Images of war make military life a hard sell

Analysis:

On Thursday March 10 the Grand Rapids Press ran a front page headline story that read “Images of War make military life a hard sell.” The article is about the difficulties that area military recruiters are having with obtaining new recruits, but it is written in such a way that accepts the military position on what recruiters can offer young people. For instance, the story mentions that the military offers money for college and job skills that will help people after they leave the military. There are perspectives that significantly challenge these recruiting tools, but those perspectives are not provided in this story.

No where in the article are mentioned the numerous national and regional groups working on counter military recruitment efforts, groups that claim that the money for college is always less than what was promised. According to the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors “Two-thirds of all recruits never get any college funding from the military. Only 15% graduated with a four year degree.” Then there is the issue of job skills that are learned in the military which would be beneficial in civilian life. “Ohio State researchers, who received funding from the military, found that only 12% of male veterans and 6% of female veterans surveyed made any use of skills learned in the military in their civilian jobs.” The Press reporter could have provided this perspective from a local group called the Committee for Military Dialogue, which has been organizing around military recruiting. Another issue that went uncontested was the opinion from the Military recruiter when he said “the story in Iraq is much better than the media portray, a complaint lodged by some returning soldiers and many proponents of the war in Iraq.” This statement is never verified by the reported, nor investigated despite a great deal of studies being done on the US Media Coverage of the war in Iraq, nor is there another opinion provided to counter such a statement.

For more information on counter military recruitment efforts and resources go here.

Story:

Thursday, March 10, 2005

By Ted Roelofs

The Grand Rapids Press

The chance to earn a free Army hat was too good to pass up.

Under the watchful eye of a recruiter, Wayland Union High School junior Levi Urias dropped to the cafeteria floor and pumped out 50 push-ups without breaking a sweat.

He got his hat, all right. But join the Army?

“I haven’t even thought about it,” said the muscular Urias, 16, who looked like he could pose for a recruiting poster. “I think I’ll go to college if I can.”

At a nearby table, senior Matt Hendricks shook his head when asked about his prospects of signing up.

“Not at all,” said Hendricks, 18. “People are dying in Iraq. They keep sending people over there to die.”

His friends nodded in agreement: The Army, they said, isn’t for them.

With the Iraq war entering its fourth year, that kind of wary attitude is making the military nervous as recruitment begins to fall short of goals.

The Army began the fiscal year in October with only 18.4 percent of the year’s target of 80,000 active-duty recruits, less than half of last year’s figure. The active-duty Army missed its target for February by 27.5 percent and slipped 6 percent behind its year-to-date goal for fiscal 2005, which ends Sept. 30.

A local recruiter concedes the war isn’t making his job easier.

“It does give people pause,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Gallimore.

Gallimore, 31, presides over recruiting efforts from his Wyoming station that reaches from Grand Rapids south as far as Wayland and west to Jenison and Hudsonville. His job takes him from high schools and colleges to malls to monster truck shows at Van Andel Arena.

“Things aren’t the same as they were right after Sept. 11,” Gallimore said. “There was a feeling of patriotism in America. It continued until we hit that long-term feeling, after we had been in Iraq more than a year.”

Other branches of the service are facing similar stresses.

The Marine Corps, the other main pipeline for the estimated 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, missed its recruiting contracts goals for February.

Last year, Army Guard recruiters fell nearly 7,000 short of their goal of 56,000 soldiers. The Guard’s goal this year is an even more ambitious 63,000. But four months into the recruiting year, the Guard had just 12,821 new soldiers, almost 24 percent below the target for that period.

The numbers are not yet bad enough to pose an imminent threat to the all-volunteer military. But they have the attention of the Army, which has bumped its maximum college fund from $50,000 to $70,000 for enlistments of four to six years. It has also dangled $5,000 bonuses for soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq who re-enlist.

But military officials say it’s tough to compete against the images of U.S. soldiers killed or badly wounded by roadside bombs, as the total of soldiers killed in Iraq exceeds 1,500.

Gallimore contends the story there is much better than the media portray, a complaint lodged by some returning soldiers and by many proponents of the war in Iraq.

“The media doesn’t show all the good things these guys are doing,” Gallimore said. “If there’s something bad that happens, that’s the first thing they report.”

Still, the 13-year Army veteran is optimistic the Army will get the job done in Iraq — and meet its quotas.

He estimated that he and a half-dozen other recruiters talk to 3,000 potential recruits each month for every 10 or 11 they sign up. Gallimore says he can tell these potential recruits about the advantages of the Army, about the college fund, and the chances to learn job skills that will help them after they leave the military.

But he says the word of soldiers who have already served are sometimes better than the Army’s best sales pitch.

“The best advertising we have is word of mouth,” Gallimore said.

Hudsonville High School senior Lyndi Kuyers wasn’t thinking of the Army when she visited the University of Michigan campus last fall. She bumped into a recruiter there, who in turn sent her to the Army’s Wyoming recruiting office.

It helped that Kuyers, 18, talked to a classmate who had already gone through boot camp last summer.

“He seems to like it a lot,” Kuyers said.

She signed up for a six-year stint in the Army Reserves and will ship out July 28 for basic training in Missouri. Kuyers said she has been told it’s unlikely she will be sent to Iraq because of her job specialty as a laboratory technician.

When she gets out, she plans to use her college fund to go to Michigan State University.

In the meantime, Kuyers said she’s ready to serve if her country decides she has to go to war.

“I think it would definitely be scary. But you would get through it, I think.”

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org