Army Recruits Autistic Man

Tue May 9, 2006 6:05 PM EDT

Jared Guinther, 18, was diagnosed at three with moderate to severe autism. He doesn't speak unless spoken to and has been enrolled in special education his entire life. Yet he was recently permitted to enlist in the U.S. Army as a cavalry scout—widely considered the army's most dangerous job because of its frequent engagement with the enemy using "anti-armor weapons and scout vehicles." And despite the fact that he was completely unaware of the war in Iraq until last fall, he enlisted when approached by a military recruiter and offered a "$4,000 signing bonus, $67,000 for college and more buddies than he could count."

His story draws attention to the surge in recruiting improprieties over the last several years. Its possible that recruiters concealed Guinther's disability in hopes of meeting their enlistment targets. According to The Oregonian, Maj. Curt Steinagel, commander of the Military Entrance Processing Station in Portland, said the papers filled out by Jared's recruiters contained no indication of his disability. "I can't speak for Army," he said, "but it's no secret that recruiters stretch and bend the rules because of all the pressure they're under. The problem exists, and we all know it exists."