read everything on the websites or in printed material closely
Questions to ask before you enlist:
1. "Will enlistment help me achieve my goals?"
What, exactly, are your goals? Think hard about them. Discuss them with friends and family. Be as specific as possible. Maybe even write them down. If for example you'd like a chance at further education, consider that according to AFSC, "The military's money for education plan is not as easy as it sounds. It is only after you leave the military that you find out whether you've met all the requirements. The largest amount of money mentioned is offered only to those GIs who take jobs the military has a hard time filling." As for job training, the military can't give you guarantees. You might not get the kind you expect and your training may not be right for a civilian job you want.
2. "Am I trying to escape my own problems?"
The main thing is not to make an important decision when you're upset and unsure about what to do. "Don't enlist unless you're sure," AFSC advises. "If you change your mind after you join, it's very hard to get out."
3. "Am I willing to give up control?"
The military makes decisions about your life, not you. And enlistment means it will make major decisions for you for at least eight years, including time in the reserves. A lot can happen in that time. Right now, for example, National Guard members and reservists have had their tours of duty in Iraq extended.
4. "Am I willing to kill and be killed?"
Your answer may be a quick yes, and you may be right. But you could find yourself in a situation or a war you think is wrong. Once again, you can't quit.
5. "Do I have other options?"
And have you considered them? School counselors, nurses, and social workers may have ideas and connections for job training or to help you get money for further schooling. So do various community organizations like unions and employment agencies. There is also a lot of information available in libraries and on the web.
Probably the most important things you can do are to:
get answers to your questions
talk with recruiters, family, and friends
think very hard about what you want to do before making a final decision
these are questions the American Friends Service Committee suggests you ask (www.afsc.org):
What are Army recruiting methods in high schools and why are they meeting opposition?
The Army announced in June 2005 that it had missed its recruiting goal for the fourth consecutive month. The Pentagon said at the same time that the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve and Air National Guard also missed their goals for sending new recruits to basic training. And the Marine Corps, for the fifth straight month, missed its contracting goal to sign recruits for future basic training.
According to the New York Times, one result is that "the Army is having to turn to more high school dropouts and lower-achieving applicants to fill its ranks, accepting hundreds of recruits in recent months who would have been rejected a year ago, according to Army statistics." The Times quotes David Segal, who directs the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland: "The overall quality of the force today is lower than it was a year ago. It means they can anticipate more problem situations with recruits in the training cycle." (New York Times, 6/11/05)
New Army rules also make it easier to retain pregnant soldiers as well as those who abuse drugs and alcohol or have committed minor crimes.
What is happening and why?
The U.S. is in its third year of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Almost daily come reports of the deaths of American soldiers. Roadside bomb explosions are the most common cause, especially in Iraq, but there are also firefights, snipers, suicide bombers and attackers with grenades in both countries.
By June 2005 the American death toll in Iraq had reached 1,700. Since there is no end in sight to U.S. combat in Iraq, there is no end in sight to the lengthening list of dead soldiers, not to speak of the much greater numbers of Iraqi deaths. A lower level, but still deadly, insurgency continues in Afghanistan.
At the same time parents, teachers, coaches, and other youth advisors in some high schools have begun to resist military recruiters. The spark is often the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. This Bush administration legislation, intended as a school reform effort, includes Section 9528, the "Armed Forces Recruiter Access to Student and Student Recruiting Information." It requires all high schools receiving federal funding to turn over students' home phone numbers and addresses and give military recruiters the same access to students as college recruiters get. Failure to provide it means that a high school will lose federal money. When the Garfield High School PTSA in the Seattle area voted in May to ban military recruiters, the Seattle school district stood to lose at least $15 million in federal money if it agreed to the idea.
Many parents are not aware that they have the right to deny recruiters information about their children. In Whittier, California, a dozen families complained that the school district there had not informed them of this right. The district has since introduced a check-off form that parents can use to prevent the release of personal information to recruiters.
"Mothers and fathers around the country said they are terrified that their child will have to be killed—or kill—in a war that many see as unnecessary and without end," the New York Times reported. "Around the dinner table, many parents said, they are discouraging their children from serving." Said one parent: "The point is not whether I support the troops. It's about whether a well-organized propaganda machine should be targeted at children and enforced by the schools." (New York Times, 6/3/05)
An excerpt from a handbook published in September 2004 for Army recruiters working in high schools provides some insight into their methods. (The excerpt was published in Harper's Magazine, June 2005.)
"The School Recruiting Program (SRP) is an important part of an integrated recruiting-prospecting…program that ensures total market penetration. The goal is school ownership that can lead only to a greater number of Army enlistments.
"Recruiters must first establish rapport in the school. Once educators are convinced recruiters have their students' best interests in mind, the SRP can be effectively implemented….
"Know your student influencers. Students such as class officers, newspaper and yearbook editors, and athletes can help build interest in the army among the student body. 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….
"Obtain copies of the sports and activity calendars. Arrange to have the schedules copied with the Recruiting Station address prominently displayed. Post them in restaurants, arcades, and anywhere else students congregate.
"The football team usually starts practicing in August. Contact the coach and volunteer to assist in leading calisthenics or calling cadence during team runs. Offer to be a timekeeper at football games.
"Most communities have labor Day parades. Obtain a tactical vehicle and drive it in the parade with your future soldiers riding along.
"Contact first-year college students to see if they returned to school. How is their second semester financial situation? Generally, attrition during the first year of college is higher than in subsequent years and occurs especially at the midterm grading period, at the end of the first semester, and again at the end of the second semester…..Focus on the freshman class, because they will have the highest dropout rate. They often lack both the direction and funds to fully pursue their education.
"As the month before elections, October is a great time to give presentations to school history and government classes about the electoral process and how the army serves a vital role in the security of our nation.
"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday is in January. Wear your dress blues and participate in school events commemorating this holiday.
"February: Black History Month. Participate in events as available.
"Contact the seniors in the early spring. The end of their lives as high school students is approaching fast. This is the time reality sets in. For some it is clear that college is not an option. If you can make the appointment for a sales presentation on the first contact, then do so.
"Maintain close contact with your future soldiers."
In an article critical of military recruitment efforts, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote, "Recruiters with a gift of gab go into the schools with a glamorous pitch, bags full of goodies for the kids (T-shirts, donuts, key chains) and a litany of promises they often can't keep. The kids don't hear much about their chances of being maimed or killed, or the trauma that often results from killing someone else…. It is highly questionable whether most high school kids are equipped to make an informed decision about joining the military, which is exactly why they're being targeted. The additional knowledge and maturity gained in the first few years after high school make it easier for a young man or woman to make a wiser, more meaningful choice, pro or con." ("They Won't Go," New York Times, 6/13/05)