Join the what?
Go where? No thanks
For Army Recruiters, a Hard Toll From a Hard Sell
By DAMIEN CAVE
The Army's recruiters are being challenged with one of the hardest selling jobs the military has asked of them in American history, and many say the demands are taking a toll.
A recruiter in New York said pressure from the Army to meet his recruiting goals during a time of war has given him stomach problems and searing back pain. Suffering from bouts of depression, he said he has considered suicide. Another, in Texas, said he had volunteered many times to go to Iraq rather than face ridicule, rejection and the Army's wrath.
An Army chaplain said he had counseled nearly a dozen recruiters in the past 18 months to help them cope with marital troubles and job-related stress.
"There were a couple of recruiters that felt they were having nervous breakdowns, literally," said Maj. Stephen Nagler, a chaplain who retired in March after serving at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, where the New York City recruiting battalion is based.
Two dozen recruiters nationwide were interviewed about their experiences over four months. Ten spoke with The New York Times even after an Army official sent an e-mail message advising all recruiters not to speak to this reporter, who was named. Most asked for anonymity to avoid being disciplined.
But most told similar tales: of loving the military, of working hard to complete a seemingly impossible task, of struggling to carry the nation's burden at a time of anxiety and stress.
At least 37 members of the Army Recruiting Command, which oversees enlistment, have gone AWOL since October 2002, Army figures show. And, in what recruiters consider another sign of stress, the number of improprieties committed - signing up unqualified people to meet quotas or giving bonuses or other enlistment benefits to recruits not eligible for them - has increased, Army documents show.
The Army is seeking 101,200 new active-duty Army and Reserve soldiers this year alone to replenish the ranks in Iraq and Afghanistan, elsewhere around the world and at home. That means each of the Army's 7,500 recruiters faces the grind of an unyielding human math, a quota of two new recruits a month, at a time of extended war without a draft.
The Army is the nation's largest military branch, comprising 80 percent of the 150,000 troops in Iraq. Its recruiters are among its best soldiers. Most are sergeants with 5 to 15 years of experience, pulled randomly from the top 10 percent of their specialty, as defined by their commanding officers. More than 70 percent did not volunteer for the job.
But several senior officers interviewed, including Col. Greg Parlier, retired, who until 2002 headed the research and strategy arm of the Army Recruiting Command, said the pressure on recruiters shows the policy should be re-examined, and initiatives like national service should be considered.
The follow-up process often takes months. Though parents do not have to sign off on the decision to join, recruiters said it is virtually impossible to enlist a new recruit without their approval. Over dinners and on the phone, they make the Army's case over and over to win parents' support.
If they succeed, they are responsible for bringing the recruit in for 5:30 a.m. processing , organizing physical fitness training or, in the case of one California recruiter, taking 3 a.m. phone calls to comfort a recruit crying over a breakup with her boyfriend.
The whims are many from the young, restless and uncertain, experts said.
Recruiters have "the only military occupation that deals with the civilian world entirely," said Charles Moskos, a military sociologist at Northwestern University.
Even before the war, recruiters contacted on average of 120 people before landing an active-duty recruit, Army data showed. That number is growing, recruiters said.
One recruiter in the New York area said that when he steps outside his office for a cigarette, he often is barraged with epithets from passers-by angry about the war.
In January, the brother-in-law of a prospective recruit lashed into him. "He swore at me," the recruiter said, "and said that he would rather have his brother-in-law in jail for selling crack than in the Army."
National service, or the truly unfair draft. Where people can choose to work in schools or hospital or the Army. Because you don't have to guess which people will get civilian jobs and who gets to be an 11B. It won't be the Duke Class of 2006 in Fallujah.
For some reason, the Army just isn't a popular option now.
But if you think it's unpopular now, wait until they start talking up the draft.
The Bushies have already performed acts one and two of seppuku: Going after social security and allying with the hard radical right. Why not complete the act with talk of a draft. I do want to see the newly Democratic House impeach Bush and Cheney in 2007. They keep it up, well, dreams may come true.
posted by Steve @ 8:47:00 AM