Regarding the quoted death statistics: I agree that people who die in combat are often people who put themselves there, but it's undoubtedly true enlisting in the military carries some risk of a life of violence. But regardless of whether I'm off-base about inherent risk of violence (which I concede I might be, and I welcome correction on this), a long-term study on the health of 30,000 OEF/OIF Veterans and 30,000 Veterans from the same era who were not deployed (done by the National Health Study for a New Generation of U.S. Veterans) found that 10% of even non-deployed vets develop PTSD, and 13.5% of all OEF/OIF vets. To quote the abstract, "PTSD is a significant public health problem in OEF/OIF-era veterans, and should not be considered an outcome solely related to deployment."
You see, the Army is just not making their numbers. In fact, they aren't anywhere close. And you know who's fault it is? It's the recruiters, for just not being able to reach these kids, get it? You don't make the quota of one recruit a month? Well then you're a piece of shit NCO and your performance record will reflect. And are you aiming for a promotion in a couple years? Better get a good report or you're shit out of luck. But you know what, sometimes it's ok. Because up till now, the military has treated you pretty well. You get a solid paycheck, health insurance, life insurance, dental, and education. You're better off for the army, so it makes you happy to help someone reach your status.
So then, kingsmudy, what do you think these people's motivations are? Are they silver tongued adults tempting our youth to their deaths? Or are they just regular goddamn people trying to live good lives? I respect the recruiters I know a hell of a lot more than many of my highschool friends who went off to work at facebook and google. At least they believe they're helping people, the FB and google people tend to solely be in it for the money.
I want you to know that I sympathize with recruiters, but this quote is exactly why I feel the way I do. The job as you describe it sounds like a nightmare. Their career is put on the chopping block, and only by pushing kids through the system can they avoid being a "piece of shit NCO" and maybe one day get promoted. If you find yourself in a struggling position through no fault of your own, what do you do? You find another kid. But you need this kid to join the military. What will you tell him to get him to enlist?
Is it okay to mislead someone if you genuinely think your lies could help them?
The gist of my opinion is this: I believe that most (if not all) recruiters truly believe the military is a good opportunity for young people. As you point out, most military recruiters aren't assholes, they're people trying to make ends meet. Nevertheless, they exist in a system that you correctly point out as brutal to their potential, endemically focused on number numbers numbers. I believe that this puts recruiters in a difficult position and incentivize dishonesty and manipulative behavior. Whether someone turns into the person the system seems to be (unintentionally) designed to create is up to their individual dispositions and the strength of their personal convictions.
As a supplement to this position, I'm providing this excerpt from an article published by the Army Times, discussing a study about why soldiers join the military. To summarize, it found that primarily people had joined because of familial relationships and expectations, but that many soldiers felt misled by recruiters:
“Many recruiters perform admirably, but others may paint an unrealistic picture of day-to-day soldier life, thereby creating unusually high expectations,” the study says. “A steady diet of World War II action movies may likewise leave a prospective soldier uninformed about modern life in the Army.”
The stereotype of the embellishing recruiter is alive and well, according to the study.
“Many recruiters offered genuine help to soldiers seeking a job in the Army, but other recruiters (and recruitment materials) appeared to oversell an MOS and set overly high expectations for entering soldiers,” according to the study. “Though one-third of participants stated their MOS met or exceeded expectations, other soldiers were disappointed with aspects of their occupational specialty choices, complaining about boredom, about lack of field time, and about having to perform tasks unrelated to their occupations.”
This without the acknowledgement that many of the kids who can be helped by serving are only in that position because our society offers them no better alternative - because they've been deprived of services that are basic rights in other parts of the world. So recruiters can lie to kids about what the military can offer them (and the recruitment system encourages them to do so for the sake of their career), or they can be honest with them. I fully believe that most are honest, but the benefits are things that those kids should have anyway.
A 2017 Department of Defense poll of young people shows 49% of survey respondents indicated that if they were to join the military, one reason for doing so would be to pay for future education. “[Privileged people] have sufficient resources to meet their needs....They don't require joining the military to travel or learn a profession. They have connections to help them get into jobs that pay well and provide benefits. They don't need the military's medical insurance coverage that sometimes motivates low-income people to enlist.”
None of this is the recruiter's fault. They're using the tools available to them to encourage kids to make a decision they think will benefit them. But this idea that they're offering a pathway out of poverty and deserve praise for that frustrates me because it shouldn't be necessary.
Like I said to kleinbl00, "[Recruiters are] trying to figure out the best way to explain [how the military can benefit me], but those arguments end up being "Hey, you could escape poverty!" and while it's not the recruiters fault, it targets kids with little to no alternative. The military [is] a fantastic opportunity for those kids, but I wish there were more options for social mobility outside of enlistment, because a lot of them will be killed or crippled or mentally sundered by it. It sucks that they have to roll dice while I get to turn my nose up at in distaste, and maybe military recruiters just remind me of that inequality."
And while they might enjoy some benefits while serving, I don't think it's heretical to suggest that our nation needs to treat veterans better. Here's an opinion piece that conveniently encapsulates my feelings specifically in the context of recruiting:
The VA is a perpetual mess, GI bill payments stop coming at random intervals, and the closest we’ve managed to come to engaging with the veteran suicide issue is videotaping ourselves doing push-ups about it for Facebook.
Recruiters today are faced with convincing people to serve while dodging questions about American foreign policy, the divide between our military and political leaders, the chances that healthcare and education service members are promised might not come through and of course, the fact that after wearing a uniform for a while, there’s a greatly-increased chance you’ll find yourself in such a deep depression that you choose to take your own life.
Recruiting isn’t going to get any easier as long as we see veterans as damaged goods, break our promises to them, turn on them as soon as it’s politically expedient, and expect service members to fight in conflicts that may start or end at any time based on politics, rather than direct threats to the nation’s security or an overarching strategy toward global stability. Right now, it doesn’t seem like we, as a nation, know what we’re doing. Why would young kids want to subject themselves to such hardship with no promise that it will benefit them or the country?
Finally, here's an article written by a staff sergeant who shadowed a recruiter for two weeks
Recruiters are unethical liars and manipulators by trade. Among military and probably even some civilian circles, recruiter dishonesty is nothing new or surprising, and is often a punch line or the center of a funny anecdote, like “I know a guy whose recruiter told him he could keep his long hair in the military, and he totally bought it!” or “My recruiter told me I would travel the world in the military. Ha!” However, the problem is far more sinister than that.
So what was I supposed to do when parents told me to leave their family alone? You would think I could cross out that name on the list, or mention in the log that this one is a no-go. According to my recruiter, respecting someone’s wish not to be harassed is for quitters. Believe it or not, my recruiter told me that when parents say their kid isn’t joining the military, and refuse to let us speak to him, I am supposed to shame them for being overbearing control freaks. Something like “Isn’t that his decision to make?” or “You’re not him – I’d rather he speak for himself” comes to mind as the scripted response. I couldn’t summon my inner asshole to bully parents, so I didn’t.
Recruiters obtain contact information through sketchy means, they use that contact information to harass families, insult parents and ignore their legitimate requests to be left alone, and then they try to make minors feel like terrible people for accepting their parents’ financial aid as they go through higher education.
Just a word of advice to anyone considering joining the military: joining is a huge life decision that cannot be taken lightly, and you need as much information as you can get before deciding. Recruiters are not legitimate sources of this information. Do your own research. Talk to a diverse group of people who are in the service and pick their brains about their experiences. Recruiters are not there to help you make an informed decision. They are there to sign you up by any means necessary and will say anything to make it happen. They are not the gatekeepers, they are the ones who hunt people down and drag them to the gates.
So, there it is. Military service is honorable, and it can help people. I don't like the system that recruiters exist in because it incentivizes the exact behavior they're accused of by people who serve. I don't like recruiters because the US Military built a system that encouraged the worst of their behavior, and in a just world their toolbox wouldn't include the basic rights that people should have access to without committing their livelihood to the government.