Saturday, May 21, 2005

A Little, But Hopefully Not Too Late

In comments on the blog (and certainly in other places), some have criticized military recruiters' "dirty tricks". I don't think it's any secret that recruiters are much like the proverbial used car salesman who will sometimes (and I stress sometimes) be less than honest in order to make the sale. I can recall a recruiter who played fast and loose with the facts with me back in 1982, and my mother, at the time an Army Reserve NCO, really wanted to go have a talk with that recruiter's NCOIC (non-commissioned officer-in-charge).

Unfortunately, the military has structured the recruiting system to reward shenanigans. People are evaluated on how many soldiers/sailors/airmen/marines they sign up, and poor performance on an evaluation can hurt at promotion time. And with our "up or out" system...well, you get the idea.

The job of recruiters is made more difficult by an anti-military bias so present in a large segment of our population. It seems that 60 years of peace of prosperity has made many forget a truism of our republic:

It is the soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier,
Who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protestor to burn the flag.

Father Denis Edward O'Brien USMC

I will not allow excuses for lying by recruiters, though. If recruiting times are tough, work harder. Honor and integrity are supposed to be valued by those in the profession of arms. We cannot look away when those values are cast aside.

So I'm heartened by one tentative step that the Army has taken. Apparently recognizing the damage that some recruiters are doing to the overall mission, the Army had its recruiters "stand down" yesterday, not recruit, and focus on the right way to do things. According to CNN:

Instead, recruiters are concentrating on ethics and rules governing recruitment.

The purpose is to refocus recruiters on their mission, reinforce the Army's core values and ensure its procedures are carried out consistently, an Army spokesman said last week.

Let's hope it's not too little, too late.


Quincy said...

My personal opinion of military recruiters who play fast and loose with the facts is that they should be reacquainted with the West Point Honor Code* while pushing down the parade field a few thousand times.

Recruiters are the first people military recruits deal with. I think it's vital that they, as much as anyone else, embody the core of integrity that makes the military function.

*A Cadet will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do.

Darren said...

I'm *quite* familiar with West Point's Honor Code :-)

There's a systemic problem with recruiters. The system is almost designed to punish unless they cheat. It would be like giving all students the same test, putting them at tables instead of desks, and then leaving the room.

EdWonk said...

I was lucky. My recruiter was "straight" about everything. No exagerations or half-truths at all. Interestingly, I was told later that he was one of the most effective recruiters in the state of Florida.

Quincy said...


I figured you would be, but not all of your readers would be.

Also, your point about the systemic problem is a very valid one. The military needs to stop rewarding raw numbers no matter how they're obtained. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how to restructure the incentive system to reward integrity. It's an interesting thought puzzle.

Darren said...

I should clarify my comment about recruiters and the analogy to student cheating. I merely meant to explain, not to condone.

I provided a *reason*, not an *excuse*. Big difference!

And there are plenty of people already trying to figure out how to alter the system so as not to encourage or reward the unethical.