Articles

Football, the military and one Florida high school student’s difficult choice

Kent Babb -

MONTICELLO, Fla. — The binder sat open on his adoptive mother’s lap, turned to the page where the scholarship papers lay in a transparent sleeve.

JROTC instructor talks to students in impoverished Florida panhandle communityNik Branham said nothing, holding the phone in its camouflage case close enough that his face glowed. The woman supported her 17-year-old’s plan to join the Army, but she didn’t understand it. These papers were a miracle, as she saw it, college at least partially paid for because of the hell he had survived, a chance at an education and maybe a few more years of football, the game he once loved.

“I done explained everything,” said Alice Branham, a foster parent who adopted Nik and his older sister Ambrosia six years ago, and when the process was complete the state of Florida offered the “Road to Independence” scholarship. In the time since, Alice had come to love him, to become inspired by his confidence and also frustrated by it, to refer to him as a “pit bull”: Once he sank his teeth into a decision, he wouldn’t let go.

“Nobody can change my mind,” he said, and Alice looked away.

In the South, like most parts of the United States, football and the military are cultural siblings — two powerful and venerable forces, brought together week after week for the crowds and cameras. There are anthems and flyovers, shared terminology like “formations” and “blitzes,” pride in home teams and service branches passed through the generations like precious heirlooms.

But beyond the bright lights and choreography, these grand American institutions face frequent and, often shared, criticism: that both are overgrown and unnecessarily powerful, that players and soldiers are trained for games and combat but rarely are prepared for a return to normal life, that football and military recruiters sell a glamorized version of reality — rarely mentioning the shared risks of long-term brain injuries, psychological disorders and a shortage of post-career support.

In Jefferson County, this mostly rural and increasingly poor area in the Florida Panhandle, young people are drawn to the glory, sure, but many of them see football and military service as something more fundamental: a way out. Indeed, surveys have shown Jefferson County — nearly 19 percent of the roughly 14,200 residents here live below the poverty line — as a high per-capita producer of both college football talent and military recruits. An audit of 2013 college football rosters by Mode Analytics found that about one in every 83 boys left the county to suit up for a college team. “We’re definitely a tougher breed,” said DeVondrick Nealy, a Monticello native who’s now an Iowa State running back. -
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Revised 04/25/2016

Parent Teacher Conference Night – November 5, 2014, New York City

Granny Peace Brigade -

Parent Teacher Conference Night – November 5, 2014, New York CityTwice a year, at New York City high schools, volunteers distribute non-military informational flyers to parents and students during parent teacher conference night. Following is the report for the November 5, 2014 action.

As volunteers handed out flyers to parents and students entering high schools for a meeting with teachers, the White House was deciding to send 1500 more troops to Iraq.

The information being shared with parents includes Non-Military Options for Life After High School as well as Questions to Ask and Points to Consider Before You Enlist.

How very important this action continues to be as wars are endless and new military recruits are needed.  For the military - where best to look than in the high schools.

To respond, we're at high schools to counter military promotions and offer pro-peace alternatives.

Reflection on My Time as Project YANO’s Student Intern

Jesus Mendez-Carbajal -

 Jesus Mendez-CarbajalIn the past nine months as Project YANO’s 2013-2014 student intern, I have learned an immense amount of information about U.S. militarism, its far reach, and counter-recruitment. I have been directly impacted on multiple levels. I have grown mentally through the knowledge I have gained and also personally through the interactions and relationships I have built with youth, advisors, teachers, mentors, and Project YANO supporters, volunteers and board members. I have had the pleasure of working with students who look like me, engaging low-income youth of color who have stories and backgrounds similar to my own.

At the time I began the internship, I had accepted and started working as an intern for another local non-profit organization. I am very grateful to both organizations for the opportunities they have provided me and for the personal and professional growth they have facilitated both for me and in me. I am especially grateful for the fact that both were paid internships, which allowed me the freedom to do work that I enjoy, that I am passionate about, and that is not routine -- because, as I experienced first-hand while I worked at Wendy’s, repetitive work is tiresome work.

When I began, I was very excited to intern with YANO but I was also a bit nervous and scared about successfully balancing school, my second internship, and personal life. From YANO, its board members, program coordinator and volunteers, I learned lessons in non-profit organizing, basic mailing operations, and fund appeal letter writing; strengthened my facilitation, time management, and multitasking skills; and acquired an expanded interdisciplinary view of the world.

Prior to applying for the position, I learned about Project YANO and heard about meetings, workshops, and conferences through board members who also happen to be some of my very close friends. They would say things like: “Oh! Project YANO is doing this and doing that,” and “We decided to move forward with this,” and I would think to myself, “Wow, that sounds awesome! I wonder how and if I can join?” I never actually asked, so when the internship opportunity presented itself I gladly applied.

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Reflection on My Time as Project YANO’s Student Intern

The US Military’s Totally Cool Mobile Enlistment Exhibits

Hannah K. Gold -

An artist's rendering of Army mascot GI Johnny. Photo by Michael Bühler-RoseFor decades, the US military has been using souped-up mobile exhibits to recruit prospective soldiers. In July of this year, the military deployed the latest addition to a fleetthat roves the country hoping to win the hearts and minds of American youth. The new vehicle, known as the Extreme Truck, is equipped with two 32-inch gaming stations, a 60-inch flat-screen television, several smaller TVs, and pull-up and push-up platforms. It has its own Facebook page, which, at press time, has been liked 111 times.

According to Mobile Exhibit Company commander Captain Korneliya Waters, who recently talked to Recruiter Journal, the Extreme Truck is "a symbol of independence and power." Her description reminded me of the jacket Nicolas Cage wears in Wild at Heart, which, for him, "represents a symbol of my individuality and my belief in personal freedom." Except the Extreme Truck is funded by tax dollars and designed to assist in contractually binding young people to America's wars.

Recruiting vehicles have been around in some form or another since 1936, when the government established the US Army Accessions Support Brigade, the only department of the Army dedicated exclusively to marketing (the MEC falls under its purview). Three years later, the secretary of the Army sent a team of soldiers to operate a high-profile mobile exhibit at the New York World's Fair.


An artist's rendering of Army mascot GI Johnny. Photo by Michael Bühler-Rose


The military expanded its marketing efforts dramatically in the 1970s, when it lost unfettered access to new recruits after the draft was repealed. In 1973, the year the all-volunteer force was instituted, the Army launched its first successful campaign-"Join the People Who've Joined the Army"-with the help of advertising agency N. W. Ayer & Son. In 1991, Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced plans to expand the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps-a program that instructs high school students in basic training skills-to 3,500 units in five years' time. Thanks to anti-recruitment activism, the plan slowed significantly. Today, JROTC units, which are filled with MEC vehicles and exhibits, are about to reach that goal. And as Sam Diener, a visiting professor of peace studies at Clark University, notes, "Both the ROTC and the military recruiting trucks are ways in which youth in the United States are militarized."

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For decades, the US military has been using souped-up mobile exhibits to recruit prospective soldiers. In July of this year, the military deployed the latest addition to a fleet that roves the country hoping to win the hearts and minds of American youth. The new vehicle, known as the Extreme Truck, is equipped with two 32-inch gaming stations, a 60-inch flat-screen television, several smaller TVs, and pull-up and push-up platforms. It has its own Facebook page, which, at press time, has been liked 111 times.

According to Mobile Exhibit Company commander Captain Korneliya Waters, who recently talked to Recruiter Journal, the Extreme Truck is "a symbol of independence and power." Her description reminded me of the jacket Nicolas Cage wears in Wild at Heart, which, for him, "represents a symbol of my individuality and my belief in personal freedom." Except the Extreme Truck is funded by tax dollars and designed to assist in contractually binding young people to America's wars.

Recruiting vehicles have been around in some form or another since 1936, when the government established the US Army Accessions Support Brigade, the only department of the Army dedicated exclusively to marketing (the MEC falls under its purview). Three years later, the secretary of the Army sent a team of soldiers to operate a high-profile mobile exhibit at the New York World's Fair.

The military expanded its marketing efforts dramatically in the 1970s, when it lost unfettered access to new recruits after the draft was repealed. In 1973, the year the all-volunteer force was instituted, the Army launched its first successful campaign-"Join the People Who've Joined the Army"-with the help of advertising agency N. W. Ayer & Son. In 1991, Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced plans to expand the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps-a program that instructs high school students in basic training skills-to 3,500 units in five years' time. Thanks to anti-recruitment activism, the plan slowed significantly. Today, JROTC units, which are filled with MEC vehicles and exhibits, are about to reach that goal. And as Sam Diener, a visiting professor of peace studies at Clark University, notes, "Both the ROTC and the military recruiting trucks are ways in which youth in the United States are militarized."

By 2013, MEC vehicles drove a collective 600,000 miles to more than 48 states. USAASB operations stopped at more than 1,200 high schools in 2011. "The people who advise the armed forces on marketing are the top advertisers in the profession. And the audience they are seeking are millennials," says Rick Jahnkow, an anti-recruitment activist.

The Extreme Truck, a 15,700-pound mobile recruitment vehicle that roams the country dazzling prospective soldiers. Photo courtesy of the US Army

Another mobile unit, the STEM experience truck, is plastered with pictures of young people dressed as astronauts and staring intently into microscopes, and is pitched to aspiring engineers and scientists. Once inside, the visitor encounters a depressing scenario: The year is 2032, and there's been an attack on a chemical plant in Eastern Europe. An officer then leads the visitor to a screen, where he or she can choose from a range of tactical counterinsurgency options, including the use of drones. Speaking of which, the MEC currently operates three trucks that contain aerial simulators-the most recent being a UAV, or drone, simulator.

"The STEM truck in particular is used to gain access instead of recruiting a certain kind of student. They try to get cooperation from science teachers and math teachers," Jahnkow told me.

In June 2006, the first of 50 new H3 Hummers hit the road to increase interest in recruiting events. At the time, Sergeant First Class Anthony J. Colarusso told Recruiter Journal, "The H3 is a real 'icebreaker' in itself, so it should allow recruiters the ability to attract bigger crowds, which will allow us to work our magic." In the same issue, United States Recruiting Command director Donald Bartholomew referred to the Hummers as "just another tool in our kit-admittedly a really big one-that will turn heads and get feet moving toward the sound and excitement." That would be the sound of a $9,000 entertainment system that blasts waves of rap and death metal at potential recruits.

The MEC also offers things called "Immersa-Domes," weapons simulators, and various other interactive semis, including one that has the capacity to switch from "game mode" to "classroom mode" so students can watch videos about anti-bullying campaigns and basic training in the same sitting.

Late adolescence is an impressionable age, but the military is after kids who are even younger. If you meet GI Johnny, an inflatable goofy-grinned doll dressed in Army fatigues, and you're young enough to believe you've met a real person, then you are too young to start thinking about enlisting. But that's exactly the age group the Army has gone after lately. Sergeant Laddie Matula, who helped operate GI Johnny at a rodeo in an undisclosed American town, recounted the experience positively to the Recruiter Journal back in 2007, saying, "Parents love to bring up their little kids to meet with Johnny... Teachers take pictures while their kids shake my hand. The kids love it. The little kids are very comfortable with Johnny." Just this past spring, GI Johnny started tweeting-to little fanfare.

The military is not at all coy about its intentions to make as many impressions as possible on the emerging generation of recruits. While the media knocks itself out trying to make sense of what a millennial is, the military already has its sights set on what they call "Generation Edge." In the September/October 2013 issue of Recruiter Journal, Steve Lambert contributed a short op-ed titled "Advertising Update: Know Your Audience: Generation Edge," in which he argues that although millennials are "digital disciples and highly sociable," new recruiting tactics need to be developed now to attract the next generation of cadets. Generation Edge (those born since 1995) are, in his estimation, drawn to messaging that promotes the "three R's": "resilient," "resourceful," "realistic."

Screens in the STEM experience truck display fictional news coverage of a chemical attack in the year 2032. Photo courtesy of the US Army

Some will argue that these marketing schemes pale in comparison to the kinds of career opportunities the armed forces can provide. To demolish this argument you only need to consider the ripe age at which many recruits agree to the life-altering commitment of enlisting, the fact that war is hell, and the high rates of homelessness, unemployment, mental illness, and substance abuse among veterans.

But in the case of the MEC's efforts, another question emerges: one of privacy, consent, and equitable access. Diener says that the idea of giving equal access to the military and anti-recruiting efforts "goes back to the 1980s, when we noticed that the military recruiters were having essentially free access to high schools across the country, so students were getting a very one-sided view of the military."

But the purpose of these vehicles, as stated by the military in its own publications, is to give the military a distinctly unequal edge, by parking at high schools they might not usually have access to, collecting data from students, making impressions, and, ultimately, producing leads on future recruits. USAREC Regulation 601-93, which went into effect in July 1996, outlines the uses of the support unit. The regulation explicitly states that USAREC should "schedule in the primary market whenever possible (i.e., HS and colleges). Priority should go to the hard-to-penetrate schools."

In 2011, USAASB had more than 230,000 visitors, producing approximately 88,000 leads. The leads are gathered and sorted using a system perhaps not ironically named I-ELMO, which stands for Interactive Electronic Leads Management Options. According to Jahnkow, it is commonplace for recruiters to require all students to fill out personal information before participating in the interactive war games. This information is then transmitted into I-ELMO and comes out the other end as thousands of targeted campaigns to potential recruits.

In other words, it would seem that these trucks aren't symbols of independence or power, or any other beliefs. They're well-funded marketing tools that project fantasies custom-made for teens and steer young people onto the warpath, leaving so many unexplored roads in the dust.

The History of War Resisters League (USA)

Jessie Wallace HughanThe War Resisters League (WRL) was formed in 1923 by Jessie Wallace Hughan, a leading suffragist, socialist, and pacifist. It is a section of the London-based War Resisters' International.

In the immediate aftermath of World War I, Hughan and the WRL's early members summed up their sense of the League’s mission by declaring that if enough people stood in total opposition to war, governments would hesitate—or even be unable—to make war. Between the two world wars, the WRL supported conscientious objection, opposed conscription, and, as World War II loomed ever closer, stood for the increasingly unpopular position that war would not solve the problem of fascism. Although WRL’s analysis of strategies and tactics continues to evolve and grow, our absolute commitment to resisting all war and the causes of war has never wavered.

After the United States declared war, once again, hundreds of pacifists were imprisoned for refusing to fight. This time, however, the pacifist movement was more organized, and pacifists, along with the rest of the world, were more aware of the nonviolent struggle for India’s liberation, as led by Mohandas K. Gandhi. While still incarcerated, many of the COs turned to nonviolent resistance (primarily in the form of hunger strikes) to achieve such goals as racial integration in the federal prisons. When the war ended, many of the newly released prisoners joined WRL, bringing with them their new consciousness of, and commitment to, nonviolent direct action. Some older pacifist resisted the new ideas, but within a decade, the League was re-oriented toward “Gandhian nonviolence as the method for creating a democratic society free of war, racism, sexism, and human exploitation.”

Boots On The Ground

Patrick Elder and Seth Kershner -

As military recruiters gain a foothold in Christian schools, grassroots activists across the nation are sounding the alarm.

Central Catholic versus Militarization USUMMER IS THE season for high school football practice. Two years ago, the players at Central Catholic High School in Portland, Ore., got a different kind of coaching, brought in by head coach Steve Pyne. For the first time, U.S. Army recruiters would serve as volunteers to run the football team through their strength and conditioning paces-helping them prepare for the annual "Holy War" matchup against archrival Jesuit High School.

According to an article in the U.S. Army's monthly Recruiter Journal, the Army "footprint" for the big game included a Humvee parked outside the stadium and a pre-kickoffevent in which local recruiters placed "unit patch decals from various Army divisions" onto players' helmets.

Purchase access to this article on Sojourners

JROTC Wants to Invade Hundreds More Schools

Sam Diener -

Would you let your children join?JROTC, a high school program to militarize youth in high schools, has already invaded almost 3400 schools. Peacework has learned that Congress passed a little-noticed measure in the 2009 National Defense Authorization bill to expand the number of JROTC schools to 3700 schools by 2020. To do this, the military will have to open at least 45 new JROTC units per year (Some schools drop the program each year, most often because of low student participation rates. In 2006, for example, Santa Barbara high school dropped its JROTC program due to high costs and low participation rates. Veterans for Peace members helped create a Peace Academy in its place.)

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