Monday, June 09, 2008

Army Career Counselors Harass Parents

I know our military is stretched thin and recruiters are under a lot of pressure to sign people up, but what happened to Brandon Friedman's mother (Friedman is the Editor of VetVoice and a Captain in the Individual Ready Reserve) is unacceptable and way out of the bounds of common decency in my opinion. In Friedman's words (my emphasis):
My mom called me on Friday afternoon. She was slightly upset, but mostly angry. I asked her why.

She said that two soldiers had come to the house looking for me.

Now, this doesn't surprise me at all. It's not the first time that's happened. In fact, they'd shown up at my parents' house twice before. The Army is so desperate for warm bodies that recruiters and career counselors will pretty much go anywhere if they think they can get somebody to sign up. And I'm still in the IRR, so that makes me a prime target--even though I've already served two tours in combat. But that's not the issue here.

The issue is how these two guys acted. My mom--who rarely gets flustered--explained that the two NCOs who'd come to the house were Army Reserve Career Counselors from the 90th Regional Readiness Command. They had shown up at my parents' house in an attempt to lure me back into a unit. But they didn't just ask.

Instead, according to my mom, they proceed to play good cop/bad cop with her. Sergeant First Class M. played the good cop. He explained that they were just there to let me know what options were available to me, should I want re-join a unit. He handed her his card.

The task of playing bad cop, however, fell to Master Sergeant N. Hovering over her in the driveway, Sergeant N. leaned in and told my mother--at her house, in the absence of both me and my father--that he could "make it easy" on me, and that he could give me "alternatives" if she would put them in contact with me. The implication was clear to my mother: If she wasn't willing to put them in contact with me, it would not be "easy" for me. He wasn't saying it specifically, but, as we all know, he was suggesting that if I wasn't willing to come off the IRR and join a unit, then I'd likely be recalled to Active Duty involuntarily and deployed for a third time.

To a mother who doesn't understand how the Army works, it was easy for him to make her think that he had some sort of say in the process. This is a common technique.

Irritated by his vague threats and intimidation, my mom told them she didn't have any contact information for me. Then she expressed to them that they could leave her home. She called me a while later.

Now, I can tell you, my mom doesn't need the added stress of having soldiers appear at her door. She doesn't need these guys telling her that her twice-deployed son could be sent back to Iraq if she doesn't give out his personal information. And she certainly doesn't need it done in the moderately threatening tone she described.
The tactic is clear according to Friedman: "Use the threat of an involuntary mobilization to coerce a soldier into joining a unit."

As you might have guessed, Friedman didn't let the incident pass. He called the Sergeants and ended up giving them a piece of his mind, and he also read them e-mail messages from other soldiers who were victims of these tactics. This was not an isolated incident. You can read those e-mail messages online too.

The bottom line is that the Army needs to address these tactics. As a mother, I think the Army needs to make it clear that parents are off limits. Harassing and intimidating a soldier's parents is not only morally wrong, it's unprofessional and unethical. Our country deserves better.

Friedman has a few suggestions of his own too:
  • Get rid of policymakers who use the military so carelessly that the mission cannot be accomplished without sending the same soldiers back into combat over and over and over.

  • Get rid of policymakers who allow the Individual Ready Reserve and the National Guard to be used in non-emergency situations and in elective wars.

  • If a war is necessary, and none of the above actions work, then initiate a draft.
  • If it wasn't for those "policymakers" above, this problem wouldn't have existed in the first place.

    (Cross-posted at BFM.)

    1 comment:

    Lew Scannon said...

    In the future, no politician should be able to vote for a war they won't send their own children (or grandchildren) to fight.