After a whole day in the hot sun, the rock-climbing wall provided the group of camouflage uniformed Army service members with some shade as they concluded a day of recruiting at CSUN. The recruiters had erected the wall next to a shiny black Hummer on the lawn in front of the Oviatt Library.
For potential recruits, information about how to join the Army is accessible through the local area recruiters or on the Internet. For the press, when it comes time to ask recruiters about their recruitment efforts, the situation is a bit more difficult.
Sgt. Frederick L. Marion, Jr., the station commander for the Army’s recruiting office in Reseda, is cautious not to talk to the press without his superior’s approval.
“It’s not that they tell us what to say,” said Marion who, according to policy, requested that questions be submitted before an interview.
The Army has expressed concerns that the news media only report the negative stories about the current war on terror and fail to report the positive news. Marion echoed the military’s concern that the media coverage should be more balanced and include an equal number of positive stories about the war. He stressed the importance of objective reporting by using his cupped hands to illustrate a weighing scale.
In June, the Army exceeded its monthly recruitment goal by 156 with 8,756 people recruited for active duty, according to a July Department of Defense press release. The Army, the Marine Corps, the Navy and the Air Force all met their active duty recruiting goals in June, according to the report.
“There has been an increase in contracts awarded to advertisement in regards to recruiting,” said Stewart Upton, a Press Officer for the Department of Defense.
To meet demands for increased enlistment, the military is utilizing new ways to reach and educate potential recruits, including NASCAR racing sponsorships, TV shows like “JAG” and “NCIS,” and SGT STAR, an interactive Web-based recruiter. The Army has also doubled the enlistment bonus from $20,000 to $40,000, and raised the enlistment age limit from 35 to 45 while at the same time also recruiting people out of high school.
According to Army Captain Brian Johns, commander of the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps at CSUN, he accepts recruits who have had misdemeanor charges such as speeding tickets.
“It’s a judgment call,” said Johns, who acknowledged that young people do make mistakes. Johns emphasized the importance of good moral standards and continuous evaluations of the recruits.
Recruitment phone calls to students have been the subject of recent controversy. The No Child Left Behind Act requires federally funded high schools to provide the Department of Defense with students’ contact information.
On GoArmy.com recruiters can chat with visitors and answer questions about the Army. However, to enlist one needs to see a recruiter in person for the initial evaluation. The Army has recently embraced Myspace.com and offers a range of interest groups, the option of adding official Army banners and pictures, and other ways for users to add some Army flair to their profiles.
“Our cadets are really into MySpace,” said Johns, who recently spent 16 months in Iraq starting in June 2004.
Despite new recruitment methods, campuses are still preferred areas to recruit.
“You need an appropriate number of personnel out there to provide personal information,” said Upton.
Johns is in charge of training 30 ROTC cadets at CSUN. In addition to their regular college course load, they go though training preparing them for their officer training at a military college, including a 6 a.m. physical exercise three times a week.
“We want to produce good quality officers,” said Johns, who admits that failing to meet the commission goal “hurts us inside” because it is a “matter of pride.”
The UCLA/CSUN ROTC battalion has missed its commission goals for the last couple of years with about two to three recruits and has set the 2008 goal to 23 recruits.
Although the Army has increased the financial incentives for enlisting, Johns said he believes that recruits should have a moral rationale to enlist and a belief in the overall mission.
“You should know what you are getting into,” said Johns, referring to deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, where close to 3,000 American service members have died. “You see the worst and the best in humanity.”