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From Draft NOtices, January-February 2005

Recruiters' Tricks Revealed in Their Own Handbook

— Amy Wagner

Many people, including school staff, students, parents and activists have expressed concern about the presence of military recruiters in our high schools and on our college campuses. When deciding how best to address these concerns, it helps to understand just what recruiters do and how they present themselves to teachers and administrators to gain what seems like unfettered admittance to many schools. It may be productive to share this information with school staff. They may want to reassess their policy on recruiter access or incorporate a counter recruitment component.

The Army provides its recruiters with efficient and thorough training manuals on all aspects of their job, including one titled, "The School Recruiting Program Handbook" (USAREC Pamphlet 350-13).

This handbook contains many practical suggestions, including a monthly breakdown of activities and general advice about working productively with school staff, which are equally useful for planning a counter-recruitment campaign. In addition, it provides an inside look at how recruiters are taught to give the appearance of caring about the best interest of the students and the school, while systematically "penetrating their school obtain the maximum number of quality enlistments."

The most striking feature of the Army's School Recruiting Program Handbook is the forthright way in which it states the purpose of recruiter presence in high schools. Page 1, paragraph 1.1 says it all: "School ownership is the goal." It is hard to imagine that any educator or school administrator, no matter how supportive of the military, would not be outraged and deeply offended by this statement.

Throughout the manual are explicit instructions on what recruiters should say and do to "establish rapport and credibility." This includes offering to chaperone dances (in uniform), assisting the coach, and to always "have something to give [school staff] (pen, calendar, cup, donuts, etc)." Recruiters are repeatedly reminded that "Once educators are convinced recruiters have their students' best interest in mind the SRP [School Recruiting Program] can be effectively implemented."

One of the most disturbing aspects of the Handbook is how recruiters are told to present military programs such as the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and education incentives such as the G.I. Bill so that they will appeal to the school community, while re-enforcing the fact that the actual purpose of these programs is to increase enlistment.

Recruiters are supplied with a flyer on the ASVAB test (available at to help them "market the ASVAB" to faculty which states:

The ASVAB program is designed to help students learn more about themselves and the world of work, identify and explore potentially satisfying occupations, and develop an effective strategy to realize their goals.

However, The School Recruiting Program Handbook states that ASVAB is:

specifically designed to provide recruiters with a source of prequalified leads. . . . The ASVAB recruiter printout provides information you can't get from any other list. It . . . provides the recruiter with concrete and personal information about the student.

The military spends a large portion of its $3 BILLION-plus recruiting budget touting the Montgomery G.I. Bill and promises of $70,000 for college tuition. For this reason alone, many schools welcome recruiters, believing that they are opening the door to college opportunities for their students. Unfortunately, only one out of three enlistees who sign up for the G.I. bill ever see a cent.(1) Only 15% go on to complete a college degree.(2)

On the one hand, the School Recruiting Program Handbook does say that the purpose of education incentives is:

TO DEMONSTRATE TO THE EDUCATION COMMUNITY that the army is concerned with assisting Soldiers by providing financial assistance for postsecondary education [emphasis added].

However, that is listed as the third purpose of promises of college money. The second reason, not surprisingly, is "To fill the various Army skills with capable individuals."

And in a stunning piece of honesty, the School Recruiting Program Handbook lists the FIRST purpose of financial education incentives as:

To encourage college-capable individuals to DEFER THEIR COLLEGE until after they have served in the military [emphasis added].

Read that last bit again. Now show it to your local high school guidance counselors and college advisors.

Despite protestations to the contrary, recruiters do not merely offer an alternative to high school seniors and graduates. Recruiters are instructed to strive to have the Army "perceived as a positive career choice as soon as young people begin to think about the future." Federal education law gives recruiters access to the home addresses and phone numbers of ninth graders who may be as young as thirteen.

And just because a student has succeeded in enrolling in college or vocational school doesn't mean that they are exempt from the advances of recruiters:

This market is an excellent source of potential Army enlistments due to the high percentage of students who drop out, particularly during the first 2 years of college.

Once again The School Recruiting Program Handbook stresses the need to placate school staff who may have other plans for their students:

In all contacts with college officials, recruiting personnel should emphasize that the Army is only interested in recruiting former students who have dropped out and those students who are about to graduate.

Yet one of the first tasks of the recruiter is to request a list of ALL students and their contact information. The manual then goes on to detail the times of year that students are most likely to drop out. (In a precious example of doublespeak, this is called the "stop-out cycle.") Recruiters are urged to focus on freshmen "because they will have the highest dropout rate."

Interestingly, the School Recruiting Program Handbook reiterates the fact that in both high schools and post secondary schools they are only entitled to access "equal to the reception given to the representatives of other career and educational institutions." Unfortunately, the reality is that they enjoy GREATER THAN equal access in most schools.

It is unlikely that most school personnel are aware of the content of this manual. It seems possible that, presented with this information, schools may reassess their open door policy with regard to military recruiters. This is an opportunity to encourage schools to limit recruiter access to the once or twice a year that college representatives make an appearance. It may also provide motivation to allow counter-recruiters to present more factual information and alternative points of view.

(1) Report by The Commission on Servicemembers & Veterans' Transition Assistance, Feb 23rd, 1999

(2) Ensign, Todd. America's Military Today: the Challenge of Militarism. New York: The New Press, 2004, p. 22

Source: "The School Recruiting Program Handbook" (USAREC Pamphlet 350-13) can be downloaded at

This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (


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