Youth— Related Issues

Child Soldiers
Conflict Resolution
Military in the Schools
Youth Activism
Youth and Violence
Youth Leadership

And In Vermont:

Vermont AFSC to Engage Students
in Counter Military Recruitment Work

"Earn money for college," "learn useful skills," "be all you can be."
These and other enticements are used by military recruiters to convince high school students to become part of the US armed forces. As it has become harder to meet their quotas, the recruiters make all kinds of promises to students about the benefits of committing two or more years of their life to military service. Faced with what they see as few and dwindling options, many sign up only to find that most of the promises were empty.

Beginning in the fall, the Vermont AFSC will be working with students from high schools around the state and with veterans to provide prospective recruits with a wider choice of options and more accurate information about the realities of military service and war. We will assist students in forming committees in each school who will staff counter-recruitment tables, bring speakers to the school and provide students and parents with the information of how to opt out of the federal requirement that schools hand over student contact information to military recruiters.

Money for college is a major reason given by young people for joining the military. With the incomes of most working families in the U.S. remaining fairly stagnant for the last 30 years, fewer young people can expect significant financial help from mom and dad. Prospective recruits are told that they could be eligible for up to $50,000 for college expenses if they enlist. A move to reduce funding for Pell grants, a major source of financial help, threatens to force up to 400,000 students out of college and makes the military option all the more attractive.

A counter recruitment effort would provide the student with facts which recruiters leave out, such as that only 2% of recruits ever get the promised $50,000; that the average amount received by those who receive any money at all is $8,000, $1,200 of which is taken out of their military salary (never to be returned, even if the student decides not to go to college).

Student counter recruitment committees could expand their efforts to include providing students, educators and parents with information about how the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is used as a recruiting tool. The ASVAB is given by over 14,000 high schools nationwide and is the admissions and placement test for the US military. Schools often use the ASVAB because the cost is borne by the Pentagon and the test results could, but not necessarily tell a student what she or he is qualified to do outside the military.

With a budget for recruitment of over $2.6 Billion dollars, the Pentagon can afford to administer ASVAB and to have recruiters in more schools for longer periods of time. Recruiters have access to a wide array of resources with which to sell the idea of a military career to young people still susceptible to jingoistic appeals to patriotism, images of power and glory and the opportunity to travel and learn how to use the sophisticated technology of the modern military. One recruitment effort at Montpelier High School included a 48 foot tractor trailer truck filled with video games which students could use to shoot missiles at digital displays of bridges and buildings. At the end of their "experience," as they left the rear end of the truck they were handed a laminated card with the logo of the particular military service and their name emblazoned on the card. They had just become a member of the military "family."

Counter recruitment will cost a lot less than the $11,600 the military now spends for each enlistee. It will provide student activists with experience in organizing, making presentations and engaging in respectful debate with those who oppose their efforts. And it may even save the lives of some of their friends.

For more information people can contact
Joseph Gainza, Vermont AFSC
73 Main St., Box 19
Montpelier, Vermont 05602-2944