Selling the army in wartime: for many recruits, enlisting used to mean cash for college and few risks. But 9/11 and the war in Iraq have made signing up a more complicated decision.
Thirty miles from Lyndon, in Topeka, James Nelson, 19, got the idea of enlisting from his probation officer. Slated to start basic training this month, he hopes the Army will help him to straighten out his life and to stop, as his mother says, doing nothing all day aside from playing CD's and smoking cigarettes.
And down the road, in Lawrence, Julie Reese, 23, recently laid off from her job mowing lawns, feels the Army will help her find her way. She is hoping the Army will overlook her low scores on her entrance exam and allow her to enlist.
Jordan, Nelson, and Reese are a few of the people being recruited in an unremarkable office building in an anonymous strip mall in Kansas, one of more than 1,600 Army recruitment stations across the country.
THE IMPACT OF IRAQ
The world of recruiting has shifted significantly. Gone, recruiters say, are the people looking mainly for easy cash to pay for college. Gone also, they say, are those who covet signing bonuses of up to $20,000 but hope never to leave their base. And gone are those who think enlisting in the Reserve or the National Guard will mean a few weekends of training in a park.
The war in Iraq has changed the implications of signing up, and some potential soldiers' families have tougher questions when recruiters call--or do not want to hear the pitch at all.
"Parents will tell us all the time that 'Johnny's not joining!' and just hang up on us," says Sgt. First Class John J. Stover, a recruiter at the station in Topeka. "The difference," Stover says, "is that no one has ever recruited during a sustained war."
Officials at Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Ky., have said the Army is on pace to bring in nearly 100,000 soldiers for active duty and the Reserves by October, but military officials worry about meeting recruitment goals in the years ahead, with the Army's continuing presence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the world (see chart, p. 7).
To attract candidates, recruiters are pitching shorter enlistments, of 15 months instead of 2 years; a buddy option, which lets enlistees serve alongside a friend; and a reminder that many of the Army's 211 jobs are far from the front lines (euphonium player in the band, for instance).
For some recruits, the prospects of war and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have become powerful motivators to sign up. "I didn't sign up to sit behind a desk," says Andrew Limbocker, 18, of Eskridge, Kan., who reported to the Topeka office not long ago.
But others, like Jordan, Nelson, and Reese, say they haven't thought much about Iraq. Although administration officials have said they will keep 135,000 troops there through 2005, these recruits are philosophical about the dangers that may lie ahead.
"You could get shot going to the gas station," says Jordan.
Captain Eric O. Hinckley, who commands recruiting in the 41,000 square miles that make up the northern half of Kansas, says his 22 recruiters should never lie, especially when it comes to the question of service in Iraq.
"I challenge my guys to be honest and say there is a possibility that you may be deployed," he says. "A soldier should not be told that he was never going to deploy. However, it would also be false to promise, 'You are going.' I guess the key is to say, 'You might be called up at some point, but you may not.'"
Most recruits require six months to two years of training to be eligible to be sent to war, Hinckley says.
He declined to say how many recruits his region is assigned to find in a year, though he acknowledged his recruiters try to enlist one or two soldiers each month. He says he prefers not to think of people as numbers.
ROLLING A DOUGHNUT
Still, numbers are a reality in the recruiting business. A month-by-month breakdown is posted in Hinckley's conference room. His recruiters swap stories of their best months and their worst, when they failed to sign up anyone, or "rolled a doughnut," in the language of recruiting.
Even in wartime, Hinckley says, the Army has not lowered its standards. All recruits must take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery examination, a standardized test like the SAT; a physical test; and a criminal-background check. Drug use and tattoos that show outside their uniform are barred.
Nelson, the recruit from Topeka, was convicted last year of misdemeanor battery (he says he punched someone trying to attack his girlfriend). Recruiters say his misdemeanor shouldn't prevent him from enlisting.
WAITING FOR A DECISION
Reese, the woman laid off from her lawn-mowing job recently, has failed the Army's entrance test five times, due, she says, to a learning disability.
In June she asked the Army to waive the test requirements--something it does in a small number of cases. Now she's waiting to hear the decision.
A friend of Reese's returned from Iraq recently. He told her that if she is sent to Iraq, she should be ready to see things she has never seen before. But Reese says she has spent little time weighing his words. "To be honest," she says, "I really haven't thought about going over." For now, it is all about getting in.
Demographic (2003 recruits) ACTIVE ARMY Men 80.8% Women 19.2% White 64.9% Black 16.4% Hispanic 13.4% Other 5.4% ARMY RESERVE Men 69.5% Women 30.5% White 60.7% Black 20.4% Hispanic 13.2% Other 5.8% Note: Table made from pie chart. SOURCE: U.S. ARMY RECRUITING COMMAND
To help students understand how the military has adjusted its recruiting strategies and why teens join the military in the midst of a war.
CRITICAL THINKING/DISCUSSION: Have students re-read the comments of Katherine Jordan, who says she wanted to join the Army to be part of something bigger than herself, her school, and her hometown. What is Jordan implying? What are the advantages, and the potential disadvantages, of leaving familiar surroundings in search of a newer, wider world?
AD WRITING: Assign students to work in small groups to design posters for a recruiting booth at a school career fair.
After they finish, the class can critique the posters, identifying those they think are the best and explaining how others might convey a stronger message.
RECRUITER RECONNAISSANCE: Ask students to imagine that military recruiters are scheduled to attend your school's career fair. Assign students to prepare a written list of questions they would want the recruiters to answer before they would consider joining one of the military services.
If there is a recruiting station in or near your community, one or more volunteers might go there to ask their questions in person and then report their findings to the class.
* A friend asks your opinion on whether she should join the military. Which factors should she consider before deciding?
* Why do recruiters focus on teens rather than, say, people in their 20's?
* Would you support some type of mandatory national service?
FAST FACT: The No Child Left Behind Act requires public secondary schools that receive federal aid to grant access to military recruiters and provide contact information on students, or face the loss of such aid. However, students may have their information withheld.
DRAFT-DEBATE RESEARCH: Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) debated whether the draft should be reinstated in the April 5, 2004, issue of UPFRONT (p. 26).
Selling the Army
1. Even during wartime, the military requires potential recruits to
a take a royalty oath.
b profess religious values.
c be natural-born Americans.
d pass an entrance examination.
2. In the past, many potential recruits were attracted by
a promises of easy duty.
b cash for college.
c free medical care.
d guarantees of foreign travel.
3. One of the new pitches to potential recruits is the promise of
a higher salaries.
b no duty in Afghanistan or Iraq.
c shorter-than-usual enlistments.
d quick promotions.
4. According to "Selling the Army in Wartime," which of the following statements is true?
a The Bush administration plans to keep 135,000 troops in Iraq through 2005.
b Today's recruits are more motivated than those who served in years gone by.
c The military teaches skills useful, in civilian life.
d Most potential recruits spend little time thinking about serving in Afghanistan or Iraq.
5. Earlier this year, concerns about reinstating a military draft were fueled by
a the introduction of a bill requiring a draft.
b the formation of a committee to study the draft.
c an order requiring some soldiers to stay in the military beyond their normal service time.
d a Pentagon analysis on the need for a draft.
6. Make one argument for the military draft and one argument against it.
Upfront Quiz 1 * page TE 5
1. (d) pass an entrance examination.
2. (b) cash for college.
3. (c) shorter-than-usual enlistments.
4. (a) The Bush administration plans to keep 135,000 troops in Iraq through 2005.
5. (c) an order requiring some soldiers to stay in the military beyond their normal service time.
6. Answers will vary, but could include this pro argument: In order to be fair, military service should be shared by all. A possible con argument: Volunteers increase efficiency because they are more motivated than draftees.
Upfront Quiz 2 * page TE 5
1. Answers will vary, but could include concerns that some voters will go with the apparent majority rather than voice their own beliefs.
2. (d) swing voters.
3. (b)after voters leave their voting place.
4. (e) how a randomly selected number of people is surveyed to measure the opinion of a larger group.
5. They are not the product of organized sampling; they measure only those who happened across the Web site.
Is There a Draft in Your Future?
By Carl Hulse in Washington
In 1967, A STUDENT protesting the war in Vietnam burns his draft card.
The Pentagon says no. The Selective Service System says no. And congressional leaders say absolutely not.
Yet talk of reinstating the military draft persists around the country, driven by Internet discussions, high-profile moves by the military to shore up its forces, and fears that conscription could become a reality if world events took a turn for the worse. "The mood ... is highly skeptical," says the founder of StopTheDraft.com, Barry Zellen. "If the world spun madly out of control, where would they get the boots on the ground?"
But top lawmakers, joined by Pentagon leaders and administration officials, say that there are definitely no plans to resume the draft.
"The idea of bringing back the draft, I think the chances are slim and none--and slim left town," says Representative Ken Calvert, R-Calif., a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
A Pentagon order earlier this year requiring some soldiers to remain in uniform beyond their expected dates for leaving the service has fueled draft anxiety.
But in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, 70 percent of those surveyed were against reinstating the draft, and legislation currently pending in Congress to require national service is given little chance of passage.
"You have drafts when you can't get the requisite numbers," says the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. "There are not now indications that you can't get the requisite numbers. But we watch those numbers every month."
Carl Hulse is a correspondent in The Times's Washington bureau.
Monica Davey is a correspondent in. The Times's Chicago bureau.
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|Publication:||New York Times Upfront|
|Date:||Sep 20, 2004|
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