Thursday, October 16, 2008

Recruiting in the News

I meant to get this done on Tuesday but I forgot.

The Army, officially, made its recruiting mission for the year. 101% for the RA and 106% for the USAR.

As I'd mentioned last week though, while this fact was reported, it was reported as part of a large narrative about the services, bascially, bribing folks w/ several hundred million dollars in bonus money. Of course I'm yet to hear any correction or clarification on how much of that was for bonuses and how much was for things like the Army College Fund. I won't hold my breath.

Now for the next phase in the narrative. With the economy going belly up, now recruiters will no longer be portrayed as people preying on naive young people who don't understand the consquences of their actions. We will now be predators offering money to people who cannot find a job elsewhere because the free markets have failed. Of course it's not untrue what it being reported about how the volunteer military will benefit from economic troubles. The Army was always a good job, but now it's even better since, well, it's a steady paycheck, it's bonus money, it's free health care, it's college money. It's also now stable employment. Unfortunatly for the teeming herds of financial folks facing unemployment, the Army's finance field isn't exactly huge. Oh well, take what you can get.

Really though, can they make an effort at even reporting? When things sucked it was front page news. Things are good, it's ignored until someone does something stupid. Now that the economy sucks and people are hurting, suddenly recruiting is reported as being in a great position to prey on those left vulnerable.

Speaking of preying on those who are vulnerable, apparently some protestors in the Bay Area vandalized a military recruiting station while it was empty. My favorite part of that is this quote
The U.S. government has always waged a war of extermination against land-based ways of life in order to impose capitalist exploitation of the earth and its peoples.
That's a fine lot of insane nonsense right there. Who the hell actually talks that way? "Land-based ways of life"? Really? What the hell kind of inane is that? What the hell is a "Land-based way of life"? Are they hunter-gatherers? Some sort of paleolithic agrarian society? The best part though is, I can find absolutly no other evidence they actually did something. There is no reporting of it. I can't imagine how frustrating it must be to strike such a viscious blow for the good of the land and all indigenious peoples and not even get a 1.5 inch blurb in the local news section of the town paper.

The best part of it though is that, it will back fire. No one likes a thug. While the recruiters will have the damage repaired and drive on, they get to compare the quiet professionalism of the armed services with the thoughtless mob mentality of those who oppose them. The recruiters will remain there, and they will continue to successfully recruit in the area. All that the vandals accomplished was to show themselves as the immature punks they are.

Continuing with events from that part of Cali, while some children were mixing paint and acid, adults in San Rafael exercised their First Amendment rights by petitioning for the opportunity to present their anti-military views to high school students. Good on them for, rather than trying to silence the recruiter, trying to provide an opposing voice. I don't agree with them, but I'm glad they get the opportunity to say their piece.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Recruiting in the News

I'm trying to figure this one out. The headline for the story is "Group combats military recruitment in schools". The writer, Rachel Schleif, mentions a meeting held by an anti-recruiting group which drew seven attendees, to try and combat recruiting in schools. The group told the attendes this.
Taking students off campus to treat them for lunch, dinner or paintball; setting up rock-climbing walls at schools or local parks; becoming involved in after-school sports to form relationships with children; or taking students out of class to a military-themed trailer parked outside the school.
This occupied 1/4th of the story's length. The rest of the story talked about how the recruiters are obeying the rules the school sets, how parents are able to opt-out and not receive calls, and how the recruiters try and include the parents in as much as possible. The Recruiting Journal couldn't have written a more positive account of recruiter behavior. It even quotes school officials saying that they have no issues with the recruiters visiting their schools, and how the recruiters stay to their scheduled dates and locations. Now I would like to point out to the parent whose child opted out as a freshman that, well, recruiters aren't going to, knowingly, call a freshman or a sophomore. It's a waste of our time since, well, they're about three years from being old enough to enlist with parental consent.

I guess "High School Principal Receives No Complaints About Recruiters" wouldn't make for a very compelling headline.

Unfortunatly "National Guard Recruiter Charged with Sexually Assaulting 2 Female Recruits" is. All I really have to say about this is "Number Two and Number Four."

The big story I've found in this past week has been that the military increased its use of bonuses for recruiting by 25% this past year. Unfortunatly, the story is inaccurate. The writer, Lolita Baldor (a name I've heard before), goes ahead and lumps the money paid out for bonuses and the money paid for college together.
According to data obtained by the AP, the Army and Marine Corps allocated a bit more than $500 million in bonuses and college fund payments...
Emphasis mine. So, what accounted for the increase? Was more spent on bonuses or was more spent on college? Also, what type of bonuses? Were they retention bonuses or enlistment bonuses? Did the data obtained by the AP break it down like that, or did the DOD simply give it to them totaled together? Since Ms. Baldor doesn't bother to differentiate between the two it's impossible to tell.

Of course, the biggest news in this isn't the 25% increase in the budgeting of incentives, but the fact that, yet again, the Army met its recruiting goal for the year. As a matter of fact, all the services met their goals. This tidbit of information gets buried halfway down the story though. To find a headline about how the Army made its recruiting mission, you need to be a Cheesehead. The Daily Kenoshan from Kenosha, WI actually bothered to do the original reporting the AP apparently couldn't be bothered with. Milwaukee Battalion's A&PA must be on the ball to have arranged an interview with the local press and their battalion commander the day after the new FY. Good on them.

I've now read three stories by Lolita Baldor from the AP. All three of them made some basic error or omission regarding the aspect of the military about which she was writing. First she doesn't bother to tell us that her source for a story has a fundamental conflict of interest and bias in a story about military waivers. Then she apparently forgets to account for the fact that her story on the same subject a year later has totally different numbers. Finally this story she doesn't bother to, or is unable to, actually substantiate the claim she makes in her first paragraph. She doesn't actually provide proof that the Army increased its bonus spending by 25%. It could be more, it could be less. Whatever is it though, since the AP said it, the meme will be that the Army spent 25% more on bonuses.

Warning sign

Battle assembly was this past weekend. After training was over, I tried to catch up on some recruiting news. The wife of one of the Houston Battalion recruiters, SFC Patrick Henderson, who killed himself was also a recruiter. The Houston Chronicle wrote about her comments regarding recruiting, her husband, and his death. It's heart-breaking to me to read about the loss this family suffered. As I said before; I've been there.

Something in this though jumped out at me.
"He came up to me and gave me a big hug, and everything was OK."
No. It was not. This is from WebMD
Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy.
SFC Henderson went from being depressed after the suicide of a co-worker, to spending most of a week in a hospital under observation and being prescribed several mood-altering drugs, to being taken off of his regular duty, to having his wife talk about a seperation, and one night he says everything is alright? That is a warning sign so bright that it would make someone in Las Vegas go "Wow, that's bright". Maybe nothing could have been done about it, but I don't agree that SFFC Henderson "just snapped" sometime between him hugging his wife and when he put the rope around his neck. He had made his choice and was content that whatever was bothering him was going to be over soon.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

No Comment

Did you know the Army made its recruiting goals in August 2008?

And in July 2008?

And in June 2008?

And in May 2008?

And in April 2008?

And in March 2008?

And in January 2008?

And in October 2007?

There are four types of people who will know that. People in Army recruiting. People who read DoD News Releases. People who read People who read The Tension. That is it.

If you were a person who relies upon broadcast or print media to know what is going on, you'd have no idea about this. It has simply been ignored. There have been three stories about recruiting since the start of the new FY.

Those above stories are important. Lord knows my feelings about the recent suicides are out in the open. I have my opinions on the Sac Bee's story from the summer out there too. The only links I've ever received from other blogs have been concerning my writing on waivers. But why are these the only stories out there? I'm not asking for front page, 30-inch stories on how recruiting met its mission for some month. There aren't even 2-inch blurbs on sidebars. It's not like it's hard to find out about this stuff. DoD puts it out on a news release which they release around the 10th of the month. How the heck can and another Blogspot blog be the only two outlets which put that out?

Breaking the hold

Yesterday evening Glenn Reynolds came out and said, straight up, most of the broadcast and print media is in the tank for Senator Obama. "Duh" was my response (I know, shocking). But the post, and the reaction of some, clarified a couple things for me.

I missed an opportunity.

I missed the opportunity to report on military recruiting from beyond my own feelings and experiences. I focused almost entirely on what was happening to me and in the immediate area around me. Occasionally I'd go outside my grasping range and comment on reports from print and broadcast media, mostly because those reports were flawed, biased, or just didn't get it and so missed their mark. But, for the most part, I relayed my feelings and experiences and observations on what I was doing. I hated recruiting, I hated it with a passion, and I made little effort to disguise it; basically enough to keep me from getting sent to battalion every other post.

While I was still inside the beast though, I could have done a slightly better job of trying to report on progress, or lack of, USAREC was making towards its mission. I had access, I had people with whom I could talk and get info, and I had the ability to get something out. I didn't use it. My bad.

I've been floundering since I left recruiting to try and find something I want to talk about, which someone other than my mom (Hi Mom!) might want to read. And, honestly, I think mom reads it only because she feels the need to, much like when she sat through middle school band performances. So, maybe there is something I can do, which I'd enjoy doing, which can fill a void not being covered. Who knows.

In the mean time, here's an early heads up for those who expect a Christmas gift from me. You're getting either this or this.