Thursday, August 18, 2005

War/Iraq/Quaker House/Fager, Chuck

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Fayetteville NC Observer July 29, 2005

Give recruits the truth

In the July 24 article, "He's in the Army now," Justin Willett reports blatantly illegal and abusive behavior by recruiters. Specifically, he wrote:

"The last stop at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) is the swearing in. It's official, yet not official. All new recruits who go through MEPS must return a second time before shipping out to basic training or boot camp.

"The second swearing in is the one that really counts, MEPS officials said. Recruits are not prosecuted if they have a change of heart and fail to return for the second oath, the officials said."

This was said to Willett, accurately, because these recruits are formally in a delayed enlistment status.

But what the recruits were told was starkly different, and dishonest:

According to the article, a new recruit entered the "carpeted room with the military seals on the wall," and received a briefing on the Uniform Code of Criminal Justice, "in particular the sections titled absent without leave and desertion.

"Recruits are told they could be court-martialed, which could result in the death penalty."

There are several levels of untruth and abuse here:

The first is flagrant exaggeration: The death penalty is on the books for desertion, but only two soldiers have been executed for it since 1864, and the last one was in World War II, 60 years ago. Typical sentences for desertion in recent years have been about a year, often less.

A second is that, as the recruiter admitted to Willett, these regulations do not yet apply to the recruits who were thus threatened.

A third is that this procedure clearly violates the Army's own rules - specifically, an Army regulation (USAREC Reg 601-95), which states: "At no time will any (recruiter) tell a Delayed Enlistment Program enlistee he or she must 'go in the Army or he or she will go to jail,' or that 'failure to enlist will result in a black mark on his or her credit record,' or any other statement indicating adverse action will occur if the applicant fails to enlist."

In our military counseling at Quaker House, we often hear of such recruiter abuse. But seldom is it conducted so brazenly in the presence of a careful reporter.

I call on the Army to immediately cease this deceptive practice, and to discipline the recruiters involved.

Persons considering enlistment deserve truth in recruiting. The recruits in this case definitely did not get it.

For shame.

Chuck Fager is director of the Quaker House in Fayetteville.


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