Voice in the Wilderness

The news about the "war on terror" your local newspaper won't print.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Looking for a Few Good Hostages

Military recruiters have had it rough recently. The Army is projecting that it will fall short of its annual recruiting goal for the first time since 1999.

Seems that young men and women and their parents wouldn't mind joining up for four years if it means a subsidized college education and job experience, but they draw the line at joining forever with the possibility of getting blown up in Iraq.

Some of the options being discussed at the highest levels include adding bonuses, increasing subsidies for college and so on. But little that's being mulled over can come close to what's come to public light recently.

In Colorado, one recruit related how recruiters told him how to fake getting a high school diploma so he could enlist. Another told a Denver TV station of similar attempts top falsify records. In Houston, recruiters allegedly told a young man he'd be arrested if he didn't show up for a recruitment appointment. (Read the full story.)

But even that's niggling stuff compared with what the Marines are being accused of on the west coast. In northern California, two Marine recruiters have been accused of sexual misconduct. Seems that Staff Sgt. Joseph Dunzweiler and Sgt. Brian Fukushima told a potential recruit that sex was a requirement for joining the Marines.

The investigation is being confined to the military; there are no civilian charges pending. And maybe it's just boys being boys. After all, these guys work hard.

But that doesn't excuse what apparently happened to a Seattle teenager named Axel Cobb. Susan Paynter, a columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, related an odyssey of harassment that started with repeated phone calls and included what could be described as kidnaping. (Read the entire story.) Paynter writes:
The next weekend, when Marcia [Axel's mother, Marcia Cobb] went to Seattle for the Folklife Festival and Axel was home alone, two recruiters showed up at the door.
Axel repeated the family mantra, but he was feeling frazzled and worn down by then. The sergeant was friendly but, at the same time, aggressively insistent. This time, when Axel said, "Not interested," the sarge turned surly, snapping, "You're making a big (bleeping) mistake!"

Next thing Axel knew, the same sergeant and another recruiter showed up at the LaConner Brewing Co., the restaurant where Axel works. And before Axel, an older cousin and other co-workers knew or understood what was happening, Axel was whisked away in a car.

"They said we were going somewhere but I didn't know we were going all the way to Seattle," Axel said.

Just a few tests. And so many free opportunities, the recruiters told him.
He could pursue his love of chemistry. He could serve anywhere he chose and leave any time he wanted on an "apathy discharge" if he didn't like it. And he wouldn't have to go to Iraq if he didn't want to.

At about 3:30 in the morning, Alex was awakened in the motel and fed a little something. Twelve hours later, without further sleep or food, he had taken a battery of tests and signed a lot of papers he hadn't gotten a chance to read. "Just formalities," he was told. "Sign here. And here. Nothing to worry about."
By then Marcia had "freaked out."

She went to the Burlington recruiting center where the door was open but no one was home. So she grabbed all the cards and numbers she could find, including the address of the Seattle-area testing center.

Then, with her grown daughter in tow, she high-tailed it south, frantically phoning Axel whose cell phone had been confiscated "so he wouldn't be distracted during tests."

Axel's grandfather was in the hospital dying, she told the people at the desk. He needed to come home right away. She would have said just about anything.
It took an attorney to spring the teenager from this house arrest. And Axel, whose father was a Marine Vietnam vet and died when Axel was 4, now has a different view of the elite fighting force who want a "few good men." But then again, the armed services are desperate these days. And desperate men will do desperate things.


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