Monday, July 25, 2005

Join the Army, Climb Rocks

The Army is coming to the Saint Louis area to drum up some fresh recruits for Operation Iraqi Freedom. I should say at the out-set that I am not against a career in the military. Defense is the US's leading area of spending, and believe me there's not only money, but education to be gained by a military career. And, put 20 years in and you get a pension. You can't say that for many jobs. You can see the world, help your country and get free health-care and housing. It sounds like a good deal. So, why does the military need to employ computer games (America's Army), bass-pumping music, and rock-climbing towers to lure young men into the fold?

Well, that's probably because, if you sign up now and learn how to fire a weapon, you stand a good chance of being sent to a little place I like to call Iraq.

To research new recruiting tactics I came across this article by Capt. Steve Alvaraz,, off the web page Interestingly enough, the Tech Sergeant in the article is the same one who once screwed up my records and basically de-railed any potential career I would have had in the Air Force. I do owe him thanks for that.

Reading it over, you can see how your tax dollars are being spent to enlist 18-35 year old males for the cause. In an Air Force recruiting area you might see a $150,000 custom-built motorcycle that serves no defense function, but is commissioned by the Air Force. Obviously, it serves as an ice breaker to young men high on testosterone. It also serves to be a public relations coup for families. The Army employs its own traveling display that includes a rock-climbing wall, a flight simulator, computer games, and personalized dog-tag machines.

I can't think of another career with as many opportunities as the military. I can say that it turned my life around. But I was not fooled into joining. I did not climb a rock wall, lured in to thinking that the military was going to be like playing war in my back yard as a kid. It's serious business and I wish it would be treated as such rather than a form of seduction. Does the fire department let 18 year-olds climb all over a shiny red fire truck, spray the fire hose, or blare the siren? Probably not. To be a fireman probably involves a somber discussion by a responsible adult about how that career can be great, but it can also take your life. The military can give you a lot if you know what you want to get. If you're in it for the rock-climbing, you're probably in for a rude awakening.

The argument will be made that the military is doing the same thing corporate America does to enlist 18-35 year olds to spend their money: make it flashy, make it cool. The difference is if an 18 year old buys Levis he's maybe lost some money. But joining the military is sobering to say the least and I would think it would be in its best interest to recruit only those who are prepared. Clever tactics or dishonesty? Both walk a fine line. But, when lives are on the line, I think we should error on the side of caution.

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