Trump and the Militarization of America  

By Pat Elder, Director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy 

How the new administration may be expected  to shape a new direction in military recruiting

 The Trump administration is ushering in a frightening new era of American military expansion. President Trump says he will add 60,000 troops to the Army and increase the Marines by over one-third, or about 66,000 soldiers. Hundreds of new ships for the Navy and fighters for the Air Force will also require substantially larger forces. Exactly how will Trump’s Defense Department aggressively recruit reluctant youth into the military to meet these new requirements?

Currently, the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command, (USMEPCOM), facing a skeptical public and the lowest civilian unemployment rates in ten years, has been forced to adjust its standards to meet recruiting goals. Long-held prohibitions regarding marijuana use, tattoos, and enlistment for single parents are in the process of being relaxed. Waivers are being granted for asthma and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The Army’s top command is considering relaxing obesity requirements for Military Occupational Specialties (MOS’s) that don’t require a great deal of physical stamina.

A group of recruits take the oath of enlistment in New York City. D. Myles Cullen/US Army

To find new soldiers, America’s military recruiters have adopted extraordinarily deceptive and reprehensible psychological methods. USMEPCOM, known as “Freedom’s Front Door,” is an archaic institution in dire need of systemic reform, unlikely to happen under the Trump regime.

General James Mattis, Trump’s pick to be Defense Secretary, can be expected to promote an exceptionally aggressive recruiting environment. “Mad Dog” Mattis, who once exclaimed, “it’s good fun to shoot people,” was the Commander of a Marine Recruiting Station in the 70’s when recruiting faced widespread public opposition after Vietnam. Those who worked with him say Mattis was unusually successful at recruiting. The Marines have trotted him out during his career to give motivational speeches to recruiting station commanders. He knows the dishonest and subversive psychology of the trade.

American society has long revered killer-intellectuals like Mattis. In fact, the US Senate recently voted 98-1 to confirm him. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was the lone dissenting vote. Gillibrand is acclaimed among peace and civil rights circles for calling out “toxic leadership” in the military’s chain of command. A Gillibrand report on four of the largest U.S. Military bases found that nearly half of the survivors who reported sexual assaults dropped out of the military “justice” process. Gillibrand has argued for reform in laws governing sexual assault crimes in the military, saying that prosecutors outside the military chain of command should handle the cases. Mattis fought against Gillibrand’s measure, which was ultimately defeated.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, (D-NY)

Following is a brief outline of the current state of military recruiting in the US and a gloomy projection of how bad things are likely to get. Do you know where your children are?

First, its necessary to understand that nearly 40% of all Army enlistees never complete their first term. 40%!  Imagine, for a moment, the emotional suffering endured by those who really didn’t “volunteer” in the first place – and there’s the rub. In thousands of cases, Johnny joined without mom and dad’s blessing. Mom said it wouldn’t work and Johnny was home after his disastrous boot camp experience.

Recruiters have monthly quotas, despite protestations by civil rights activists and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The numbers are staggering, and it’s likely to get worse. For instance, there were more than 20,000 deserters from the Army alone during the period from 2006 to 2014.  Most got a slap on the wrist.  The way the Army sees it, it’s easier for recruiters to chill with kids in high school cafeterias to drum up new recruits than it is to chase down and re-integrate the deserters. Adolescent recruits with severe ADD, ADHD, depression, and anxiety disorders are being cajoled into the armed forces. Mental illness and learning disabilities have become the new “don’t ask – don’t tell” in the world of military recruiting.

The American military is a monstrous institution.  Musculoskeletal injuries alone result in 2.2 million medical encounters yearly. Half of the 770,000 active-duty soldiers polled two years ago “have little satisfaction in – or commitment to their jobs.”  Nearly half of the 1.6 million veterans of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have filed injury claims, and military suicides and sexual assaults are at or near an all-time high, yet Americans consistently rate the military as their most trusted institution. It’s the result of one the most expensive and successful propaganda campaigns ever waged in human history. Even with a mountain of lies and billions spent, the Pentagon must still grovel for recruits. 

Consider that the National Guard spent $136 million from 2008 to 2012 to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s #88 car while the sponsorship failed to net a single recruit. 

Quite simply, the job of military recruiters is to convince unwitting youth to sign DD Form 4, the military’s enlistment agreement, which contains a clause that gives the military the right to change a soldier’s pay, allowances, benefits, and responsibilities without notice and without having to give a reason. The form has almost all soldiers commit to 8 years (4 active and 4 reserve), with the possibility for indefinite service in times of emergency. The kids often don’t know what they’re signing because the high schools don’t teach that stuff. This aspect of the recruiting process couldn’t get worse under Trump’s military – short of forced conscription.

We can look forward to an expansion of the wildly successful Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program, offered to more than half a million kids in over 3,400 high schools nationwide. 65% of these programs are located at high schools in the South, the cradle of a new military caste. Already, 44% of all recruits come from the South. 

40% of the kids who complete the JROTC program enlist in the armed forces.  Congress has already required the Secretary of Defense to implement a plan to increase the number of JROTC units to not less than 3,700 by 2020. Realizing it can get more bang for the buck through the proliferation of the JROTC, Congress may be expected to hike that figure. 

It’s not on many radar screens.

JROTC is the mechanism through which fascist-militarists teach a reactionary brand of U.S. history and government, while classes are often taught by untrained military retirees with no college education. They are usually the only non-degreed instructors allowed to be in the classroom with students absent professional personnel.

The U.S. is viewed in JROTC textbooks as the epicenter of the world, while multilateral solutions to complex problems are discouraged. There are numerous historical inaccuracies throughout the textbooks. Meanwhile, local school authorities exercise no control over instruction. We helped Cubans gain their freedom from Spain. The US had to bomb Hiroshima to save a million American lives.  The U.S. set up a democracy in South Korea after WW II.  In a discussion extolling the virtues of American spying, The Junior-year Army textbook contains this outrage, “In Chile in 1973, for example, the CIA took part in overthrowing the government of Salvador Allende. The United States government thought Allende was not favorable to our national interest.”  End of discussion.

The Army JROTC textbook’s unit on citizenship is entitled, “You the People.” It is frightening to consider that 9th graders are being involuntarily placed in these programs. School systems across the country are allowing students to substitute JROTC classes for core curriculum subjects like civics, physical education, and science.

The Pentagon uses the JROTC program to team up with the Congressional gun-peddler, the Civilian Marksmanship Program, (CMP) to extol the seductive power of the trigger as a recruiting device. 

It’s a simple matrix. More adolescent fingers wrapped around more triggers in more high schools result in more recruits. Many of our children love shooting and killing, while the line between the Army’s virtual games and the real thing is intentionally blurred in their developing brains. We can look for more development and promotion of the America’s Army 3 video game, rated Teen, Blood, Violence.  (Our tax dollars ar work). Under Trump, we can expect an increase from the current 2,400 high schools that carry marksmanship programs and send students to attend NRA-sponsored tournaments.

High school JROTC students practice shooting in the gym. – National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth

Schools typically allow shooting to occur during school hours in classrooms and gyms that are contaminated by lead pellets fired from CO2 air rifles. Lead fragments become airborne and are deposited on the floor at the muzzle-end and the target backstop. Kids often track the lead throughout the school. Loose enforcement of regulations by the CMP creates a health hazard for students and staff. School officials in large jurisdictions are sometimes unaware the firing ranges are operating in their classrooms. 

Trump can also be expected to order the Army to donate 100,000 warehoused semiautomatic M1911A1 pistols to the CMP for sale at discount prices to the public. The CMP’s vision is to promote marksmanship training and firearms safety with a special emphasis on youth.

Look for the Trump administration to allow the sale of old Army .45 caliber semiautomatic M1911A1 pistols to the public.

Under Trump, we’re likely to see a robust expansion of military testing in our high schools. Already, 12,000 high schools give the military’s enlistment test annually to 650,000 kids, most without parental knowledge or consent. The most sought-after data the military extracts from the schools pertains to a child’s cognitive abilities. It is data the Pentagon cannot purchase outright or find online, and it is gained through the deceptive administration of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, (ASVAB).  ASVAB results are the only student information leaving America’s classrooms without parental consent, a violation of FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Nearly a thousand schools now force their students to take the ASVAB and several states have approved passing the military test as an alternative method for earning a high school diploma. Scoring a 31 on the ASVAB – the minimum allowed by the Army – is equivalent to an 8th grade education. Increasing numbers of states are also encouraging military testing in the high schools as a way to ascertain a child’s career readiness. Many of these programs originated during the Bush years, grew exponentially during the Obama years, and are now positioned to become the norm nationwide. Recruiters use the data to create a precise psychological profile before first contact. 

A frightening aspect of militarization in the schools was announced during the last few weeks of the Obama Administration. DOD Directive 5210.56 allows recruiters to be armed when they visit the high schools. The order conflicts with the laws of many states and local jurisdictions with school gun bans. Supporters say recruiters will help provide security, in addition to their other functions like coaching, running military programs, chaperoning after-school clubs, and counseling students. 

As a candidate, Trump said he would get rid of gun-free zones if elected because he believes they attract mass shooters. Press Secretary Spice recently hinted that an executive order banning gun-free zones is in the works.

Countering military recruitment in the nation’s high schools confronts a dangerous mix of institutionalized violence, racism, militarism, nationalism, imperialism, classism, and sexism.  Our wars start in our high schools.  Do you know what’s going on in your schools?

Pat Elder is the Director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy and the author of “Military Recruiting in the United States.”  www.counter-recruit.org

One Response

  1. Great article! Militarization of our schools has been increasing throughout the Bush and Obama presidencies, and I hope that fear of what Trump can do to the world and to our young people will get us moving to limit this. Protect not just your kid, but all kids, by recognizing that the schools are set up to get students to the military, and protest and change policy at your local level.

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