Recruiters almost always say that the military is exciting and adventurous – that you’ll learn a skill, earn money for college, and gain leadership and discipline. Your recruiter is selling something. Many of the promises are simply not true.
The recruiter will probably emphasize the high-tech, state-of-the-art, sophisticated equipment that you will get to work with. True, some soldiers are trained for the highly skilled jobs. Generally, however, those jobs go to the soldier who was already trained, educated, and technically skilled before joining the military. Many of the high-skill jobs will go to soldiers who already have at least two years of college. And often the high-tech work is done by civilian contractors who have the necessary training and skills.
In reality, few military assignments could be described as high-tech, although many of the jobs sound high-tech. For instance, one U.S. Army brochure includes assignments with titles such as, “combat engineering,” “general engineering,” “supply and service,” and “food service.” These assignments, and others offered by the military, would likely offer little more than low skill, manual labor. The armed forces simply do not have the time, the need, or the resources to train many recruits for highly skilled work.
Above all, the military exists for war. Most soldiers will be trained to fight and to kill, skills that aren’t marketable in the civilian world. It is, therefore, not likely that you will be able to transfer expertise gained in the military to a civilian career. A study from the Ohio State University showed that only 12 percent of the men and 6 percent of the women in a sample group made any use of their military skills in a civilian job. The Medical Corps specialist, for instance, may get credit only for “first aid” when he or she applies for nursing school.
Many people join the military for college money; the Army advertises providing a substantial portion of the money needed for college. Yet to receive any money, you must contribute $100 of your own money each month; you must accept a hard-to-fill military job category; you must complete your term of enlistment; and you must receive a good discharge. Even if you meet all these criteria, your commander may decide that you are still ineligible for some or all of the money. Soldiers who save money in an education fund and decide that they are unable to attend school lose all the money they have saved, including the part that came out of their own pockets. The Pentagon actually makes money on the program.
Between the rising costs of higher education and the multiple restrictions the army places on scholarship monies, many soldiers find that the money they do receive from the military is not enough to afford to go to college. Few soldiers find the educational opportunities the military claims to provide. Martin Smith, a veterans employment representative, figures that only 20 percent of veterans he has worked with took extra classes in the service and that “those 20 percent seem to be the smart kids anyway.”
Soldiers are often discharged with no money to continue in the civilian world and no transferable job skills. Unemployment lines are filled with veterans who are poorly qualified and lack the useful skills for civilian employment. Many veterans remain jobless for long periods and are a large part of the homeless and prison populations. Even those who are gainfully employed will remain behind their civilian counterparts in income and advancement for the rest of their careers. Finally, the Enlistment Agreement is not a contract. It is a one-way agreement that is binding upon the recruit but not binding upon the military.
Additional common myths include:
- You will earn $50,000 for college. (Actually you can usually receive more federal aid prior to being in the military, but that aid is not available to you if you’re a veteran. Army personnel pay into their own college fund, and many never receive any college assistance later on–they even lose the money they paid in.)
- You will gain valuable skills which will help you in your later career. (Most skills learned in the Armed Forces are not transferable to civilian jobs. Even the few jobs in technical fields are not usually helpful in attaining a job after an individual has completed their tour of duty. Veterans, on average, earn less than their same-age cohorts who did not go into the military, and veterans’ joblessness rate is higher.)
- You will learn discipline which will help you get your act together. (While it is true that discipline is demanded in the military, most veterans who had discipline problems prior to enlisting continue with their same problems upon release from the Armed Forces–there is no longer anyone forcing them to be disciplined, and they have not learned to discipline themselves.)
To learn more about these and other recruiter myths and how to get involved in helping more young people know the truth about what they may be getting themselves into if they enlist, visit these excellent websites:
- www.centeronconscience.org is the website for the Center on Conscience and War. It has lots of good information on conscientious objection and the draft.
- www.warresisters.org is the website for the Military & Draft Counseling Project of War Resisters League, Portland Chapter. It is a resource for draft counseling and counter-recruitment in the Portland, Oregon area. For more information or to schedule a speaker write to: email@example.com
- Click here to view and print a form that allows you to opt out of allowing your (or your child’s) school to release information about you to the military.
- Click here if you are already in the military and you have become a Conscientious Objector. This form will let you know your rights and the procedure for getting out of the military.