Danville Express

Living - August 17, 2007

The 411: Army recruiters target high schools

by Katharine O'Hara

As the United States finds itself increasingly involved in the war overseas, the U.S. military is facing a serious dilemma of failing to meet enlistment quotas, prompting further efforts to recruit an increasing number of new soldiers to aid in the war effort. Thus (as revealed by the 2003 Government Accounting Office Report), the military recruiting budget doubled from $300 million to approximately $600 million between 1998 and 2003, and hit a record $4 billion by the end of the 2003 fiscal year. Its main recruiting pool: American high schools.

This has understandably sparked controversy across the nation, many parents outraged that military recruiters are allowed to enter their children's schools, sometimes presenting misleading information in an attempt to entice students to enlist (discovered in various undercover investigations). However, as asserted by section 9528 of the 2001 instated No Child Left Behind Act, all schools receiving funds from the federal government are required to grant the military the same amount of access to their students' personal information (addresses, telephone numbers, etc.) as college and career counselors, or face the risk of forfeiting federal funds.

As disclosed in a recent re-airing of a 2004 PBS broadcast of the John Merrow Report, the army has increased financial incentives, lowered entrance requirements, and now offers more waivers, allowing criminal offenders, past drug or alcohol abusers, and individuals with medical issues to join the Army. Military recruiters have become so desperate to meet their yearly recruitment goals (somewhere between 72,500 and 77,000 enlistees), they present deceiving information, many not even making mention of the Iraq War, or the possibility of deportation to Iraq should an impressionable student choose to enlist.

The broadcast further depicted a military recruiter in a San Diego High School attempting to entice a class of young high school students to enlist, presenting a warped, glorified image of the Army.

"Where else can you get paid to jump out of airplanes, shoot cool guns, blow stuff up, and travel, seeing all kinds of different countries?"

Controversy has also sprung up over the fact that many feel recruiters target minority students or those from low-income families who may have narrow future career opportunities. These kids need encouragement and motivation, not a military recruiter offering them a misleading chance at "a better life." High school students are being targeted for enlistment at a time in their life when they are only beginning to figure out what they want for their future. While the perks of being in the military (both fact and fiction) may be appealing at first glance to an impressionable high school student, those who jump to conclusions may be rudely awakened by the harsh reality of war.

While all this holds true, the United States still needs a military, and after careful consideration, this path may be right for a significant number of men and women who honorably choose to serve our country. After all, according to the U.S. Army Web site (goarmy.com), the Army offers health care, retirement pay, money for education, vacation time, family services and other incentives to military recruits.

As school registration approaches, families with high school students will receive a form in their registration packet with the option to withhold their student's personal information from the military for recruiting purposes. It is with close consideration that parents and students should decide how they feel about this relevant and timely issue when it comes to making this important decision.

The 411 offers information and insight on the teen scene by Katharine O'Hara, a junior at San Ramon Valley High School who spends her free time going to concerts, enjoying her friends, and playing the piano. E-mail her at ohara5@comcast.net.


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