Many people, including school staff, students, parents and activists
have expressed concern about the presence of military recruiters
in our high schools and on our college campuses. When deciding
how best to address these concerns, it helps to understand just
what recruiters do and how they present themselves to teachers
and administrators to gain what seems like unfettered admittance
to many schools. It may be productive to share this information
with school staff. They may want to reassess their policy on recruiter
access or incorporate a counter recruitment component.
The Army provides its recruiters with efficient and thorough
training manuals on all aspects of their job, including one titled,
"The School Recruiting Program Handbook" (USAREC Pamphlet
This handbook contains many practical suggestions, including
a monthly breakdown of activities and general advice about working
productively with school staff, which are equally useful for planning
a counter-recruitment campaign. In addition, it provides
an inside look at how recruiters are taught to give the appearance
of caring about the best interest of the students and the school,
while systematically "penetrating their school market...to
obtain the maximum number of quality enlistments."
The most striking feature of the Army's School Recruiting Program
Handbook is the forthright way in which it states the purpose
of recruiter presence in high schools. Page 1, paragraph 1.1 says
it all: "School ownership is the goal." It is hard to
imagine that any educator or school administrator, no matter how
supportive of the military, would not be outraged and deeply offended
by this statement.
Throughout the manual are explicit instructions on what recruiters
should say and do to "establish rapport and credibility."
This includes offering to chaperone dances (in uniform), assisting
the coach, and to always "have something to give [school
staff] (pen, calendar, cup, donuts, etc)." Recruiters are
repeatedly reminded that "Once educators are convinced recruiters
have their students' best interest in mind the SRP [School Recruiting
Program] can be effectively implemented."
One of the most disturbing aspects of the Handbook is how recruiters
are told to present military programs such as the Armed Services
Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and education incentives such
as the G.I. Bill so that they will appeal to the school community,
while re-enforcing the fact that the actual purpose of these programs
is to increase enlistment.
Recruiters are supplied with a flyer on the ASVAB test (available
at www.asvab.com) to help them "market the ASVAB" to
faculty which states:
The ASVAB program is designed to help students learn more
about themselves and the world of work, identify and explore
potentially satisfying occupations, and develop an effective
strategy to realize their goals.
However, The School Recruiting Program Handbook states that ASVAB
specifically designed to provide recruiters with a source
of prequalified leads. . . . The ASVAB recruiter printout provides
information you can't get from any other list. It . . . provides
the recruiter with concrete and personal information about the
The military spends a large portion of its $3 BILLION-plus recruiting
budget touting the Montgomery G.I. Bill and promises of $70,000
for college tuition. For this reason alone, many schools welcome
recruiters, believing that they are opening the door to college
opportunities for their students. Unfortunately, only one out
of three enlistees who sign up for the G.I. bill ever see a cent.(1)
Only 15% go on to complete a college degree.(2)
On the one hand, the School Recruiting Program Handbook does
say that the purpose of education incentives is:
TO DEMONSTRATE TO THE EDUCATION COMMUNITY that the army
is concerned with assisting Soldiers by providing financial
assistance for postsecondary education [emphasis added].
However, that is listed as the third purpose of promises of college
money. The second reason, not surprisingly, is "To fill the
various Army skills with capable individuals."
And in a stunning piece of honesty, the School Recruiting Program
Handbook lists the FIRST purpose of financial education incentives
To encourage college-capable individuals to DEFER THEIR
COLLEGE until after they have served in the military [emphasis
Read that last bit again. Now show it to your local high school
guidance counselors and college advisors.
Despite protestations to the contrary, recruiters do not merely
offer an alternative to high school seniors and graduates. Recruiters
are instructed to strive to have the Army "perceived as a
positive career choice as soon as young people begin to think
about the future." Federal education law gives recruiters
access to the home addresses and phone numbers of ninth graders
who may be as young as thirteen.
And just because a student has succeeded in enrolling in college
or vocational school doesn't mean that they are exempt from the
advances of recruiters:
This market is an excellent source of potential Army enlistments
due to the high percentage of students who drop out, particularly
during the first 2 years of college.
Once again The School Recruiting Program Handbook stresses the
need to placate school staff who may have other plans for their
In all contacts with college officials, recruiting personnel
should emphasize that the Army is only interested in recruiting
former students who have dropped out and those students who
are about to graduate.
Yet one of the first tasks of the recruiter is to request a list
of ALL students and their contact information. The manual then
goes on to detail the times of year that students are most likely
to drop out. (In a precious example of doublespeak, this is called
the "stop-out cycle.") Recruiters are urged to focus
on freshmen "because they will have the highest dropout rate."
Interestingly, the School Recruiting Program Handbook reiterates
the fact that in both high schools and post secondary schools
they are only entitled to access "equal to the reception
given to the representatives of other career and educational institutions."
Unfortunately, the reality is that they enjoy GREATER THAN equal
access in most schools.
It is unlikely that most school personnel are aware of the content
of this manual. It seems possible that, presented with this information,
schools may reassess their open door policy with regard to military
recruiters. This is an opportunity to encourage schools to limit
recruiter access to the once or twice a year that college representatives
make an appearance. It may also provide motivation to allow counter-recruiters
to present more factual information and alternative points of
(1) Report by The Commission on Servicemembers & Veterans'
Transition Assistance, Feb 23rd, 1999
(2) Ensign, Todd. America's Military Today: the Challenge
of Militarism. New York: The New Press, 2004, p. 22
Source: "The School Recruiting Program Handbook"
(USAREC Pamphlet 350-13) can be downloaded at http://www.usarec.army.mil/im/formpub/Pubs.htm
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter
of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (http://www.comdsd.org)