The corona virus crisis has been a double-edged sword for military recruitment in the United States. On the one hand, the tightening of the labor market contributed to higher rates of retention than the Army brass expected, meaning that many soldiers decided to reenlist this spring rather than pursue civilian employment when their terms of service expired. On the other hand, recruiting stations across the country have had to shut down to comply with social distancing guidelines, limiting recruiters’ access to young people and inhibiting the “kneecap-to-kneecap” conversations recruiters widely acknowledge to be essential to their work.
Less than one percent of the Armed Forces’ target demographic — seventeen- to twenty-four-year-olds — is actively interested in a military career. After a “kneecap-to-kneecap” encounter with a recruiter, whether at a recruiting station or a school event, probability of enlistment climbs to more than 50 percent, according to the Army.
The reasons for this have been well-documented by anti-recruitment activists for decades. Recruiters, who are expected to meet regular enlistment quotas, aggressively pursue young people who express interest, generally attempting to separate them from parents, teachers, counselors, and others who might advocate for civilian careers.
Gary Ghirardi – OpEd – June 2020
Back in May of 2020, I caught an interview on Pacifica's KPFK radio on a morning program where a young woman was explaining the loss of her aunt that was a nurse in a hospital engaging the Coronavirus. She recounted her aunt telling her that she was not provided with masks or gloves and that a patient had sneezed in her face a week prior to her falling ill. All this culminated with a Zoom meeting with the family saying goodbye before she died. Later that day I passed a local hospital that had placed a large banner on the street honoring our heroes that were fighting the current epidemic.
In my work for The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth, I am constantly reminded of a similar refrain from those pushing back against our work of getting youth, with limited opportunities for their futures, to consider all the ramifications of serving in the United State's post 9/11 military. That push-back always invokes the heroic diatribes defending those who serve in our military branches and a forceful reminder of how dare we try to diminish the sacrifice of heroes who have served or are considering serving by revealing the harmful realities of military service. Of course we do not diminish their service but try to put it in context to a fuller and more accurate disclosure of what military recruiters manage to leave out of their enlistment appeals. The relationship between these two scenarios, and the contradictions inherent in both, stayed with me all week and encouraged this short OpEd.
How COVID-19 is impacting the Delayed Entry Program and threatening the health of recruits.
By Pat Elder / National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth, NNOMY - June 8, 2020
- Leer la versión en español
COVID-19 has profoundly impacted the way the military finds new soldiers. The recruiting command was caught unprepared to face the pandemic and is facing a challenging new reality.
Military recruiting is an intense, psychological pursuit that has traditionally relied on the ability of recruiters to develop close relationships with teenage prospects. These relationships were cultivated in the nation’s high schools where recruiters enjoyed access to children. Recruiters served as coaches and tutors. They brought donuts to the faculty. They ate lunch with prospects, sometimes a hundred times in a single school year. Military recruiters played one-on-one basketball after school with potential recruits and became best of friends with some kids. So friendly, hundreds of male recruiters have been implicated in inappropriate sexual relationships with underaged girls.
High schools were the center of the recruiting universe, but that ended abruptly in March when the enlistment pipeline was ruptured. Recruiters enlisted seniors and placed them into the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) in which a student’s entry into active duty is postponed for up to 365 days. (The Army now calls it the Future Soldier Program.) The thrust of the DEP program is to maintain future soldier motivation while minimizing attrition. When DEP members report to basic training, they are accessed (enlisted) into active duty.
Bonnie J Caracciolo / Chelsea Uniting Against the War (CUAW) -
For fourteen years a dedicated group of anti-war citizens in a working-class suburb of Boston, MA, has worked to inform high school students in their community, including their own children, about the perils of military recruitment. Chelsea Uniting Against the War (CUAW) convenes within the first week of the school year to distribute counter-recruitment flyers informing students of the risks of military service. They then follow up this activity by speaking with students one-on-one during school lunch breaks while distributing forms to opt out of school releases of student information to military recruiters. These lunchtime events occurred twice each year and were always preceded by a phone call to the principal’s office to determine an appropriate date. At no time did CUAW enter the school without prior notice.
Elizabeth King /Article Originally appeared in In These Times web edition in June 2019 -
Out of the spotlight, dedicated counter-recruiters around the country are steadfast in their organizing to cut off the human supply chain to the U.S. military.
Eighteen is the youngest age at which someone can join the U.S. military without their parents’ permission, yet the military markets itself to—which is to say recruits—children at much younger ages. This is in part accomplished by military recruiters who visit high schools around the country, recruiting children during career fairs and often setting up recruitment tables in cafeterias and hallways. As a result, most students in the U.S. will meet a military recruiter for the first time at just 17 years old, and children are getting exposed to military propaganda younger and younger.
The recruitment of young people to the military is as old as the military itself, and has become more and more normalized along with the general militarization of schools. According to the Urban Institute, more than two-thirds of public high school students attend schools where there are “school resource officers,” a name for school-based police. This police presences comes on top of the role of military recruiters on campuses, or at college and career fairs.
Rick Jahnkow / Demilitarize Our Schools -
Legislation has recently been suggested that, among other things, would greatly expand the number of JROTC units and make military recruiting a more explicit, formal part of the program's stated purpose. It's part of the Inspired to Serve Act of 2020, which is being proposed by the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS). Below is the JROTC-related language (the commission is also recommending draft registration for women):
SEC. 304. EXPANSION OF JUNIOR RESERVE OFFICERS’ TRAINING CORPS PROGRAM
(a) EXPANSION OF JROTC CURRICULUM.—Section 2031(a)(2) of title 10, United States Code, is amended by inserting after “service to the United States,” the following: “including an introduction to service opportunities in military, national, and public service,”.
(b) PLAN TO INCREASE NUMBER OF JROTC UNITS.—The Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretaries of the military departments (as defined in section 102 of title 5, United States Code), shall develop and implement a plan to establish and support not less than 6,000 units of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps by September 30, 2031.
(c) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.—There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out this section.