Never, ever trust a military recruiter

Those six words are enough, but I’ll expand on it for those that need further instructions.

A few days ago, a friend of mine told me that his kid got a text from an Army recruiter. His kid is a high school senior and never signed up for anything with any Armed Forces branch. Turns out, his high school gave his phone number to the local recruiting station (feels like some kind of violation, but I’ll leave it to some litigious parent to make a huge stink about this kind of behavior).

Back in 1995, I did sign up to be called. I talked to a recruiter and eventually took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). I got a perfect score. The recruiter specifically worked for a Tank Battalion, so I was offered to go to school to be a Tanker.

“Aren’t there any other jobs? Infantry? Intelligence? Psychological Operations?”

“Not right now. The Army is completely full. It’s tanker or nothing.”

Obviously, that guy was a fucking liar. I was sober about 45 days. Neither of my parents had been in the military (my paternal grandfather had been, but he died in 1980). There was no one around to tell me what most service members and veterans know: almost every recruiter is a lying scumbag.

Sure, there may be a good one, somewhere. But finding one is like finding a politician who isn’t influenced by money or a frat boy with empathy.

They lie to meet their quotas. They only care about their numbers. They aren’t there to help someone go to college or get money to help with the family or get trained in something that can actually help in the civilian world.

They lie about bonuses and benefits and duty stations and time off and anything they need to get you to sign the dotted line. They are like Alec Baldwin in “Glengarry Glenn Ross,” except they lack Baldwin’s hair and charisma and they use patriotism to fuck over the recruits.

On top of all this, there is a whole lot of systemic racism baked into the recruiting and placement process. Way more recruiting stations are in poor and urban areas, which is why the US military has a higher percentage of blacks and Hispanics than make up the general population. On top of that, minorities are constantly pushed into the worst military jobs that in no way prepare them for post-military life. Most of the cooks and truck drivers and fuelers I’ve ever met were black or Hispanic. Those are shit Army jobs.

If your kid wants to join the Army (or Marines or Navy), tell them to join the Air Force. I’m only half joking. In all seriousness though, make sure they talk to another adult who is in the military or who was in the military and can give them some real information and share their experiences.

To close, make sure that the potential recruit can answer these questions:

  1. Why do you want to join? Are you bored or running away from something? Is it the benefits? What are the benefits that are being offered?
  2. What branch do you want to join? Why? Have you talked to veterans from other branches?
  3. What job do you want to do there?
  4. Will that job prepare you for work or school after you get out?
  5. What will you do after you get out?
  6. Do you understand that if you sign a 3 year or 6 year contract and are miserable that you can’t get out?
  7. Have you talked to more than one recruiter?