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From Draft NOtices, October-December 2018

Report from the National Counter-recruitment and School Demilitarization Strategy Summit

Rick  Jahnkow


During the weekend of June 23-24, 2018, a group of 28 activists gathered in Chicago to share the knowledge and lessons they have learned from organizing to counter the militarization of schools and military recruitment of young people. They came from various regions of the U.S. and met at the Cenacle Retreat and Conference Center.

Sponsored by the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (, the gathering provided an opportunity for organizers to assess the context for their work under the Trump/Pence administration, identify individual and collective challenges they face, and evaluate possible strategies and best practices for increasing their impact.

The planning committee for the summit consisted of:

Pat Alviso, Recruiter Awareness Project (Long Beach, CA)
Michelle Cohen, Project Great Futures (Los Angeles, CA)
Kate Connell, Truth in Recruitment (Santa Barbara, CA)
Natasha Erskine, Vets For Peace (Chicago, IL)
Libby Frank, Northwest Suburban Peace Education Project (Chicago, IL)
Rick Jahnkow, Project YANO (San Diego, CA)
Seth Kershner, Winsted Area Peace Action (CT)
Siri Margerin, Full Picture Coalition (Bay Area, CA)

The summit began with a panel presentation on the history of the counter-recruitment movement, its strengths and weaknesses. This was followed by an analysis of current and future recruiting trends. The rest of the weekend consisted of multiple stages of small-group brainstorming for the purpose of identifying possible goals, strategies and organizing tactics. At the end of the process, the long lists of ideas were boiled down to the most compelling ideas for improving our collective efforts. Goals that were given the highest priority were:

  1. Establish a network of sympathetic teachers and counselors.

  2. Empower youth.

  3. Remove JROTC from schools.

  4. Restigmatize militarism.

  5. Build and sustain our groups with research, analysis, funding and networking.

  6. Grow counter recruitment activism through a focus on intersectionality, economic justice and impacted youth.

Strategies and tactics were attached to each of the goals. For example, for the goal of restigmatizing militarism, the strategies included marketing peace and denigrating militarism. Suggested tactics ranged from producing short videos to funding peace clubs as alternatives to JROTC.

As another example, for the goal of empowering youth, some of the strategies were: making the counter-recruitment movement more egalitarian, choosing non-boring methods, and developing social media presence. Listed among the tactics were: using mobile phone QR codes to direct young people to information, sharing resources, subsidizing internships, supporting peace clubs, and giving youth responsibilities for organizing tasks.

As these various ideas were discussed, representatives from groups that had never attempted such tactics were able to learn from more experienced organizers, and everyone benefited from the shared knowledge and wisdom.

Another event at the summit was the first showing of the updated, 2018 version of the video Before You Enlist. Using testimonials of veterans, including a former recruiter, it is the most effective video tool available for educating young people about the realities of military enlistment and war that are hidden in military recruitment propaganda. It’s been shown in hundreds of high school classrooms and used in workshops at many youth conferences. The 16-minute English video can be viewed at The Spanish version will be updated in 2019.

For more information on the summit and outcomes of the discussions that were held, contact National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth,

Image: Some of the organizers who attended the National Counter-recruitment and School Demilitarization Summit in Chicago. Photo: Siri Margerin

This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (


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