Those who know me or who have read my articles over the past eight years won't be surprised to hear that my top three pet peeves are (1) applicants who lie about their qualifications to get into the military, (2) recruiters who encourage them to lie and (3) recruiters who lie to applicants.
A few years ago, I extensively addressed the first two issues in my article, I Cannot Tell a Lie, in which I bespeak the consequences of false statements on enlistment documents. It's past time I addressed my final top irritant.
Let me preface this article by saying I personally know dozens of military recruiters. The vast majority of recruiters are hard-working, honest, and trustworthy; tasked to do one of the most difficult jobs in the military. However, military recruiting is a numbers game, pure and simple. Recruiter careers are made and broken based on whether or not they can meet their monthly quotas (called "goals" in the recruiting world). Keep in mind (depending on the service branch), most recruiters are non-volunteers. They never wanted the job in the first place, but -- once selected -- are told that the prospect of returning to their previous jobs after three or four years of recruiting duty with an unblemished service record depends primarily upon making their goals.
This unforgiving system of numbers have caused some recruiters (in my opinion a small percentage) to lie and cheat in order to "make their nut."
Last year, ABC News armed a group of high school students with hidden cameras and sent them into ten Army recruiting stations in in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, posing as potential applicants. Sadly, the Army failed this particular recruiting ethics test. More than half of the recruiters were caught on tape making what can only be kindly referred to as "misleading" statements. In other words, they lied.
One recruiter was filmed telling the applicant that his chances of being deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan after basic training and job school were"slim to none." One recruiter bluntly stated that the Army wasn't sending people to Iraq anymore -- in fact, they were bringing them home. One simply said, "War? What war? The war ended years ago."
Another recruit was told he could quit the Army anytime he wanted to, just by asking, under a "failure to adapt" discharge. (Hee, hee.....Go ahead. Tell your drill sergeant you want to quit. But, make sure you tell me in advance. I want to sell tickets.)
Dishonest recruiters aren't something new. In viewing the news clip, I couldn't help but be reminded of the 1980 hit movie, Private Benjamin. You know, that part where the Army recruiter is showing Judy (Goldie Hawn) photos of a luxury condo (barracks) and the military yacht club?
In 2005, amidst hundreds of allegations of recruiter misconduct, the Army suspended recruiting nationwide for mandatory ethics training. One of the most publicized misconduct allegations at the time also involved a student with a hidden camera, who went into an Army recruiting office posing as an addicted drug user. The recruiter not only told him that he wouldn't get into trouble if he lied, but then helped him lie on the enlistment documents.
Unfortunately, it appears (at least in some cases) this ethics and values reinforcement didn't work.
A significant portion of the email I receive each day are from applicants or potential applicants asking me about something their recruiter said to them which didn't quite ring true. I thought it would be interesting to wade through the old archives of the past year and dig a few of them out for this article. So, here it is:
Top 10 Lies (Some) Recruiters Tell Applicants
1. Your chances of being sent to a combat zone are slim.
Truth: This depends primarily upon (1) your branch of service and (2) your military job. For the Army and Marine Corps, almost everyone will get a chance or two to play in the sand, regardless of Military Occupation Specialty (job). Heck, the Marines have even been known to send band members to perform combat missions in Iraq. These two branches do not have enough folks in the combat MOSs to do the job, so they routinely deploy non combat folks to help out.
Your chances of being deployed (on the ground) to Iraq and Afghanistan are not as great in the Air Force and Navy, and depend much on your military job. However, both services task members (regardless of their specialty) to train and deploy with the Army in Iraq, under a program called "in-lieu-of," or ILO, tasking. The active duty Air Force has a couple of thousand deployed under this program at any given time, and the active duty Navy about 5,000. Of course, depending on your job, you could also be deployed on a ship patrolling the Gulf region (Navy), or on any number of Air Bases (Air Force) in and around Iraq and Afghanistan. The Coast Guard keeps about five or six patrol boats in the Gulf to assist with port security.
2. You are much more likely to get murdered in your home town than you are to get killed or wounded in combat.
Truth: On average, 50 military members are killed in action and 481 are wounded in action each month in Iraq, although the numbers are down sigificantly for the past six months. The Army and the Marine Corps bear the brunt of casualties in these combat areas.
While the numbers fluctuate somewhat from month to month depending on rotation schedules, there are about 133,000 troops deployed to Iraq at any given time. If you live in a city with a population of 133,000 and you have 50 murders per month and 481 violent crimes per month which result in injuries, I'd move, if I were you.
Military members serving in places like Iraq and Afghanistan are heroes --in part because they are doing dangerous jobs in dangerous places. There is no such thing as a safe combat zone.