Obama Demands Right to Recruit Minors for Military
April 29, 2009
Humboldt County, California voters passed measures F and J last November prohibiting military recruiters from initiating contact with minors. Now the Obama administration is demanding that the law be overturned. A court hearing is scheduled for June 9 in Oakland, California. The measures which passed by a large margin allow recruitment to occur if the minor initiates contact. Federal government lawyers claim “irreparable harm” if the laws stand.
The cities of Eureka and Arcata cite international treaties which prohibit recruitment of children under 17. If the Cities prevail over the Obama administration in court, the legislation could likely be brought before voters in communities across the nation. Enforcement of the laws is on hold pending the court action.
The author of the legislation, Dave Meserve, described the ordinances as protecting youth from slick and persistent professional salesmen who identify the children as “prospects” though never reveal the facts that 18% of Iraq war veterans return with traumatic brain injuries and 20% with diagnosed post traumatic stress disorder.
“The federal government sets no minimum age limit below which recruiters may not contact kids to promote military enlistment” writes Meserve. An official Recruiter Handbook has this advice: “You will find that establishing trust and credibility with students, even seventh and eighth graders, has a strong impact on your high school and post-secondary school recruiting efforts.”
While minors can’t enlist without parental consent they can be signed up in the Delayed Entry Program, where they commit to enlistment after they turn eighteen. Those who have second thoughts are routinely misinformed about their right to rescind the commitment, in many instances the highly pressured recruiters resort to false threats of prosecution.
Dawn Blanken, a counselor with the GI Rights Hotline, has written that a common problem voiced by callers is that promises are made by the recruiter that cannot be kept. “A promised job (MOS), a particular base, school, a non-deploying assignment, all disappear when the recruit arrives at basic training. Often soldiers accept this situation, complete their training and move forward.” However, as an example, “a seventeen year old, in a single parent household, with younger siblings, and a mother undergoing treatment for cancer, is vulnerable to promises (often misrepresented) of pay, beneﬁts, assignments, education and “career opportunities” available through enlistment that a more mature adult would be able to analyze more critically.”
Soldiers can be reassigned to a different branch of the military. Some are misled into enlistment, being told they can “opt out” after arriving at basic training by “just talking” with their drill instructor. In the army once a recruit reports for basic training the recruiters quota is credited. “As a result of this misinformation, many of these kids go AWOL from basic training, or their ﬁrst duty station, then call the Hotline for information.”
In her counseling, Blanken has found that “recruits who experience difficulties during training risk being victims of violence perpetrated by squad leaders, fellow recruits, and even instructors, who become frustrated at the struggling soldierʼs limitations, or failures, and resort to violence as a motivational tool and a method to affect morale in the rest of the unit. This violence and hazing is always debilitating, sometimes disabling, and occasionally deadly. Some complete their training and even a deployment, but can, even years into their term of service, get into trouble over issues stemming from recruitment violations. These problems can result in disciplinary issues and action against them, or charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and court martial and the discharges these people can receive can impede their future education and career goals. The worst cases end in suicide.”
Background: America’s Child Soldiers: US Military Recruiting Children to Serve in the Armed Forces November 2.