Army Taking Recruiting Holiday

Army Recruiters Play Hard Ball (CBS)

CBS News has learned that the Army will halt recruiting for one day later this month to re-instruct its recruiters on what they may and may not legally do to persuade young people to enlist. With casualties mounting in Iraq, recruiters have been unable to meet their goals for three months now. The so called “stand down” follows a rash of complaints that recruiters are resorting to unscrupulous tactics to enlist new soldiers, reports CBS News Correspondent Bob McNamara.

So far, so good. Some recruiters are clearly getting overzealous and it makes sense to reemphasize the rules, both to the staff sergeants and sergeants first class doing the recruiting and to the officers above them who are surely putting to much pressure on them to “make mission.”

“Going Army” and making history appealed to 20-year-old Chris Monarch, so he called a Houston recruiting office. “I recognized the name,” he said. “His name was Kelt.” Sgt. Thomas Kelt was the recruiter. But a new baby changed Monarch’s plan to enlist and he cancelled his meeting with the recruiter. “I said I’m a volunteer firefighter and eventually gonna try to go career with it and I’m just not interested anymore and I hung up the phone,” Monarch said.

But the recruiter wouldn’t take no for an answer — with a phone message threatening Monarch with arrest if he didn’t show. “By federal law you got an appointment with me at two o’clock this afternoon at Greenspoint Mall.” said Kelt. “OK, you fail to appear and we’ll have a warrant, OK? So give me a call back.”

In fear, Monarch called the recruiter back. “He said, ‘Oh Chris, don’t worry about that. That’s just a marketing technique I use,”‘ Monarch recounted.

Obviously, not goood. Indeed, quite probably criminal. The problem with the story–presuming that it’s true–is that it is certainly not representative of the “normal” recruiting violations that the Army is trying to crack down on with its retraining. Most overzealous recruiters are promising things they can’t deliver on, whether it’s a cushy first assignment, an occupational specialty the recruit’s test scores won’t qualify for, officer candidate school, or avoiding duty in Iraq. The number of recruiters threatening potential enlistees with arrest can almost certainly be counted on one hand, probably with several fingers and a thumb to spare.

General Michael Rochelle heads U.S. Army recruiting. “It’s really an insult to other Army recruiters who are handling themselves and conducting themselves in the proper way,” he said.

Quite right. Recruiters have a difficult job and some cross the line on occasion in selling their product. Pretty much like all salesmen. But almost all of them are basically honorable men. Kelt’s actions reflect badly on them. Representing Kelt as typical, however, reflects badly on CBS News. Of course, it’s not the first time.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.