What You Should Know Before Joining the MilitaryThe
Military's Not Just a Job...
...It's Eight Years of Your Life!
ARE YOU CONSIDERING ENLISTMENT?
You've probably heard the ads and the recruiter's
sales pitch. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? All advertising does. But if military life doesn't live up to the advertising,
you can't bring your enlistment agreement back to the recruiter for a refund, and you are obligated to the military for a
total of eight years, including possible reserve duty.
You wouldn't buy a car without looking under the hood. Don't enlist before you check out the reality of military life that
lies behind the glamorous television ads and slick brochures. Check it out carefully!
MILITARY DISCIPLINE AND LIVING CONDITIONS
Do you enjoy being bossed around? Do you want someone constantly telling you what to do and how to do it? If your answer
is "no," you may have a hard time adapting to military life. Federal law states that the military places "numerous restrictions
on personal behavior that would not be acceptable in civilian society." Military members are subject to military law 24 hours
a day--even if they are off duty and off base--from beginning to end of their term (10 U.S.C. Sec.654). Disobedience in the
military can result in court-martial, prison, or even the lifetime problem of a bad discharge.
Furthermore, the enlistment agreement says that your status, pay, benefits and responsibilities in the military
can change without warning and regardless of any prom ises in your agreement!
Not surprisingly, a lot of people express unhappiness after joining the military. For example, in 1997 almost half the
enlisted people questioned by the Army said they were either "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied" with the overall quality
of Army life (Sample Survey of Military Personnel, Army Research Institute).
THE MILITARY JOB TRAINING MYTH
Many people join the military expecting to receive job training. But remember, military training is designed for military
jobs, not to help you get a civilian job later. Even in the technically-oriented Air Force, most jobs require particular military
skills that won't do you much good in the civilian world.
If you get the training you were promised for a particular military occupation, you still might not get any experience
in the job because the military doesn't have to use you in the field you requested. In the Army survey, 67.2% of enlisted
people said they were "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied" with their opportunity to select a job, training or duty station
of their choice; 71.1% were "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied" with their basic pay.
As stated by former-Defense Secretary Richard Cheney, "The military is not a social welfare agency; it's not a jobs program.
THE EASY MONEY FOR COLLEGE MYTH
Recruiters might promise you tens of thousands of free dollars for college, but it's not free--you must work for it. And
it's not automatic. Unless you qualify for special jobs or sign up for an extra-long term, you'll never see the higher amounts
of money. To qualify for any aid at all, you have to pay a $1200 non-refundable deposit to the military. If you receive a
less-than-honorable discharge (as about one in four people do), leave the military early (as one in three do), or later decide
not to go to college, the military will keep your deposit and give you nothing.
According to the Veterans Administration, less than half of eligible veterans are using their educational benefits, which
means the military takes in a lot of money that will not be paid back. In other words, it's really the military that profits,
Colleges can help you find aid if you need it, and it pays to investigate these options before agreeing to give away years
of your life to the military. Once you complete school, you on start earning the higher wages of a college graduate right
In 1991, the head of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights received hundreds of complaints of racism in the military. He
issued a report saying discrimination haunts African-Americans, Latinos and women in the military. In 1998, 36% of the enlisted
personnel were people of color, but only 15.9% of the officers were. Latinos in the Marine Corps, for example, made up 12.1%
of the enlisted ranks, but only 4.4% of the officers. When the Los Angeles Times investigated the Ft. Leavenworth
military prison in 1994, it found that 50% of all the inmates, and 83% of those under a military death sentence, were people
WHAT WOMEN EXPERIENCE
Women often join the military to gain job training and break out of traditional roles. However, women are still limited
in the jobs they actually perform in the military. Even when women and men share the same job title, women are often made
to do the filing and typing, while men get more "exciting" work.
Sexual harassment and rape are a real threat to women in the military. In 1990 and 1995, the armed forces surveyed female
members and found that 64% reported sexual harassment This was twice the rate of harassment reported by women in civilian
jobs in a 1990 Harris Poll. And in 1993, when women veterans under the age of 50 were questioned at the Veterans Affairs Medical
Center in Minneapolis, 90% of them reported that they had been sexually harassed while in the military!
Discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals is not only intense within the military, it is official policy. Witch
hunts to kick lesbian and gay personnel out of the military continue. Since the so-called "Don't ask, don't tell" policy was
introduced, the pace of forced discharges has actually increased. Violence and threats against those suspected of being gay
YOU WILL LOSE BASIC RIGHTS
- If you leave your work without permission, you can be arrested.
- Any disobedience can result in criminal punishment.
- You can be punished without the right to see a lawyer or have a trial.
- Your right to say what you think when and how you want will be restricted.
- Individual expression through the way you dress and wear your hair won't be tolerated.
- You will be subject to routine urine tests for drugs.
WAR -- YOU THINK IT WON'T HAPPEN TO YOU?
Many of the U.S. soldiers who fought in Vietnam, Grenada, Panama and the Persian Gulf, never expected they would be the
ones to see combat. Many of the Reserve soldiers who fought in the Gulf had been told that this would never happen to them.
But the main purpose of the military is to fight wars, and if you enlist you will have no choice if you are ordered to fight
for something you don't believe in--like protecting a foreign dictator or oil profits. After enlisting, if you discover that
your religious, moral or ethical beliefs won't allow you to kill, it will be hard for you to get a discharge as a conscientious
objector (hundreds of US. soldiers were imprisoned when they objected to the Persian Gulf War).
Before enlisting, it's important to talk to a veteran or someone who has fled a war-torn country to learn about the horrors
DEP: THE DELAYED ENTRY PROGRAM
Once you have signed up for the DEP, many recruiters will tell you that you can't get out of it. This is not true. There
are a variety of reasons for DEP discharges, like enrolling in college, finding a long-term job, family hardship, etc. However,
you will need to take steps to get discharged. The military will not automatically do it for you. Contact one of the groups
listed on the back for free counseling and help.
THINGS YOU SHOULD ASK YOURSELF BEFORE ENLISTING:
- Are you prepared to fight in any war, any place, anytime that the government orders you to?
- Have you really considered and checked out all the job training and placement possibilities in your community?
- Is joining the military something you want to do, or are you being pressured into if by other people?
- Is this a spur of the moment decision you may regret later?
- Have you talked to any of the many veterans who didn't like the military? Why didn't they make the military a career?
- If you become unhappy after you enlist, do you know how hard it will be to get out?
- If you get a less-than-honorable discharge, do you know how hard it will be to get it changed?
9 THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU TALK TO A RECRUITER
- Recruiters are interested in you in order to make a sale. If they fail to meet their quota of recruits, they can be forced
to work overtime. An award winning recruiter told The Boston Globe, "You have to convince these little punks to do
something ... I figure if I can sell this, I can sell anything." Another veteran recruiter told a reporter for the Albany
Times Union, "I've been recruiting for years and I don't know one recruiter who wasn't dishonest about it. I did it myself."
- Take along a parent or friend as a witness if you go see a recruiter. That way you'll have somebody to back up your side
of the story if there is a dispute over whether you got what you were promised.
- If you have a police record or medical condition, don't hide it--even if the recruiter tells you it doesn't matter. You'll
be the one in trouble later on, not the recruiter.
- DON'T sign any papers until you have taken them home and read them over carefully. If you ask for a copy
of the enlistment agreement, they must give it to you. If they refuse, don't sign the agreement. REMEMBER, you're not in the
military yet; they can't order you around.
- Talk the enlistment agreement over with your parents and friends, and with a trained civilian counselor. Ask about the
parts of the agreement that you don't understand.
- GET ALL PROMISES IN WRITING and have them signed by the recruitment representative! Spoken promises are
- Get copies of everything you sign. Keep the copies in a safe place.
- If you want one of the military's enlistment options, be sure to ask the recruiter the following questions:
- For how long do I have to enlist to get this option?
- Are there any extra requirements (schooling, physical standards, security clearances, etc.) that I have to meet to qualify
for this option? What happens if I don't meet them, but I've already enlisted?
- For options that include assignment to a particular base or area: am I guaranteed this assignment for the entire time
- REMEMBER: If you don't like your new job, they don't have to let you switch, and you can't quit! Early
discharges that don't also punish you can be hard to get.
FINDING A NON-MILITARY JOB
Looking for a job is hard work, and the better prepared you are, the greater your chance to find, get and keep the job
you want. Following are some jobhunting tips:
KNOW YOURSELF. Think about all of the job experience you have. Don't forget to include volunteer work,
baby-sitting, home carpentry, or painting. Put together a resume that outlines your skills, abilities and interests. If you
don't know how to put together a resume, check with the library or career center at your school. Think about what you want
to do in your life. Talk to people who have the type of job you are interested in. Ask them how they got their first job.
REFERENCES. Employers want to know who you are and if you are trustworthy and reliable. Before you go
for a job interview, get the names, addresses and phone numbers of three people who can tell your employer what kind of person
you are. They should have known you for at least a year and not be relatives. Be sure to warn them so they are prepared to
answer questions about you, if asked.
INTERVIEWS. Go dressed neatly and appropriately. Go by yourself. Be on time. Before the interview, try
to find out something about the company. You can get this information from someone who works there or by researching it at
the library or Employment Development Office. Be friendly during the interview. The only way for them to find out about your
skills, interests and abilities is for you to tell them.
APPLICATIONS. Be sure to bring a pen. To make a good impression, follow the directions carefully and fill
out the application neatly and completely.
For free counseling and more information about what recruiters might not be telling you, contact:
Military Law Task Force
1168 Union St, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92101
military & draft counseling;
Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors
630 20th Street, #302, Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 465-1617, http://www.objector.org
and 1515 Cherry St, Philadelphia, PA 19102
Pre-enlistment, military & draft counseling;
AFSC Youth & Militarism Program
1501 Cherry St, Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 241-7176; www.afsc.org/youthmil.htm
Pre-enlistment, military 6 draft counseling
War Resisters League
339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012
(212) 2280450; firstname.lastname@example.org
Produced by Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities, Encinitas, CA, with special thanks to CCCO, the
War Resisters League, Resist and A.J. Muste Memorial Institute
South Bay Mobilization