Military Recruiters Who Lie

A lot is being written lately regarding the military recruiter in Texas who told a recruit who had changed his mind about joining the service that he was “going to jail” if he did not report for basic training. That’s sad, because it perpetuates the age-old stereotype of the military recruiter who will say and do anything in order to meet a quota.

As there are bad apples in any field, there are military recruiters who lie. They are a very small minority. As a former Marine Corps officer who has worked with all the services over the years, I am very familiar with military recruiting programs, policies, and recruiter tactics.

I have also known many military recruiters. The overwhelming majority of military recruiters are hard-working, diligent, honest, and proud people who have a strong desire to bring in top-quality, highly motivated recruits into their services.

Additionally, the services today only allow their top people to become recruiters. That’s because recruiters in the all volunteer force must compete for a dwindling pool of young people, there’s a war going on, and only the smartest and sharpest will be asked to represent their service.

In fact, in the Marine Corps, you cannot become a recruiter even if you wanted to, unless you consistently score in the top categories in all your performance evaluations. I am confident the other services are the same.

Military recruiters also do not want to bring problem recruits into their services. That costs money, it hurts their fellow service members, and can actually get people killed. If too many problem recruits come from a specific recruiter, that recruiter is going to be investigated and disciplined if questionable tactics are discovered.

The surest way to bring adverse attention to yourself  as a recruiter is to bring in recruits who, from the onset of their service, have a poor attitude. That was most certainly the case with the Texas recruit who was told he would either go into the service, or go to jail.

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The preceding does not mean that military recruiters will not use aggressive sales tactics, or that young recruits will not change their minds after they have signed a contract agreeing to report for duty. Quotas for recruiters are stiff, and failing to meet quotas can have negative career consequences.

“Aggressive tactics” do not necessarily equate to unethical, unscrupulous, or outright illegal tactics. As an example, a little-known policy is the defense-wide “Failure to Ship” recruiting policy, applicable to all the services. It says that any recruit who fails to report for initial training (“boot camp” for enlisted members; officer candidates school for officers) is to be automatically discharged, without penalty or further obligation. If the recruit or officer candidate had accepted remuneration such as a signing bonus, advance pay, or money for college, they are to repay the money in the same manner as unpaid taxes.

There is no “going to jail” for not showing up. This policy is rarely communicated to recruits because if it was, many would change their minds the day before shipping out when they are at the height of their anxiety regarding the wisdom of their decision to join the military.

However, if asked, the recruiter is required to inform the recruit of this policy. Is it aggressive to not volunteer to the recruit that he/she is free to walk away at any time? Yes. Is it unethical to not inform the recruit if not asked? I don’t think so.


6 Comments on “Military Recruiters Who Lie

  1. I disagree. Honest people will assume that the recruiter has said everything there is to know, because honest people assume the recruiters are honest. My husband enlisted at the age of 39. He had a doctorate but was not a US citizen.

    Lie #1: After swearing in, there was no way out.
    Lie #2: He could begin the process for naturalization as soon as he started basic. The reality: He couldn’t start it till well into AIT, and then the paper work sat on someone’s desk for a month, for no good reason. So He had been in for four months before it was processed.

    Lie #3: He had till he was 41 to become an officer. The whole intention of his going in was to become an officer. He didn’t just have a doctorate, he was brilliant. But a month before AIT ended, and a month before his 20th birthday, he learned that he had to be accepted into OCS before he was 40, not 41. And he couldn’t apply till his naturalization went through. Had he actually been able to apply at the beginning of basic, he might have squeaked by. But his final interview for naturalization was three months after his birthday.

    Lie #4: He could stay in twenty years and retire. They didn’t tell him that retirement is mandatory at age 55. This meant that now he was stuck at E4 pay for six years, with no retirement benefits possible. Now, if we were in our twenties and had no children and no student loans to take care of, that would be do-able. But we are at an age where saving for retirement is crucial. This was the reason, really, for his joining. I have to keep my job, because we cannot live on his E4 salary, much less save for retirement, and we have nothing left over to spend on seeing each other, since obviously I cannot save my job and also be where he is. I am 47, and a professional, and it is not easy for me to just cough up magical jobs wherever he is stationed.

    This has basically ruined our life together. We will have to live apart for six years, will not be able to save because neither of our salaries is high and we are maintaining two separate households, and every penny extra we have must go towards retirement.

    That leaves me to suspect that there will be many more lies, for example, that he will actually be able to work in his MOS, which he is now counting on.

  2. I forgot to mention that in the month after he was sworn in, he was offered a job outside the military that eventually would have provided retirement, etc. He thought that there was no turning back before he left for basic, and turned it down.

  3. Dawn;
    I am deeply saddened to hear about your awful experience. As I wrote, there are bad apples out there…and, sadly, you were victimized by one.

    There are avenues of recourse. I would recommend that your husband go through his chain of command and “request mast” to speak with his Commanding General. All military personnel have this right. When he does, it is very important that he not be disrespectful to his superiors, because that will undermine his purpose. I think the Commanding General will see this as a strong case for what is called a “hardship discharge”, an honorable discharge given to those whose personal and/or family circumstances warrant release from active duty. Additionally, your husband’s age will be considered. I have very rarely ever heard of anyone gaining access to the military past the age of 35. Good luck.

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