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What the Recruiter Never Told You



Army recruiter with potential candidate

Army recruiter chats with potential Army recruit in New York

Chris Hondros/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The vast majority of U.S. Military recruiters are honest, hard-working professionals, completely dedicated to the core values of their service. In fact, few military personnel put in more hours of work per week than recruiters.

The recruiter's job is to find enough qualified volunteers to fill projected vacancies for the fiscal year, for their particular branch of service. While a majority of military recruiters are hard-working, honest, and dedicated, there are some (and I emphasize some) recruiters who are tempted to bend the truth, and/or downright lie, and/or blatantly cheat in order to sign up a recruit. It happens often enough where we've all heard "horror stories" about military recruiters.

So, why do some recruiters do this?

It's because of the way the recruiting system is set up. It's a numbers game, pure and simple. Recruiters are judged by their superiors primarily upon the number of recruits they get to sign up. Sign up large numbers, and you're judged to be a good recruiter. Fail to sign up the minimum number assigned to you (known as "making mission"), and you can find your career at a dead-end. This policy pressures some recruiters to adopt unethical practices in order to "make mission."

So, you ask, "why don't the services put a stop to this?" Easier said, than done. Each of the services have recruiting regulations which make it a crime for recruiters to lie, cheat, or knowingly process applicants that they know are ineligible for enlistment. Recruiters are punished when they are caught violating the standards. However, the key phrase is "when they are caught." Not that easy to do, as there are usually no witnesses. It becomes a "he said/he said" type of deal.

I should also mention here that, in many cases, "lies" told by a recruiter are actually cases of selected listening by recruits. A recruiter may say, "Many of our bases now have single rooms for most people," and the applicant may hear, "You are definitely not going to have a roommate."

Anyway, enough "recruiter-bashing." As I've said, most recruiters are honest. The purpose of this series is not to run down military recruiters, but rather inform potential recruits the truth about joining the military; the benefits and disadvantages of joining the military, whether for a four-year enlistment, or a 30-year military career. The subject matter of this series necessitates that the "tone" be somewhat critical, or negative. I don't mean it that way. I spent 23 years in the Air Force and enjoyed every minute of it. My primary profession today is to manage this web site and research/write about the United States Military. Both of my daughters are happily serving in the Air Force (one on active duty, one in the Air National Guard). I love the military and every aspect of it.

However, the military is not for everyone. Fully 40 percent of recruits who enlist in the military today will not complete their full term of service. While many discharges will be for reasons beyond the recruit's control, such as medical problems that develop after joining the military, as a First Sergeant for 11 years, I found that a significant number of the involuntary discharges we imposed on first-term recruits was because they simply stopped trying -- they discovered that the military wasn't what they thought it was going to be. Many of them told me that the military wasn't even close to what their recruiters told them it was going to be (either the recruiter lied to them, or they were guilty of "selective listening.") When this happens, everyone loses.

This series is intended to "save" some of that 40 percent by letting potential recruits know up front, just what they are signing up for. Let's get on with the show!


  • Part 1 -- Choosing a Military Service
  • Part 2 -- Meeting the Recruiter
  • Part 3 -- The Enlistment Process and Job Selection
  • Part 4 -- Enlistment Contracts and Enlistment Incentives
  • Part 5 -- Military Pay
  • Part 6 -- Housing, Housing Allowance, and Barracks
  • Part 7 -- Chow Halls and Food Allowance
  • Part 8 -- Education Programs
  • Part 9 -- Leave (Vacation), and Job Training
  • Part 10 -- Assignments
  • Part 11 -- Promotions
  • Part 12 -- Military Medical Care
  • Part 13 -- Commissaries and Exchanges
  • Part 14 -- Morale, Welfare, & Recreation (MWR) Activities

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