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Trump and the Militarization of American Youth

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Recruits take the oath of enlistment in New York City.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.

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.

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.

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Pat Elder is the Director of the National Coaliton to Protect Student Privacy,, NNOMY

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