Mar 7, 2006

Supreme Court Backs College Military Recruiters

(Washington, DC) The Supreme Court yesterday upheld legislation that would withhold federal funds from institutions of higher education that bar military recruiters from campuses.

Opponents based their case upon the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military.

By an 8-0 vote, the justices said that by demanding that military recruiters get the same access to college students that employers get, Congress was neither preventing universities from protesting the policy on gays nor asking the schools to endorse it.

In my opinion this was largely a legal smokescreen to find a legal way to ban recruiters. While the military's policy toward gays is indeed discriminatory, the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was merely the latest tactic in a long battle to create campuses without any military presence.

While I respect the pacifist beliefs behind the appeals, I think the motion was doomed from the start. Congress controls the federal purse strings, and this issue is too laden with danger for politicians; few Washington pols would support a measure that might make them be seen as "soft on terror" or "anti-military," especially in the post-9/11 era.

I think the focus should be on making sure recruiters abide by the same rules as other prospective employers. Recruiters get a negative reputation not so much because of the horrors of war as they do from the questionable tactics used by a few over-zealous members.

If they are sitting at a table and conducting themselves in a professional manner, I have no problem with recruiters on a college campus.

Most of us, however, know someone who has been hounded by a recruiter. One of my sons filled out a few interest cards in his high school, and our phone rang almost daily with calls from excited military salespeople. They showed up at the door, pestered him at school, and promised him all sorts of rosy scenarios to try and convince him to join.

He came home convinced that he would never set foot in a war zone, and that he would be able to "gain skills that future employers want."

When the kid turns 18, he can make his own choices, but we had to have a heart-to-heart talk about what it means to sign those papers. When he is on a flight to Baghdad as an infantryman, no one is going to want to hear about how the recruiter fibbed.


liberal_dem said...

Of couse SCOTUS backs military recruiters at the universities. With the mess in Iraq, every poor schlep that they can get their hands on is one more piece of fodder for the canons.

historymike said...

True, LD, although I think the grounds upon which this case was filed were pretty tenuous.

And I agree that the focus now for recruiters has got to be on the infantry and infantry support. Anyone who signs up thinking they will not spend time in a hot spot is a fool.

That being said, I am not trying to denigrate those serving. I just think that the promises of recruiters ring pretty hollow these days.

Lisa Renee said...

We went thru the same thing with Emily where she was promised the moon and the stars. The easiest way to end it was to ask the recruiter to put their promises in writing. That ended all of the contact.

My son's best friend joined the Air Force and he's happy with his decision even though he ended up in Iraq and Afghanistan which was contradictory to what his recruiter told him. He also read the whole contract before enlisting. It makes it very clear exactly what you are agreeing to. That's the unfortunate part about some of these kids and their parents believing some of these recruitment promises.

If more attention were given to the actual contract and/or these recruiters who made some pretty fanciful claims dealt with this would end. Emily was "promised" that if she enlisted she would never set foot in a combat zone, as well as her love of her country questioned. What they don't seem to realize is by allowing this type of behavior they tend to make some of these kids more anti the military than they probably would be if they were treated fairly and honestly.

historymike said...

And what good is a "contract" if the language contains loopholes that override any promises?

Agreed, Lisa, that deceptive practices by some recruiters give the entire military a bad name.

I am also somewhat suspicious of the bonuses paid to recruiters. While I agree that incentives likely improve recruiter performance, the incentives might also serve to promote abuses as evidenced by the linked article.

Lisa Renee said...

Any system created to reward behavior creates the possibility of abuse. Same thing with quotas placed on police to issue a certain number of tickets or arrests, or by used car salesmen who will be less than honest to meet their quota. That's a part of human nature just as it is those who want to believe something that if they just read the fine print? They'd know it's not true. Especially in a situation where you are basically signing almost all control of your life to the military. If there was ever a time when you should carefully read everything before you sign? That would be the time.


Stephanie said...

I support the ruling, but I agree that military recruiters need to be more honest. The fibbing they do puts a lot of people's lives in danger when people who are genuinely exempted are run through and then can't cope. If they need to honestly make the military more attractive, our legislatures should do so. Our troops deserve it!

historymike said...

True, Stephanie. If I were on the front lines I would want to have people at my back who knew what they were getting into, and not people who got duped just to meet a recruiter's quota.

Newsguy said...

A quick story. When I was young and stupid, I joined the Army with the promise from a recruiter that I would go to Army film school. I really wanted to go to film school. After I was in, they sent me to a ballistic meterology school and I was assigned to a missle battalion in Korea and couldn't do a thing about it. I eventually got out and became a television reporter, and made small films for years and years, five days a week. But not the documentaries I had hoped to make.

Newsguy said...
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Peahippo said...

I don't understand why people expect the recruiter to promise anything. The recruiter has no power. His job is to sign people up for military service. He doesn't train them -- other people do that. He doesn't assign them -- other people do that. He doesn't command them -- other people do that.

I joined the USAF and knew even at 18 that the recruiter could only relate his view of military life, not make me any promises. He was only tasked to sign me up. Even the tech schooling that I was "promised" was in reality only a best effort or intention that could be derailed by any number of logistical factors beyond the control of myself and the recruiter.

And as for "the whole contract [...] makes it very clear exactly what you are agreeing to", that's rubbish. A military service contract should make no specific promise ... unless in rarer cases of your fulfilling a particular need, which naturally defines schooling and perhaps assignment, like a nuclear weapons technician or air-traffic controller. But like I said, this is just an intention. The military branch could reassign that in a heartbeat for reasons that you may never even find out.

When you join the military past high school, just make sure you score as high as possible on the ASVAB test (or whatever they call it now) and have a good academic performance. If you don't, you're taking a real risk of being assigned as a body, filling the most urgent body need, like security or infantry. Try to be a strong mind, not just a strong back.

Lisa Renee said...

very clear exactly what you are agreeing to

As far as giving almost total control of your life during the years you agree to enlist and the possibility of that being extended as some have been stop-lossed. That's how I meant that phrase. Anyone who signs an enlistment contract knows what is promised and what is not promised. It clearly states "Laws and regulations that govern military personnel may change without notice...REGARDLESS of the provisions of this enlistment document."

What the Recruiter Never Told you

A pretty good source of information.

valbee said...

At my house, this wasn't even an issue. I have one son that I think could have been influenced by recruiters, but neither of my kids give out their cell phone numbers and they never answer the landline. So, when recruiters called, it was easy enough to say, "Sorry, he's not home, but of course I'll tell him you called" and then conveniently forget.

Some might find this tactic a little manipulative, but my feeling is that if my son was really that interested (and I don't think he was), he'd have given them a direct method of contact. I don't want either of my kids getting sent into combat, so I will use whatever means I can to prevent the military from trying to influence them.