Earlier today, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert mentioned the handbook in his column “Uncle Sam Really Wants You”.
- With the situation in Iraq deteriorating and the willingness of Americans to serve in the armed forces declining, a little-known Army publication called the “School Recruiting Program Handbook” is becoming increasingly important, and controversial.
The handbook is the recruiter’s bible, the essential guide for those who have to go into the nation’s high schools and round up warm bodies to fill the embarrassingly skimpy ranks of the Army’s basic training units.
The handbook declares forthrightly, “The goal is school ownership that can only lead to a greater number of Army enlistments.”
What I was not able to find in the handbook was anything remotely like the startlingly frank comments of a sergeant at Fort Benning, Ga., who was quoted in the May 30 issue of The Army Times. He was addressing troops in the seventh week of basic training, and the paper reported the scene as follows:
“Does anybody know what posthumous means?” Staff Sgt. Andre Allen asked the 150 infantrymen-in-training, members of F Company, 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment.
A few hands went up, but he answered his own question.
“It means after death. Some of you are going to get medals that way,’ he said matter-of-factly, underscoring the possibility that some of them would be sent to combat and not return.”
That’s the honest message recruits get once they’re in. The approach recommended by the recruiting handbook is somewhat different. It’s much softer. Recruiters trying to sign up high school students are urged to schmooze, schmooze, schmooze.
Here are some excerpts from the “School Recruiting Program Handbook”:
- “Black History Month: Participate in events as available”
- “Hispanic Heritage Month. Participate in events as available”
- “Be so helpful and so much a part of the school scene that you are in constant demand.”
- “The football team usually starts practicing in August. Contact the coach and volunteer to assist in leading calisthenics or calling cadence during team runs.”
- “Homecoming normally happens in October. Coordinate with the homecoming committee to get involved with the parade.”
- “Some influential students such as the student president or the captain of the football team may not enlist; however, they can and will provide you with referrals who will enlist.”
- “If you wait until they’re seniors, it’s probably too late.”
- “Don’t forget the administrative staff. … Have something to give them (pen, calendar, cup, donuts, etc.) and always remember secretary’s week, with a card or flowers.”
- “Get involved with local Boy Scout troops. Scoutmasters are typically happy to get any assistance you can offer. Many scouts are [high school] students and potential enlistees or student influencers.”