[Marxism] Seattle's Garfield HS PTSA Takes on Military Recruiters

David McDonald dbmcdonald at comcast.net
Thu May 19 09:50:22 MDT 2005

Thanks to Sally Soriano for making this available


Garfield volunteers for military recruiting battle

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Sgt. Melisa Porter had just spread out the freebies yesterday on her Army of
One table -- give-away pens, pencils, computer games, slick brochures --
when the anti-recruiting leader arrived ready to do battle.

"Do you understand that we don't want you here?" said PTSA co-Chairwoman Amy
Hagopian, who came to the Garfield High School lunchroom carrying pictures
of Iraq vets maimed in war.

"Do you see these pictures of people who come home with prosthetics? Do you
see them?" challenged Hagopian, a University of Washington assistant
professor in health administration and the mother of a senior at Garfield.

"My uncle was injured in Iraq in March," responded the young new recruiter.
"And you know what? He feels it was worth it!"

Yesterday was the first day military recruiters have been on campus since
the Garfield High School PTSA passed a resolution seeking to oust them from
public-school campuses. The resolution, first of its kind in the state,
passed May 9.

"Given the seriousness of what they are requesting people to participate in,
we'd just prefer they not be on school grounds, which are supposed to be
protected space for students," said Hagopian.

Seattle School District officials responded to the resolution with a
statement that it is illegal to ban only military recruiters. Under the Bush
administration's No Child Left Behind Act, military recruiters must be
granted the same access to students as college recruiters or job recruiters
at schools that get federal money.

The face-off in the lunchroom comes on the eve of tomorrow's national
"stand-down" day for Army recruiters. Military commanders described the
one-day halt as an effort to re-educate an estimated 7,500 recruiters on
proper conduct.

With recruitment falling far short of quotas -- overall enlistment in the
all-volunteer forces is down about 12 percent since 2001 -- the pumped-up
ranks of recruiters are desperate to "make mission." Some are abusing rules
to do it.

Since October last year, the Army has investigated about 480 allegations of
impropriety. So far 91 have been confirmed, eight recruiters have been
relieved of duty, and 98 have been admonished.

Cases with disciplinary action pending include a Houston recruiter who
threatened a wavering student with arrest if he backed out. Another
recruiter in Colorado faces punishment for helping a student who claimed to
be a dropout fake a high-school diploma and buy products to clean traces of
drugs from his system.

Earlier this month, a New York Times investigation cited cases of recruiters
hiding police records and mental histories of enlistees and providing cheat
sheets for tests.

"Having the stand-down is basically to reaffirm the integrity of recruiting,
to talk about what's right, what's honest," said Sgt. Darrell McAllister, a
recruiter who showed up at Garfield to help Porter pack up and leave after
reporters descended on her.

McAllister said they had suddenly been called by commanders for an
inspection of recruiting tools.

Students watching yesterday's confrontation had a mix of opinions. Sophomore
Ismail Hamza, sipping water from Marine recruiters' give-away bottle, said
it was OK by him if they were there. But he had no intention of signing up.
"You're just going to Iraq. That's all you're going to do."

Local career counselors have received numerous complaints that recruiters
are soft-pedaling combat in Iraq in their pitches. "They're trying to assure
students they won't be sent overseas," Garfield career counselor Karin
Engstrom said. "You can't do that."

Yesterday recruiter Porter told two students that, while there's always a
chance of going to Iraq, a lot of Army Reserve jobs are "less risky ... like
truck drivers."

U.S. military transportation units have suffered significant casualties in
Iraq in random roadside bombings.

Engstrom has told Porter and other recruiters that they can be on campus
only one day a month, and all must come on the same day -- the better to
monitor them. She makes sure to pass out sheets describing "Ten Points to
Consider Before You Sign a Military Enlistment Agreement" when they are

Garfield, whose highly diverse student body of 1,600 is 56.9 percent
non-white, has taken controversial stands before. In 2002, it came up with a
resolution opposing an invasion of Iraq.

The new PTSA anti-recruiting resolution states that joining the military can
be a "life and death" decision.

Opinions on it have been strong from all quarters. Navy Chief Petty Officer
Robert Born wrote in to the school's newspaper: "I find this to be quite
bothersome, as it is the military that provides your school and our country
the freedom to speak without fear of censorship."

Other anti-recruiting movements are also picking up steam.

In recent months, college students in California and New York have forced
recruiters off campus, and in Boston, activists dumped 5 gallons of fake
blood on the doorstep of a recruiting center.

In the Puget Sound area, a group of students and parents stopped a Blackhawk
helicopter from landing on fields at Bainbridge Island High School in April.
The students said the helicopter, used for Army National Guard recruiting
tours, was war propaganda.

Earlier this month, a student at Foss High School in Tacoma sent e-mails to
thousands of activists across the country, urging them to call school
officials after plans for an anti-recruitment "teach-in" hit administrative

Some students at Garfield are planning a walkout Monday and a march on Army
recruiting headquarters down the street.

But not everyone is on board.

Yesterday senior Timmel Bowens, who has signed up with the Army but is still
trying to pass the aptitude tests, said having recruiters on campus is
"cool" and that the PTSA resolution is "not right."

"Why would you prohibit recruiters from coming to high schools if there are
students trying to join up?" he asked, after picking up a giveaway computer
game called "Special Forces" from recruiter Porter's freebie table.

He has seen the game before. "It's like you go 'round and just kill people
basically," said Bowens.

That works for him, onscreen or in real life, Iraq -- or whatever.

"To me, going overseas and killing people, I would feel happy about myself
for that," he said.

This report includes information from The Associated Press. P-I reporter
M.L. Lyke can be reached at 206-448-8344 or m.l.lyke at seattlepi.com

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