The U.S. Army And Recruits as Chattel - Granite Grok

The U.S. Army And Recruits as Chattel

“The Army has carried the American ideal to its logical conclusion. Not only do they prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, creed and color, but also on ability.”   —Tom Lehrer

Army_logoThis story was related to me by a friend. A son of his  friend is at the crossroads of life choices after high school. Entertaining the possibility of enlistment in the Army, he decided to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. (also know as them “ASVAB”). With his inclination toward Army enlistment, he subsequently arranged with the Army recruiter to take the test.

With two locations to chose from for taking the test, either Boston  or Portland, ME. The young fellow picks Portland. The day of testing arrives however,  prior to boarding an army-chartered van, the recruiter tells the test subjects they must all sign, “a piece of paper.”  Perhaps a  liability waiver was expected, but that’s not the young test subjects were given.

No, the Army Recruiter did not ask for a signature on a liability waiver. Instead,  the document, to which their signature was required, asked each test subject  to assent in writing, that once the ASVAB was taken and scored, the scored result would not be submitted  to an alternative service branch. Plainly stated, This U.S. Army recruiter seeks to bind over test takers so they enlist in the Army only, should the test create a likelihood of a more attractive option in another branch.

The test subject advised the recruiter that despite an  inclination toward Army enlistment,  He intend to fully explore alternative  options before contractually committing to the Army.  This resulted in a frosty response from the recruiter who subsequently told him to find his own ride to take the ASVAB, and sent the young man home. So the question is asked, is this  a case of one recruiter way off base?  Or, is this really how the military works today? Both fair questions.

Now, I am not bashing the Army. Despite my service in the USMC, My grandfather died in May of 1945 in Ramagen Germany, serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. Many of my family members served in the Army During World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars. My son is currently active duty Army stationed at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

Moreover, I understand that recruiting for the armed services presents its own top-down pressures for generating numbers, irrespective of whatever branch we talk about. But there are a couple of notions about this incident that stick in my craw. First, it is an “Armed Services” Vocational Aptitude Battery, Not an “Army” Vocational Aptitude Battery. Certainly, when a particular Branch’s recruiting efforts involve even a modest investment, there is an instinct to protect that investment. I suspect that is what this is.

Second, I am not convinced that such an agreement is enforceable in any venue. Lets say the kid simply signed it, said nothing and then subsequently scored well on the ASVAB, creating far more attractive options in perhaps other branches. The test subject chooses one other than the Army. What are they going to do, sue? yeah, not so much.

Third, Once a score is registered all armed forces have a crack at pitching the test subject up until he signs an enlistment contract with a particular branch. There are instances where servicemen make lateral moves from one branch to another. This notion suggests that it would not be possible to do so if any of it were enforceable.

Finally, from a public relations standpoint, this attitude and notion does not speak well to a branch of our U.S. Military. Treating people like chattel smacks of desperation.  As an aside, I understand the Army has differing standards from the other branches. For example, I went to Fort Benning several years ago for my son’s graduation from basic. I asked one of the “drill sergeants,” “Hey, I see a number of fat Drill Sergeants walking around. Do you guys have any physical fitness requirements to train new recruits?” He went red and did not answer the question. Clearly, my question had pissed him off. Army of one? More like an Army of one-and-a-half or two. 

Did I search for something in writing to see if this policy existed? Nope. Did I contact the Recruiting services and ask? Nope. I know how this stuff works. If such a policy like this were in play, it is  not likely found in writing anywhere, because of the ethical considerations. So here is the story. Let the Army defend or deny it otherwise.