Soldier Loses Claim That Army Tricked Him

Soldier Loses Claim That Army Tricked Him (WaPo, A24)

A federal judge ruled yesterday that the military can ship an Arkansas soldier back to the front lines in Iraq this weekend, despite the serviceman’s objection that the military forced him to extend his tour after tricking him into believing he was enlisting for just one year. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth said the Army recruiter may have stressed to David W. Qualls, 35, that he was enlisting for a one-year hitch, but the contract he signed spelled out that his duty could be extended against his wishes in time of national emergency or war.

Qualls’s attorneys had sought a temporary restraining order to prevent the Army from forcing him to return to Iraq, accusing recruiters of “bait-and-switch” tactics to enlist Qualls and others for Operation Iraqi Freedom. “The whole point is that it was only supposed to be for one year,” said Qualls’s lawyer, Jules Lobel. “They better tell people this clearly and not put it in the fine print.” Lamberth disagreed. “This wasn’t in the fine print,” he said. “It’s only a two-page contract.”

I predicted as much here.

Lamberth’s point about it only being a two-page contract is interesting, although I agree with Lobel that the Army should be more up front with this. A smooth talking recruiter could easily persuade an eager recruit that the eight year business is “just standard stuff” that “never happens.” Since the contract specificially states that anything the recruiter might have promised that’s not actually written into the contract is void, there’s a lot of incentive for recruiters to do that sort of thing.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. ken says:

    The government of the United States ought not to be in the business of hoodwinking its citizens into a contract they would not otherwise sign. The courts should hold the government to a higher standard then it holds private parties where verbal misrepresentations about written contracts are commonly made to induce agreement. We should be able to trust our government.

  2. Boyd says:

    The government of the United States isn’t in the business of hoodwinking its citizens into a contract they would not otherwise sign. Regulations governing recruiting practices prohibit lying to prospects, but as in any other type of sales job, these things will happen when an overzealous salesman (or recruiter) steps over the line.

    If it could be proved that this recruiter deceived a recruit, he would get hammered, and it’s happened before.

    But when a man in his mid-thirties is signing a contract passing so much control of his life over to someone else, you’d think he’d realize that he needs to read the contract first.

    Especially since it’s only two pages long.

  3. LJD says:

    Too many soldiers signed up for the Guard or Reserves, took the money, got the training, went to college, enrolled in the benefits, only to say “I didn’t sign up to go to war!”

    What job did they think was to be done in the MILITARY? They knew full well that this was a possibility from the outset. Now that they have received their good fortune, bought houses, cars, started families, they want to back out of the deal.

  4. ken says:

    I am not sure what Qualls qualifications to understand a written contract are but Lamberth’s dismissal of its difficulty by saying that it was just a two page contract is ridiculous. He is a Federal judge and should be more than qualified to read and understand a 200 page contract let alone a 2 page one. Is everyone so qualified?

    The federal government should be held to a high standard when entering into contracts with its citizens. Bait and switch should not be allowed and the remedy for when it happens should not be limited to hammering the recruiter but should include voiding of the contract as well. Lamberth, it seems, never even considered this and instead relied strictly on the terms of the agreement regardless of how it was obtained.

    If Qualls fully understood what he was getting into I don’t see why he thought it was only a one year enlistment.

  5. James Joyner says:

    LCD: Sure, there’s some of that. Of course, the guy signed up for a program called “Try-One” that purported to be only a one year obligation. He got hit by stop loss right after his one year.

  6. SFC Ski says:

    A 35-year-old man should know to read before he signs. Stop loss is unpleasant for those caught under it (I know first-hand), but its intent is to NOT break up deploying units to moves or end of enlistments during a critical time.
    If you’ve seen “We Were Soldiers…” that very point is brought up, and all agree that the older Vietnam-era policy of letting personnel losses occur during wartime was debilitating to units.

  7. McGehee says:

    If Qualls fully understood what he was getting into I don’t see why he thought it was only a one year enlistment.

    The question isn’t whether he did understand — the question is whether he “understood, or should have understood.” In this case, should have understood is a slam-dunk — especially given it’s only a two-page contract.

    Therefore the reason he misunderstood is because — as several others have already pointed out — he screwed up. And that’s not an acceptable reason to get out of a signed contract.

  8. Davod says:

    This off the primamry subject but why the reserve would have a ‘try it for one year’ campaign is beyond me. What are they going to teach a reservist in one year to make them a fighting man.

  9. LJD says:

    Qualls signed up July 2003. We were already at war in Iraq. We had already been in a condition of stop loss since 9/11.

    Either he is the dumbest person on earth, he changed his mind about the enlistment, or he simply did not fully consider his decision to join.

  10. James Joyner says:

    Try-One is available to prior service folks only. So, they already have their basic skills.