Monday, February 28, 2005

Recruiters Lie?'s Brandon Snider links to a cautionary tale about joining the Army. As would be soldier, Tyler Gilbert found out, signing a contract with the government is signing away your life:

. . . The Army recruiter seemed very nice at first. I mentioned bad stories I had heard, and he told me I could get money for college and I could support my family . . . He was like a stereotypical used car salesperson. Then he started to call constantly, and if I didn't call right back, he'd leave obnoxious messages. He called five to six times a day. He started to call a friend of mine to try to find me, too . . . I thought, "maybe I don't want to do this." Then I figured, "well, I could just try it." They never told me how difficult it was to get out.

. . . They asked me if I had seen a psychologist. I started to write down yes. The recruiter ripped up the paper in front of me and my wife and told me not to say that on the form.

They tried to get me to sign up for infantry. I said, "no." The recruiter made it seem like he had to call the Pentagon and that he pulled a lot of strings to get me assigned to tank driving. Once I got to Basic, I found out that they can still assign you to anything they want. . .

I can identify with his story somewhat, because I took a similar plunge back in the eighties. After being lied to (although on more trivial matters than Gilbert) and instructed to lie by recruiters, I signed up. Somehow, I made it through the Marine Corps infamously tough recuit training at Parris Island, South Carolina. Gilbert's experience is in some ways harsher than mine was; probably because the country is at war.
A key difference is the current difficulty in getting out of training that Gilbert describes. I remember several people leaving boot camp because they continually screwed up, or were hurt. One recruit stands out in my mind who never made past the first few days in the receiving barracks. I can still picture him, standing at attention at the front of the classroom, in tears, talking to his mother on the phone.
That a recruiter was intent on getting Gilbert, a 29 year old with dubious knees to join the infantry indicates that the Army is at very least, concerned about meeting recruiting goals. That they keep people in with injuries and the other serious problems that Gilbert describes indicates that they are desparate.
I joined the Marine Reserve in part because I was a rightwing, perhaps even neoconservative, supporter of an interventionist foreign policy. It felt wrong to just stay in college and let others carry the burden. If I were in that position today, I would probably learn to live with the hypocrisy.

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