Joining Up? Do Your Homework First

By Uncle Bill Warner

Tulare County is famous for having a high percentage of young people in the military. Many Tulare County highschool grads view the military as the only way out of the tough, low-paying job market here. In jolly old England, being bribed to enlist was called "…taking the King's schilling." Today the bribes (excuse me, "enlistment bonuses") are much higher, probably because kids are talking to returnees from Iraq. I talked to a guy recently who was just back from Iraq. He said they had to wear heavy body armor and carry about 100 lbs of equipment even though the maximum temperatures were 149 degrees. He also said that we have no business being there. The word is getting around to prospective enlistees.

I feel sorry for the recruiters, who have monthly quotas to fill. Everyone knows that we are going to be in Iraq for years to come. Some wonder if signing up to be a target is "being all you can be." National Guard troops, many of whom got lumbered with long extensions in Iraq, are now facing deployment to the deserts along the Mexican Border. The recruiting pitch there was, "Only one weekend per month", as I recall. If the National Guard is such a good job, why do they have to bribe people to do it?

Today we have a "poverty draft." Recruiters stress the lack of opportunities for highschool grads and offer them a "King's schilling" of $15,000 or more just for joining. Tempting, no? Back when I joined the Marines, we were lured in with a dress blue uniform and vague promises of embassy duty in Paris, tours in Hawaii, flying Marine planes and the like. Nobody ever mentioned Korea in the winter. I just read a recruiting brochure that never ONCE mentions killing, being killed, exposure to radioactive ordnance or chemical weapons, or ending up maimed for life. Any social conscience you now have will be attacked by racist training (vets know what I am talking about…used to be "gooks," now it's "hajis.")

A few points to consider:

1. Recruiters get paid for signing you up. Expect propaganda.

2. Talk to recent veterans.

3. Take a witness when you speak with a recruiter

4. Be skeptical of claims like "you will never see combat."

5. Read the fine print in the enlistment contract. Get recruiters' promises in writing, but know that despite any promises, they can put you anywhere they want based on need.

6. Remember, once you're in, you can't just change your mind and leave.

7. Consider that if you hate being bossed around at home or at school, you may hate the military too.

8. Girls: VA figures show that 90% of the women in the military report sexual harassment, 30% of which are rapes.

9. Don't lie about any previous drug or arrest history, even if the recruiter encourages you to lie. Any lies can be used against you later.

10. Many recruits think they will get big money for college, but many never get a nickel, and most get far less than they expect, despite having to pay over $1,000 up front just to be eligible.

Whether you join is your choice to make, but don't jump into something this big without doing your homework.

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