Truth In Recruiting (TIR), a joint project of Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC) and the Eugene Chapter of Veterans for Peace, aims to expose and oppose the militarization of youth by countering the misinformation that military recruiters share and to promote alternatives to military service.
We have a presence in every public high school in Lane County (and most of the alternative high schools as well). We do one-on-one outreach to students, have brochures in Spanish & English in the career offices, and we educate school staff to make sure they have some basic understandings about recruiting abuses & misinformation. In all school districts, we work to get policies and procedures about military recruiter access to students limited only to the level specified in law. TIR makes particular efforts to reach Latinos, immigrants, and those who are low-income or from rural areas, as they are especially targeted by military recruiters.
Truth in Recruiting’s Peace Scholarships are our tangible commitment to offering youth an alternative to enlisting in the military in order to pay for college. We hope these scholarships will be an incentive for students to think about a non-military career path.
Key Facts to Know About Military Recruitment
The Enlistment Agreement
What you sign is a contract on you, but not on the military. They can change it at any time for any reason. Check section 9(b) of that Enlistment Agreement which states “changes (in laws and regulations) may affect my status, pay, allowances, benefits, and responsibilities as a member of the Armed Forces REGARDLESS of the provisions of this enlistment document.” If you do not get the job, training or location you expected — and that is listed on your enlistment agreement — you cannot just leave the military; only the military decides if you can leave before the end of your enlistment agreement. The military can void or change the agreement; you can’t.
Enlistment is for 8 years
The period of time of active duty is generally less than 8 years, but you can be called back to duty or not released at the end of your active duty commitment if your unit is scheduled to be deployed. This is called “stop loss.”
Ask yourself if you are willing to kill people or blow things up when ordered to do so, or if you are willing to be the support for the person who actually pulls the trigger. These are the tasks of the military. If these don’t fit for you, you are not unpatriotic, you just don’t need to join the military.
Patriotism, Pride, Challenge and Travel
Many enlist because of appeals to a sense of patriotism, pride and challenge. Ask yourself what is your definition of patriotism? Don’t just accept the images the military uses to sell youth on enlistment. How else could you feel pride and challenge?
Money for College
First, do yourself the favor of checking out other sources of money for college so that you can assess whether it is worth it to you to delay college until after being in the military. Would it be worth it if you lost your life, body parts or mental well-being? Is it worth it to you to delay getting started on your life? Have you considered completing college first and then assessing whether it is worth it to negotiate for the military to pay off any student loans in return for your enlistment? Starting in the summer of 2009, Congress greatly increased the amount of money for the college benefit available for those who complete at least 3 years of active duty in the military, receive an honorable discharge and then choose further education. Unlike civilian sources of money for college, the military benefit is only gained if you successfully meet all the military requirements. If you enter the military with advanced education or training beyond a high school degree, you can get better jobs and better pay.
The Pentagon estimates that 19,000 rapes or sexual assaults occur each year in the military. High numbers of women report being assaulted, cornered and raped in the military, at least 2 to 3 times higher than the rate in civilian life. About 90% of women report being harassed. Often the perpetrator is one’s commander, which means a woman has no safe place to report or get help. As documented in a recent Oscar nominated documentary film, The Invisible War, the few women who report assaults are punished and the perpetrator is generally promoted or rewarded. No court suits to right this wrong have been successful to date, with one judge stating the rape is an “occupational hazard” of military life. While the military claims to have a “zero tolerance” for sexual assault, in fact the command structure of the military protects the perpetrators and punishes the women who try to report. To date despite public outrage, Congressional hearings and more female service members reporting, the military has only tinkered with minor changes and refused to address the basic problem. What is needed is removing the reporting and litigating of sexual assaults from the command structure of the military, something the military so far is refusing to do.
Is enlistment in the military the best way to achieve my goals?
It is wise to figure out your goals when thinking of enlisting, consider alternative avenues, and check what recruiters are promising with military veterans, especially ones who have served in combat.
Is enlisting in the armed services the best way to get job training?
The military trains enlistees for military jobs that the military needs done. As former Vice President Cheney said, “The military is not a job training organization.” Military job titles that have a civilian equivalent require additional training to attain civilian jobs with the same or similar title. If job training is your goal, check out training available at your local community college. Generally two years or less of training at a community college or apprenticeship program gets you directly into a job.
Will I fit into the military lifestyle?
The military is a unique bureaucracy; it is all about following command. That means you give up control- of about everything.
You Can Change Your Mind About Military Service
Something or someone made you think that joining the military was a good idea. Now you are having second thoughts. Maybe the promises made by the recruiter don’t sound so good anymore. Maybe you found out about some of the drawbacks to military service.
Here’s the good news: even if you swore in when you signed the Enlistment Agreement, you are still a civilian, as long as you have not sworn in at Basic Training. That means you can change your mind and not go. After you swear in at Basic Training you are no longer a civilian with civilian rights; you are under the Uniform Code of Military of Justice and you have lost the right to decide to leave the military.
You can just not go to Basic Training or you can write a letter to the commander of the recruiting office stating that you changed your mind and want to separate from military service. Include in your letter that no one is to contact you about your decision. People changing their minds after signing enlistment papers, but before going to Basic Training, happens so frequently that the military has categories that they use internally in this situation. Want more information? Check out NNOMY.org.
Getting Out of the Enlistment Agreement
Here are some tips about writing a letter of refusal:
- Find the address of the recruiting office on your enlistment papers. You do not need to know the name of the commander, just address him (probably a him) by title.
- You do not have to state a reason for declining to enlist; any reason will do.
- Definitely state that you do not want anyone to contact you to try to change your mind. If you don’t state that, you can count on pressure. Some recruiters try to pressure you to go to Basic Training with misinformation that you have already sworn in or that something negative will happen to you such as prison or some other threat. These are not true and recruiting regulations prohibit this behavior on the part of recruiters. Whatever you do, if you change your mind, don’t go to the recruiting office or to MEPS
Nothing negative will happen to you if you don’t go; except being hassled by the recruiter. However, once you have sworn in at Basic Training, it is very difficult to get out. Only the military decides that you can leave before your contract is up— and they will try first to make you fit in. THAT is a very unpleasant experience.
Some people believe regulations are different for the National Guard. Often the National Guard tries to persuade you that you can’t get out, especially if you have gone the so-called “split training” route or if you have been paid to attend some training. Split Basic Training can mean that between junior & senior years of high school, you do half the basic training. You can still get out (you are still a civilian) until you do Phase II of Basic Training or the second summer of Basic Training if you go the “split” route.
Check out these links for more information:
- Is Joining the National Guard a Good Way to Pay for College?
- Career Options for High School Students
- Immigrants and The Military
- Registering for Selective Service and a Military Draft
To get in touch with the Truth in Recruiting program, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.