An Army of One Thing After Another

| Sun Aug. 20, 2006 10:00 AM EDT

A six-month investigation by the Associated Press has found that at least 80 recruiters (35 Army, 18 Marine Corps, 18 Navy, and 12 Air Force) were disciplined for sexual misconduct or other inappropriate behavior with potential enlistees last year, way more than in any other decade. The army has had 722 recruiters accused of rape and sexual misconduct since 1996.

The most disturbing reveal:

More than 100 young women who expressed interest in joining the military in the past year were preyed upon sexually by their recruiters. Women were raped on recruiting office couches, assaulted in government cars and groped en route to entrance exams.

So let me get this straight, an army that is struggling with its numbers is taking advantage of the ones who come in to sign up? This is also the same Army that has taken to MySpace to bring in recruits, like this Reserves recruiter who has 554 "friends." Talk about online predators.

Recruitment is a billion dollar business. The DoD committed $1.5 billion to it this year: campus visits, prime time commercials, posters in bus shelters, the full gamut. Military.com is littered with tantalizing hooks -- $40,000 signing bonuses, $70,000 for college, and the motto "no bull, no bias, no pressure." But recruiters are feeling pressure to bring on just about anybody, whether they're autistic, grandmothers, or as Mother Jones reported last summer, those accused of rape. The army is even loosening its standards, letting heavier and tatoo-laden become plebes in a push to boost their numbers.

The pressure is obviously too much. Last week the GAO released its findings that incidents of recruiter wrongdoing increased 50% from 2004 to 2005, to a total of 6600 cases. The report points to a number of challenges facing recruiters, the escalating conflict in Iraq, long hours and stiff quotas. But the number one reason they say times are tough? The economy.

Service recruiting command officials stated that the economy has been the single most important factor recently affecting recruiting success. According to Department of Labor data, the unemployment rate fell each year between 2003 (when it was 6 percent) and 2005 (when it was 5.1 percent). The better the civilian job market, the harder DOD must compete for talent.

How about keeping your hands off recruits? That would help in selling the job in a competitive market. As it is, the women assaulted on couches and in cars got an early glimpse of military culture, and hopefully got the hell out.

Hoorah.