In light of recent complaints about aggressive recruiting tactics, the U.S. Army held a one-day "stand down" Friday (May 20) to address the concerns.
"[We need to] refocus the entire force on exactly who we are as an institution," Major General Michael Rochelle, commander of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, said during a media briefing at the Pentagon. "We are a very dispersed command, and as a result we rely on the personal integrity and the adherence of Army values on every single recruiter in order to be able to live up to the standards of those values."
Rochelle noted there are seven incidents of impropriety currently under investigation in which recruiters were "taking shortcuts" to meet their recruitment quota, including one in Golden, Colorado, where two recruiters allegedly encouraged a high school student to create a fake diploma. Since 2000, the Army has dismissed between 30 to 60 recruiters a year for withholding negative information about a potential recruit.
"It is both personally and professionally disappointing to everyone in the command when a recruiter crosses the line," Army Public Information Specialist Julia Bobick said. "The overwhelming majority of our recruiters conduct their daily activities and recruiting operations with the utmost integrity."
The Army's 7,500 recruiters are expected to bring in two recruits apiece each month, but they have failed to meet their quota three months in a row (see "U.S. Army Misses Enlistment Goal, Counter-Recruitment Efforts Rise"). In an attempt to entice new recruits, extra incentives have been added, but to little avail.
"Today's conditions [for recruiting] represent the most challenging conditions we have seen in my 33 years in this unit," Rochelle said. "We are faced with very low unemployment and a very low propensity to enlist, both on the part of our young Americans and with their influencers, like parents and coaches or other adults whose opinions matter, to recommend Army service. Those two coupled make a very challenging environment."
Some military watchdog groups seem unimpressed by the one-day stand down. Military Families Speak Out co-founder Nancy Lessin said Friday's demonstration will merely blame the recent controversy on a few "bad apple" recruiters and the need for more training.
"This recruitment 'stand down' will not focus on the real problem, which is a military that is recruiting men and women to serve in a war based on lies," she said. "When given a job to sell a bad product, and placed under enormous pressure to make more and more sales, bad recruiting practices are inevitable."
Oscar Castro, coordinator of the National Youth and Militarism Program for the American Friends Service Committee, said many young people join the military without thinking it through. "[These kids] are giving up constitutional rights, and it's a one-way contract."
Castro cited the military provision in President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act that gives Army recruiters unrestricted access to students' private information. "We know from our work that there are systematic unethical and illegal tactics used by recruiters, particularly in poor communities and communities of color, and we know the problem is growing," he said.
Bobick said the Recruiting Command takes a very serious approach to proper enlistment procedure. "Even the slightest allegations concerning eligibility is investigated to ensure our recruiters are recruiting with the utmost integrity," she said. "We do not tolerate unprofessional behavior, and our stringent guidelines for policing the recruiting force should be evidence of that commitment."