Editor’s Note: The following is excerpted from Army of None: Strategies to Counter Military Recruitment, End War and Build a Better World published by Seven Stories Press, August 2007. Reprinted here by permission of publisher. Copyright © 2007 Aimee Allison and David Solnit
Top military recruitment facts
1. Recruiters lie. According the New York Times, nearly one of five United States Army recruiters was under investigation in 2004 for offenses varying from “threats and coercion to false promises that applicants would not be sent to Iraq.” One veteran recruiter told a reporter for the Albany Times Union, “I’ve been recruiting for years, and I don’t know one recruiter who wasn’t dishonest about it. I did it myself.”
2. The military contract guarantees nothing. The Department of Defense’s own enlistment/re-enlistment document states, “Laws and regulations that govern military personnel may change without notice to me. Such changes may affect my status, pay allowances, benefits and responsibilities as a member of the Armed Forces REGARDLESS of the provisions of this enlistment/re-enlistment document” (DD Form4/1, 1998, Sec.9.5b).
3. Advertised signing bonuses are bogus. Bonuses are often thought of as gifts, but they’re not. They’re like loans: If an enlistee leaves the military before his or her agreed term of service, he or she will be forced to repay the bonus. Besides, Army data shows that the top bonus of $20,000 was given to only 6 percent of the 47,7272 enlistees who signed up for active duty.
4. The military won’t make you financially secure. Military members are no strangers to financial strain: 48 percent report having financial difficulty, approximately 33 percent of homeless men in the United States are veterans, and nearly 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night.
5. Money for college ($71,424 in the bank?). If you expect the military to pay for college, better read the fine print. Among recruits who sign up for the Montgomery GI Bill, 65 percent receive no money for college, and only 15 percent ever receive a college degree. The maximum Montgomery GI Bill benefit is $37,224, and even this 37K is hard to get: To join, you must first put in a nonrefundable $1,200 deposit that has to be paid to the military during the first year of service. To receive the $37K, you must also be an active-duty member who has completed at least a three-year service agreement and is attending a four-year college full time. Benefits are significantly lower if you are going to school part-time or attending a two-year college. If you receive a less than honorable discharge (as one in four do), leave the military early (as one in three do), or later decide not to go to college, the military will keep your deposit and give you nothing. Note: The $71,424 advertised by the Army and $86,000 by the Navy includes benefits from the Amy or Navy College Fund, respectively. Fewer than 10 percent of all recruits earn money from the Army College Fund, which is specifically designed to lure recruits into hard-to-fill positions.
Archive for the ‘Reality of military service’ Category
Justin Thompson, 23, proposed to Erin underneath the Eiffel Tower last February. The photos of the two on her MySpace page have the hallmarks of a young couple in love. Thompson can’t wait to get back to Lacey, Wash., to get married, and go to college. There’s one problem: Thompson is in Baghdad, serving his second deployment as a sergeant in the U.S. Army, and he is losing hope that he’ll ever be allowed to leave.
Sgt. Thompson, assigned to the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the Second Infantry Division, was first deployed to Iraq in November 2003. When his unit returned to the United States one year later, he immediately started hearing rumors of redeployment and stop-loss–the military’s age-old policy that compels soldiers to continue serving during wartime, even after their contract expires. Four months later, the rumors were confirmed and Thompson was stop-lossed. Despite exhibiting signs of combat-related depression–uncontrolled anger and heavy drinking, for which he was repeatedly disciplined–Thompson redeployed to Iraq on June 28, 2006, exactly one day after his contract with the Army expired.
This April, while stationed in Baghdad, Thompson received another surprise. This second, involuntary tour would be extended by three months, as part of the Pentagon’s new policy that the Army’s standard tour of duty would be extended from 12 to 15 months. The news was devastating.
“I felt that I’d given everything I had to give,” Thompson says. “I felt that I’d pushed myself to the brink of insanity and back and that still wasn’t enough. I fought in a war I didn’t agree with, but I’d taken an oath saying that I would serve, so I did. I felt used up.”
The Pentagon made this decision in spite of a growing body of medical research–all of which was available before the policy change–that shows longer tours are a primary cause of combat-related stress. Research also shows longer tours increase the psychological impact of traumatic experiences on soldiers, correlate to an increase in combat ethics violations, and put intense strains on military families. In short, increasing the length of deployment puts American soldiers, their families and Iraqis in danger.