Mrs. SFC B has mostly recovered. She's chilling in bed enjoying the sensation of keeping food in her stomach. I'm relazing in the La-Z-Boy, the cat curled up on my lap, his tail swiping across the laptop's touch pad moving the mouse, and Maroon 5's live album is playing on iTues. I've spent most of the day mulling over a couple of topics. I wasn't really able to focus on any one so I figured I'd vent them all and see which one makes my muse tingle in her nawty bits.
Back in 1992, when I was 14, I very much enjoyed seeing Sharon Stone showcase herself in Basic Instinct. Ms. Stone was a very hot 34 year old who made a young man's heart stop. She's now a very hot 48, but I'm not a young man. The fascination and rapture which a woman's body can hold me remains, however I cannot help but think that Ms. Stone's time has passed. I'm sorry, but I just can't bring myself to accept that Basic Instinct 2 is a good idea. And her recent press tour to pump up the "kinky" factor just seems to smack of desperation.
Dreadcow hits on a topic that drives me insane. He's currently in Iraq and the main source of information he receives is Stars and Stripes. S&S is a publication that's been around since at least WWII. It's role has been to provide information to the troops overseas, and he feels, quite rightly I'd imagine, that he's just being fed propaganda. He is. All information is propaganda at some level. What amazes me, and drives in insane, is that the stories he's reading in Iraq, building of schools, finding of weapon's caches, successful raids, etc, are the very stories we're denied by the press in the States. There is a minimal, seemingly grudging, reporting of progress in Iraq by the press here in the US. It's not right that Dreadcow is only able to receive reporting about the "good", but I can tolerate the command deciding that daily reports of suicide bombings, casualities, and seeming failure might be something that could be harmful to morale. I can't tolerate the media making the collective decision that the only information I will receive in my home are the daily reports of suicide bombings, casualities, and seeming failure.
Dreadcow's situation kinda feeds into the next topic, and the one that's really been sticking in my mind for a couple weeks now.
I'd received an email from the PAO of CENTCOM a whil ago asking me to link to their website and to post and comment on any stories I'd found interesting enough to comment on. CENTCOM's area isn't exactly my speciality so I kinda let the request fall into my "I'll do it later" basket of blog changes.
My opinion is that recruiting loses the information battle in the war for public perception. Every positive contribution made by recruiters in their community, and reported in the Recruiter Journal or any number of small town papers and other local media, is destoryed by a single New York Times article about recruiting improprities. A kid in Denver with a tape recorder and an investigative nature did more to damage recruiting efforts than any number of whining blog posts could ever dream of. It's almost a year later and that story is still one of the top Google results for "army recruiting denver".
We cannot control what gets into the press. The NYT will run their stories. KHOU in Houston will broadcast what they wish. CBS 4 in Denver will air their own hidden camera footage of recruiters taking kids to the head shop to buy a questionable masking agent. The only counter the Army gets is a single paragraph about how those recruiters are the exception, not the rule. We don't get a fair response.
Jeff Jarvis has made his mark on the blogosphere by calling for everyone to share their stories (I'm simplfying his stance, but I'm a simple man so I'm allowed). The very nature of military operations means we can't share everything, but sharing more can't hurt. The most effective source for positive news coming out of Iraq have been the blogs run by Soldiers, or blogs that act as a clearinghouse for Iraq reports. Stuff that would never see a 3 paragraph blurb in the Chicago Sun Times get front-page coverage on Blackfive or Smash. Glenn Reynolds provides more coverage to operations in Afghanistan through his various emailers then most national media outlets do.
Every person in this country, age 17-21 has has some experience with a recruiter. Even a high school senior bound to a wheelchair has gotten a phone call so that a recruiter can get that senior contact. It's a single phone call, but it's made. Of all those hundreds of millions of experiences the one that gets national press is the one where a kid tape records a recruiter sacrificing their integrity. That's the experience that the general public is left with, that recruiters will do anything to meet mission.
When recruiting was falling short it was a front page story. Endless reports of how the Army failed to meet mission for the nth month in a row. Editorializing about how it's an inditement of the war, or President Bush, or whatever. The Army's been meeting mission now, and the reports aren't headline-grabbing anymore.
We were helpless against such one-sided reporting five years ago. I firmly believe that a big reason the Iraq=Vietnam meme didn't take root is because people interested in the story can easily go online and find facts-on-the-ground that run counter to the media reports. Those facts are so easy for the masses to locate that it makes it difficult for the useful idiots of the world to push an alternative agenda. The "Iraqi Civil War" triggered by the bombing of the golden dome in Samarra lasted less than a month, and was mostly a matter of the reporters filtering the usual assortment of demonstrations and insurgent attacks through the veneer of a Civil War. Instead of it actually being a civil war, the political forces in Iraq came together, as best as they can, and managed to head it off at the pass. What could have devolved into a bloody civil war was instead recognized for the horrific act of desecration it was. But "Iraqi government prevents Civil War through rational discourse" doesn't make for as good a headline as "Bush's War leads Idillyic Iraq to Civil War".
Actually reading some of the headlines you can find in major newspapers makes me wonder if J. Jonah Jameson writes them.
I'm biased, I know it. I just can't help but think that allowing, even encouraging, more recruiters to take their stories to the public can help recruiting. I've written some things that are not flattering. I've written some things I regret putting out there. I've also written some things about how I love the Army and, occasionally, enjoy putting people into it. My frustration with recruiting doesn't come from the act of having to put people into the Army. It comes from dealing with the many, many hoops we have to go through to accomplish that vital mission. Sometimes it seems that the agencies that are supposed to help us enlist people exist only to prevent it *cough* (rhymes with heps) *cough*.
I can imagine a scenario where a kid, say, 20 years old, in college, and looking for what they want to do when they graduate, goes online and starts looking around. They see something about the Army and think it's something they might want to do. They, of course, go to to Go Army.com and see some jobs and programs that appeal to them. Now, the only thing Go Army.com does to help them contact a recruiter is give them a form to input their zip code and find a local recruiter. This kid remembers when he was in high school and would get all these phone calls from recruiters asking if he wants to join. Always said no, they kept calling and being annoying. That persistance is why he didn't join, it turned him off. He doesn't want to contact a recruiter yet. He doesn't know these recruiters. He doesn't know what they're about, or what they'll tell him. He worries that they'll try and make him an infantryman, he doesn't want to do that.
Now, this is where my scenario gets a bit unlikely.
Just suppose that, in addition to giving the phone number and address of the recruiting station, it also links to a recruiting station website, or the blog of an assigned recruiter. The kid can click on the link and see the recruiters in the area. He can read their stories, hear what they're about. Maybe he's interested in MI and sees that one of the recruiters is a 96B, counter-intelligence agent. Maybe one of the recruiters graduated form his high school, or plays the same sport, or has a character in EverQuest on the same server that the kid does (I'm a 66 Iksar Beastlord on Bristlebane btw). But the kid sees something out there that makes him decide he'll call this recruiting station.
I'm not saying that recruiter blogs will solve all of recruiting's problems. They have a whole array of issues all their own. Ones that need to be addressed. But I think that CENTCOM has it right. They seek people out and encourage them to link to their stories. They're working on getting their story out. It's what Jeff Jarvis encourages. Recruiting is the most public involved part of the Army. We are in the civilian world. We're not on bases. We're not off on the sidelines. Our own regulations tell us to get into the community. The community I'm best able to get into is the cyber community. This is my chance to do so.
This blog isn't a recruiting asset for me. I didn't start it with an eye to aiding me in recruiting, but by mere chance it has. I've had people email me about joining. I've directed people to from outside my area to local recruiters. I've talked to people who were confused or frustrated by the process of enlisting. I'm not so egotistical as to think that my responses alone got people to join. It's a single email in many cases, but I'm not so self-depreciating as to think I didn't help. I've even had a couple people who were local email me, I've conducted the appointments but they haven't joined. However, it was two appointments that I made by mere virtue of doing what I was going to do anyway. It's the cyber equivalent of making an appointment with the kid chcecking my groceries on a Sunday shopping trip.
Blogging can work for recruiters, if we want to use it. I'm not the person to make it happen, and I have some concern that my suggestion for such action will get me in a bind, but someone has to ask the question. I guess I might be the person to ask it.
This has gone on too long. The muse has left the building and I'm following it. Mrs. SFC B and I are going to have lunch.