Thursday, April 10, 2014

Before you begin

Look around and see if other groups are already involved in your area. The National Network Opposing Militarization of Youth maintains a database of active counter-recruitment groups across the country.


Opting out

The first step in addressing the Department of Defense's presence in schools is to investigate the sharing of student data. Federal mandates require public schools to share student addresses and phone numbers with military recruiters, unless families "opt out" of this arrangement. The process is simple, and forms are easy to print out. Suggest to a faculty sponsor or members of a church youth group with connections on the school newspaper that a column be run outlining all the ways the administration shares student data (information about minors) with the Pentagon. Federal mandates do not prohibit forms from being present at beginning-of-the-year registration, so why not make the effort to spread the word and help others cut down on phone calls and other family intrusions?


Note: Some schools have been known to interpret an opt-out form (that specifies information is not to be shared with the military) refers to any and all publications. These schools have removed all mention of students from information given to college and job recruiters, honor roll lists, newspapers, and yearbooks (since some schools give yearbooks to recruiters). One approach to a school refusing inclusion in a yearbook involves citation of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974, which applies to all schools that receive funds administered by the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA requires a school district obtain written parental consent before releasing "personally identifiable information" from a child's education records. If a school does not have written parental consent from everyone depicted in the yearbook, it's a moot point.


Approaching counselors

School guidance counselors are in a unique position to help students explore their post-high school options. Given the increased access of military recruiters to students, it is important for guidance counselors to be aware of some of the realities that surround military advertising, recruitment and enlistment.


Approaching students

Students aren't actively looking for someone to tell them why they would be dumb to join the military. Students are paying attention to opportunities people present to them. Yes, it is important to share all the dangers of giving at minimum the next eight years of one's life away to the military-industrial complex, but that can come in a minute. First, convey a message highlighting choices, freedoms, and opportunities. It doesn't matter if your audience is counselors or students, keep the focus on "options" and not "counter recruiting." Keep the mood positive, not negative. Some prefer to call it "truth in recruiting." Stay up-to-date on when career fairs and other gatherings aimed at youth occur and get a table. Suggest to local school boards that equal time be given to all viewpoints if military representatives plan to offer a presentation during an assembly.


What makes a good packet

A good packet is bright and glossy. Those manila file folders are definitely the cheap way to go, but who sees that shade of boring and thinks excitement? (It's the same shade U.S. Armed Forces barracks are painted …) Don't pack it to the point of overwhelming a neutral party. Keep it brief, keep it informative, and make sure there are signs pointing in the direction of more information.


Understand the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill

The pre-2009 Montgomery G.I. Bill was a cumbersome and elusive program. It was designed to entice individuals to enlist but proved difficult to actually utilize. It was an easy program to criticize and both politicians and the Department of Defense realized this. The new G.I. Bill goes to much greater lengths to provide financial support for secondary education, but is still not a golden ticket. For example, the military may say a service member can work towards a degree while enlisted, but free time is difficult to find. In fact, enlisting is more likely to delay educational goals rather than fulfill them. A recruiter may say an individual is only enlisting for three years active duty, but neglects to mention the enlistment contract stipulates eight years no matter what. Those five "inactive" years are quite the opposite when a military is caught up in multiple wars around the world. Spending the time to research grants and scholarships may seem arduous and boring, but it's important to keep in mind the military alternative of waking at 6 a.m. to scrub floors, marching for miles, and abandoning many personal freedoms for years on end. Learn about what the program offers and where it falls short, because an educated counter-recruiter is far better than the alternative.


What does a soldier say?

"I would have liked to know much, much more about the process of becoming a soldier and what a typical day in the military can look like during that process and after it in normal daily duty. My vision of day-in day-out training in the field with face paint was soon crushed by common tasks such as inventory layouts and "Area Beautification" details. If you can get someone to volunteer for uniformed service, it should only be after being given a firm look into what it all really entails. However, basic combat training and not being allowed in the direct presence of various miscellaneous "classified" objects and info could prove to be a difficult job shadow."

"And on top of that, it sure would have been nice to know how rank is truly used and treated ... at least in the Army. It all seemed very class-based. You have the junior enlisted (E-4 and below, a.k.a. Joe), junior non-commissioned officers, followed by senior non-commissioned officers. And officers tend to be a breed of their own as well. What one must remember when enlisting into the military is that you almost always start out at the bottom of the barrel. Often, it is a very long road and over-strenuous at times in the first years to gain up enough credibility to start earning a more respectful rank."



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