TCS: What Are They Volunteering For?

My latest TCS piece, “What Are They Volunteering For?” is up.

Soldiers sign up willing to make huge sacrifices, including putting their lives on the line. In exchange for this, we owe it to them to stop hiding the nature of this obligation from those who willingly volunteer for military duty. The military’s recruiting pitch, as displayed on their website, is incredibly misleading.


The United States has, since 1973, had an All-Volunteer military. It has worked superbly. Having only soldiers who want to be there and who have years of training has created the best fighting force the world has ever seen. For it to continue to work, however, we must make it clear to these people what they are volunteering for.

The rest is at the link.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Published Elsewhere
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. James McCollem says:

    James Joyner,
    You did not do all of your research and your article was incomplete and misleading. You stated that when a person signs an enlistment contract, they are obligated for 8 years and can be activated under stop loss. This 8 year obligation is for the initial enlistment only and the “Try One” contract is just for people who have served their commitment and are just obligating themselves for ONE (1) YEAR. The problem is that we are being stop loss and extended for longer than the one year we signed for and have no 8 year commitment, there is no renewal of the 8 year obligation when you join for one year. We are being stop lossed beyond 1 year and this conscription is causing many of us to lose our civilian jobs or opportunities for promotions and benefits. This is also a financial burden to us because the military pay is a far cry from what the civilian world pays. I know it is hard for you to sympathise sitting in you warm room with your good paycheck and no one shooting at you all the dam time for over a year now. You also don’t miss the friends who you won’t see any more other than when no one is around and you think of them.
    Yeah, I would wish the National Guard would stop whinning too and then I would get something descent to eat, turn on the tube and forget about those ungrateful bastards.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Did you actually read the piece?

    The 8-year obligation is lifetime; it has nothing to do with whether it’s the first or second enlistment. “Try-One” is for prior service personnel only. Rather obviously, as the judge’s ruling in the case shows, the contract contained this provision.

    My argument, though, is that the Army should emphasize the nature of the commitment to these folks.

  3. Zed says:

    For the record, I came across TCS this morning via google, before making my morning visit to OTB to see that you had pointed TCS out to us non TCS readers. So if you happen to run across my little insignificant write up, which by no means am I trying to draw attention to, seriously, my insults were in no way directed toward TCS or its associates.

    I am glad to see that you are writing more than just a blog, as you should be, not that there is anything wrong with just writing a blog, but with other unnamed bloggers writing for other unnamed publications it seems appropriate that you should be doing more.

    oh, and I enjoyed your article.

  4. James McCollem says:

    I read your article but the commitment is not life time. It is from the date you first start active duty and eight years later you are done, period. You need to actually read the fine print and not listen to false misleading information. If this contract is life time than I am pretty sure that is would violate the involutary servitude laws, that would be slavery. I would really like to see in writing where the enlistment contract reads that this commitment is for life. If you can find this and post it, I will post it for all the people serving over here. I am they will be thrilled to read that. Enjoy your Christmas, wish you were here.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Uh, the 8 year obligation is 8 years in a lifetime. Again, the piece makes this pretty clear and even cites and links the law in question.

  6. James McCollem says:

    I did look at your link and it is for people who signed their enlistment contracts after January 6, 2003. That contract or it’s lanquage has no bearing on people who have completed their commitment long before 2003. Have you ever been in the military or do you just write about it. I would like to extend an invitation to join us in the Army. It would give a depth to your writing currently missing. Sorry my spelling is rushed and some time wrong but we have been under mortar attack several times while I have been writing these responses.

  7. James Joyner says:

    Actually, yes, I’m a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. The eight year obligation has been around for years.

    Qualls’ case has already been adjudicated and he lost.

  8. Zed says:


    While I respect your service, and I hope you pardon me saying this, but if your under mortar attack perhaps there is something better you should be doing than surfing the web?

    Stay safe,

  9. James McCollem says:


    The mortar attacks happen all the time. You get used to them. The Air Force do not like to fly here and have nicknamed this place mortaritaville. When we are under attack all the time, it is hard to spend a lot of time in the bunker and the red alerts usually sound after the mortars have for the most part come in. While this is not true all the time, it is true most of the time. But like I said, the only real way to experience it is to join and come over here. Your country needs you and we could use the help.

    James Joyner, Desert Storm, that was the 4 month war. How many years has that life time extention been around? My buddies and I joined in the seventies, 1970s. Has it been around that long?
    We are on stop loss for a 1 year commitment that ended almost a year ago.

  10. Zed says:


    I actually did sign up for the Marines, I was on my way out of town for the physical examination before I backed out. I had to back out, I lied and told them I didn’t have asthma. I also failed to mention my other health issues. While I wanted to serve I’m sure it would have only been a matter of time before someone found my stash of inhalers and other medications, then I would likely get arrested for lying about my medical condition.
    If the military took asthmatics I’d be enlisted a long time ago.

  11. LJD says:

    Try one doesn’t supercede the contract. If you read below the part where it says your obligation is for 8 years, it also says:

    “If I am a member of a reserve force at the beginning of a period of war… …my military obligation may be extended without my consent until 6 months after that period of war.”


    “as a member of the Ready Reserve I may be oredered to active duty for 24 months, AND my enlistment may be extended so I can complete 24 months of active duty”

  12. ken says:

    The issue here for me is that the United States Government in any capacity whatsoever should not be hoodwinking it citizens into signing contracts they would not othewise sign. This is especially true when it comes to military service contracts. The examples James gave in his article clearly indicate that this is what is going on.

    If we throw our a confession obtained by an overzealous prosecutor how much more justified are we to void an onerous contract obtained through misrepresentation of a recruiter?

    That Lamberth ruled against Qualls is no argument in favor of the allowing this to continue. Lamberth is a conservative who, given a chance, would probably throw out the Miranda decision.

  13. LJD says:

    The proof is in the pudding, Ken. So far, I hav not heard about large numbers of successful lawsuits on these grounds.

    But it is typical of the ACLU-loving left to claim there was “hood-winking” involved.

    Why aren’t we blaming the liberal based public school system for failing to teach our young people to read and understand legal contracts?

    Typical of the total lack of personal responsibility that permeates our short attention-span, spoiled rotten society.

  14. katiegirl says:

    I just have one observation. If James McCollum and his buddies joined up in the 1970s as he said he’s either a General Officer or he’s lying. I’m inclined to believe the latter. The High Year Tenure rule (which is consistent throughout the DOD) only allows people to serve 30 years unless they’re a General Officer. Thanks for playing McCollum, but try again.

  15. ken says:

    katiegirl, you must have been home schooled. You need to learn some elementary school math.

    This is 2004. If we subtract 30 years from this we get 1974. Now the tough question for you is how many years are left for people who enlisted in the years 1975 through 1979 before they have 30 years of service in? Can you work that out on your own? Let us know. And thanks for playing.

  16. James McCollem says:

    Look at my email kategirl, If I am lying then you are a moron. I talked with my buddies and this what we collectively come to. All of us here on stop loss all have more than 8 years total service including active duty and reserve time. There are many Viet Nam vets here who are flying helicopter missions every day. So your position that we can be stop lossed for up to 8 years might be correct but we have been stop loss and have fulfilled our 8 year commitment.
    As far as this being a war, GWB called the end of the war back in May 2003 from the flight deck of that carrier. So James Joyner, your story and augument has no merit based on the 8 year commitment, we all have more than 8 years. If you are saying it is 8 years active duty then we can use your help James. I will make sure that the appropiate people are aware that you did not do 8 years active. We are hurting for infrantry officers. If this is a back door draft of everyone who has served and the rules and laws are just going to be thrown out of the window just like Viet Nam so the priviledged can serve their country from the comfort of their couches, I say lets start the draft again and lets have a lottery.
    The only reason the military force became all volunteer is because the lottery made the draft fair and randomly assigned numbers to individuals who were called up by this number.
    All you people here are talking the talk, I am inviting you to walk the walk. I know I just paraphrased but give me a break, I have been getting shot at all day, it makes you a little sensitive. Folks, let make this game fair, we will stop bitching if you boost the number of troops here to 700,000 (as recommended by Sen. McCain) and give everyone the opportunity to serve, no exceptions. Zed, I serve with a young lady who also lied about having asthma but she is here.

  17. flypay says:

    Specialist James McCollem of the Missouri Army National Guard? Joined in the 70s? Heck of a career you have there.

  18. James McCollem says:

    It’s not a bad career. I’ve turned down promotion a couple times now but you already know that flypay.
    The issue was stop loss but you did not read the previous posts. The stop loss is illegal and will come back to bite the Army in the ass.

  19. LJD says:

    McCOllum, help me understand your position some more. What about my previous post regarding the contract, beyond the 8 year commitment? So the question is, were you in the reserves at the time the war started? Were you in the IRR?

    I don’t see the value in arguing with James. His article outlined both sides of the issue. If you are truly being held illegally, you should be talking to a lwayer. Good luck.