Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Army recruiters determined; queer youth not exempt

We've all seen that Army recruiting commercial where a young Black woman is telling her mom that if she joins the Army, and gets to be a medic, then when she gets out of the Army her experience will help her to meet her goal of becoming a doctor when she gets out.

Not necessarily, according to a story in today's Boston Globe. Academic institutions just don't seem to know how to convert military courses and specialized skills into academic credits for those veterans eager to use their G.I. benefits to get into college. It's not the military's fault, although surely they are aware that their highly touted educational benefits may not readily translate in the civilian world. Something can be done about this, and it ought to be.

Many of the young men and women wanting to get into school after military service were just dying to get out of school before they enlisted. All Things Considered reported tonight that the Army is getting ready to announce a new program: a $40,000 recruiting bonus for high school graduates who score in the top 50% of their qualifying tests and who give five years of service.

The Army knows it's having problems enlisting "high quality" recruits. The Army News Service reported that at a Senate Armed Services Comittee meeting last month, Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick called the recruiting environment "challenging" and said, "Less than three out of 10 of our nation's youth are fully qualified for service in the Army due to disqualifying medical conditions, criminal records, lack of education credentials or low aptitude test scores." he said. A new National Priorities Project report says the Army is at a 25 year low in recruiting high school graduates.

This has all been on my mind the last couple of days-- I'd experienced a convergence of information about the military that I hadn't exactly gone looking for, culminating last night. I was at an Arise for Social Justice meeting at our new digs on State St., and heard the following tale.

A local queer youth organization has a number of members who are interested in enlisting in the military. One guy, Hector, who's in J-ROTC, came to a meeting at the organization with his recruiter! The recruiter was asked to leave by other members, which he did. Later, Hector said, "But he's really cool! He has a brother who's gay, so he knows. He's a good guy, he likes me."

I must say that recruiting at a queer youth organization does seem to bend the credibility of the "Don't ask, don't tell." policy. Mustn't that also mean, Don't look at the posters on the wall and the literature on the table?

I felt bad when I heard how Hector thinks his recruiter is his friend. I remember going through this with my nephew. "It's just a job!" I'd say, when he'd be all aglow after some activity they'd done together. "-- a job that requires persistence and good acting skills". But there's only just so far you can go, because after a while it sounds like you're implying that he, and Hector, and all the others, couldn't possibly be good enough for someone just to like them. That's not a good feeling for anyone to take away with them, and, in the end, it's their lives.


Melody said...

I'm not sure these people are acting. Yes, I'm sure they positively know what their job entails and that they have to be persistent, but recruiters are not the anti-Christ, if you will, or evil. I'll be a hundred dollars that they really believe in what they're doing. You or others may see them as "the enemy," but I doubt they see themselves as an enemy, or that they must *act* as if they're doing a good thing. I think they believe in their country (in that way)and believe that what they are doing is a good thing. Furthermore, we may think they're living a lie, and they may be, but they are not knowingly living a lie. They, at most, are just not putting enough thought into their life to know what they are truly doing. They're just trying to get by as easily and efficiently as possible, like many people are.

Michaelann Bewsee said...

Hmmm....don't think I said recruiters were evil or the enemy anywhere in my post, or that they didn't believe in what they were doing-- only that they have to be good actors to do their job!

In terms of an institution, however, military benefits are often overstated.