, two high school peace club sponsors from the Los Angeles area, faced when 15 very disappointed students were told that they would have to reschedule their plans to march in the upcoming MLK Parade because the expected heavy rains meant that nobody would be gathering on the sidewalks to see them. Besides, they were told, their carefully painted signs would get ruined anyway. Undaunted, Rachel, who has a Peace & Planet Club at POLA HS in San Pedro, and a few of her stalwart students walked the whole parade route in the pouring rain anyway! (See pic). Now that’s youth activism at its finest.
April 16 2023 / Sam Biddle / The Intercept_ - The Georgia Army National Guard plans to combine two deeply controversial practices — military recruiting at schools and location-based phone surveillance — to persuade teens to enlist, according to contract documents reviewed by The Intercept.
The federal contract materials outline plans by the Georgia Army National Guard to geofence 67 different public high schools throughout the state, targeting phones found within a one-mile boundary of their campuses with recruiting advertisements “with the intent of generating qualified leads of potential applicants for enlistment while also raising awareness of the Georgia Army National Guard.” Geofencing refers generally to the practice of drawing a virtual border around a real-world area and is often used in the context of surveillance-based advertising as well as more traditional law enforcement and intelligence surveillance. The Department of Defense expects interested vendors to deliver a minimum of 3.5 million ad views and 250,000 clicks, according to the contract paperwork.
While the deadline for vendors attempting to win the contract was the end of this past February, no public winner has been announced.
The ad campaign will make use of a variety of surveillance advertising techniques, including capturing the unique device IDs of student phones, tracking pixels, and IP address tracking. It will also plaster recruiting solicitations across Instagram, Snapchat, streaming television, and music apps. The documents note that “TikTok is banned for official DOD use (to include advertising),” owing to allegations that the app is a manipulative, dangerous conduit for hypothetical Chinese government propaganda.
The Georgia Army National Guard did not respond to a request for comment.
While the planned campaign appears primarily aimed at persuading high school students to sign up, the Guard is also asking potential vendors to also target “parents or centers of influence (i.e. coaches, school counselors, etc.)” with recruiting ads. The campaign plans not only call for broadcasting recruitment ads to kids at school, but also for pro-Guard ads to follow these students around as they continue using the internet and other apps, a practice known as retargeting. And while the digital campaign may begin within the confines of the classroom, it won’t remain there: One procurement document states the Guard is interested in “retargeting to high school students after school hours when they are at home,” as well as “after school hours. … This will allow us to capture potential leads while at after-school events.”
The branches of the U.S. military have long seen high schools as optimal recruiting grounds. Some veterans are beginning to fight the propaganda and tell students the truth about military service.
April 3, 2023 / arch 20 marked the 20th anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Iraq. The war took hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, with some estimates of Iraqi casualties putting the number at over 1 million. More than 4,600 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq during and after the invasion, and thousands more have died by suicide.
Meanwhile, and not coincidentally, the U.S. military is facing its worst recruitment crisis since the end of the Vietnam War. The Defense Department’s budget proposal for 2024 outlines a plan for the military to slightly cut back on its ranks, but to reach its projected numbers, it will still need to embark on a heavy recruitment push. Across the country, anti-war veterans and their allies are working together in an effort to stop the U.S. military from reaching its goal.
We Are Not Your Soldiers is a project of New York City-based nonprofit World Can’t Wait. The organization sends military veterans into schools to share honest stories of the harm they have caused and suffered. In doing so, they hope to prevent young people from signing up.
“I wish I had somebody who told me when I was young,” says Miles Megaciph, who was stationed in Cuba and Okinawa with the U.S. Marine Corps from 1992 to 1996. “The experiences I’ve lived, as painful as they are, and as much as I don’t like to relive them, are valuable to help future adults not live those experiences,” Megaciph told me.
“We wanted to get to the people who were going to be the next recruits,” says Debra Sweet, the executive director of World Can’t Wait. When We Are Not Your Soldiers launched in 2008, the experience was often intense for veterans. “They were all fresh out of Afghanistan and Iraq,” Sweet remembers. “It was very raw, it was very hard. [It was] really hard for them to go talk to people in public about what had happened. And we learned a lot about PTSD, up close and personal, and how it was affecting people.”
March 5, 2023 / Lolita C. Baldor / AP News - Army recruiters struggling to meet enlistment goals say one of their biggest hurdles is getting into high schools, where they can meet students one on one. But they received a recent boost from a recruiting advocate whom school leaders couldn’t turn away: the secretary of the Army.
During three days of back-to-back meetings across Chicago last month, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth spoke with students, school leaders, college heads, recruiters and an array of young people involved in ROTC or junior ROTC programs. Again and again, she asked, what can the Army do to better reach young people and sell itself as a good career choice.
In blunt sessions, recruiting leaders told her they need more and better access to high school students. But they also said the atmosphere can at times be unfriendly — or worse — with school leaders, many of whom are skeptical that the Army offers a good career option for their students. “I’m going to use the word hostile,” one recruiter told her. “There’s no other word to use.”
It’s not unusual for the Army’s top civilian to travel the country, pitching the Army message and checking in on recruiting progress. But the Chicago trip came on the heels of the Army’s worst recruiting year in recent history, when it fell 25% short of its 60,000 enlistment goal. It’s up to Wormuth and other Army leaders to find creative new ways to attract recruits and ensure that the service has the troops it needs to help defend the nation.
All the military services are strugging to compete for young people in a tight job market where private companies are often willing to provide better pay and benefits. Two years of the coronavirus pandemic shut down recruiters’ access to public events and schools where they could find prospects. And, according to estimates, just 23% of young people can meet the military’s fitness, educational and moral requirements, with many disqualified for reasons ranging from medical issues to criminal records and tattoos.
Army leaders say their surveys show that young people don’t see the Army as a prime career choice, often because they don’t want to die or get injured, deal with the stress of military life or put their lives on hold.
Jan 5, 2023 / Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Sun Times - Freshman enrollment in a controversial military-run training program plummeted this academic year at some Chicago high schools after district leaders cracked down on schools that were effectively forcing first-year students to participate, according to a report from the district’s watchdog released Thursday.
Chicago Public Schools pledged last spring to end automatic enrollment in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, a daily class on military science and leadership taught by retired military officers.
The move followed an investigation by the district’s Office of Inspector General, which found that nearly all freshmen at some South and West Side schools were placed in the program “without any choice in the matter,” often as a substitute for gym. Some principals told the OIG they lacked the money to hire enough physical education teachers to offer PE to all students.
The OIG probe was prompted by a Chalkbeat investigation in 2021 that revealed that hundreds of students at 10 predominantly Black and Latino high schools were being enrolled in JROTC by default. The practice drew backlash from some parents who described it as a way of shepherding teens from under-resourced schools toward military careers and away from other opportunities.
In its annual report, the OIG found freshman enrollment in JROTC had decreased “dramatically” at eight schools where automatic freshman enrollment was most widespread. Enrollment fell from 639 to 211 between the 2020-21 school year and the current school year.
One principal said this is the first year in which freshmen can decide between physical education or JROTC.
JROTC stands for Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, a program that is designed to provide high school students with leadership skills and prepare them for a possible future career in the military. While some people support JROTC, others are opposed to it for various reasons.
One of the primary reasons why people oppose JROTC is because they believe that it glorifies war and violence. They argue that the program encourages young people to view military service as the only viable career option, rather than pursuing other paths such as higher education or vocational training.
Others object to JROTC because they believe that it promotes militarism and nationalism. They argue that the program instills a sense of blind patriotism in young people, rather than fostering critical thinking skills and independent thought.
Some critics of JROTC also argue that the program is discriminatory, particularly against students who are LGBTQ or who hold pacifist beliefs. They point to instances where JROTC instructors have made homophobic or sexist remarks or where students have been punished for refusing to participate in certain activities.
Finally, opponents of JROTC argue that the program diverts funding and resources away from other important areas of education. They point to instances where schools have cut funding for music, art, or language programs in order to make room for JROTC.
Overall, opposition to JROTC is rooted in concerns about militarism, nationalism, discrimination, and the allocation of resources within the education system.
February 23, 2023 / Andrea Mazzarino / Truthout - During a Veterans Day celebration in my small Maryland community, a teacher clicked through a slideshow of smiling men and women in military uniforms. “Girls and boys, can anyone tell me what courage is?” she asked the crowd, mostly children from local elementary schools, including my two young kids.
A boy raised his hand. “Not being scared?” he asked.
The teacher seized on his response: “Yes!” she exclaimed. “Not being scared.” She proceeded to discuss this country’s armed forces, highlighting how brave U.S. troops are because they fight to defend our way of life. Service-members and veterans in the crowd were encouraged to stand. My own children beamed, knowing that their father is just such a military officer. The veterans and troops present did indeed stand, but most of them stared at the ground. As a counselor who works with children, including those from local military families, I marveled that the teacher was asking the young audience to dismiss one of the most vulnerable emotions there is — fear — in the service of armed violence.
No mention was made of what war can do to those fighting it, not to speak of civilians caught in the crossfire, and how much money has left our country’s shores thanks to armed conflict. That’s especially true, given the scores of U.S.-led military operations still playing out globally as the Pentagon arms and trains local troops, runs intelligence operations, and conducts military exercises.
That week, my children and others in schools across the county spent hours in their classrooms celebrating Veterans Day through a range of activities meant to honor our armed forces. My kindergartener typically made a paper crown, with six colorful peaks for the six branches of service, that framed her little face. Kids in older grades wrote letters to soldiers thanking them for their service.
I have no doubt that if such schoolchildren were ever shown photos in class of what war actually does to kids their age, including of dead and wounded elementary school students and their parents and grandparents in Afghanistan and Iraq, there would be an uproar. And there would be another, of course, if they were told that “their” troops were more likely to be attacked (as in sexually assaulted) by one of their compatriots than by any imaginable enemy. I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, one of the most progressive and highly educated counties in the country and even here, war, American-style, is painted as a sanitized event full of muscular young people, their emotions under control (until, of course, they aren’t).
Even here, few parents and teachers dare talk to young children about the atrocities committed by our military in our wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan.