Wednesday, June 13, 2007

An Insult to Military Recruiters

Ask any member of Congress about the U.S. military, and you'll (typically) get a long speech about their support for the troops, including all the bills and measures they've sponsored to help military personnel and their families.

But every now and then, that facade begins to crack and we discover that some of our Congressmen and Senators have nothing but contempt for the military and those who wear the uniform.

Consider this latest example, uncovered by Rick Maze at Army Times:

A Senate committee has suggested the drastic step of putting video surveillance cameras at military recruiting stations to prevent misconduct.

The idea, proposed by the Senate Armed Services Committee in a report on the 2008 defense authorization bill, isn’t a serious attempt to catch recruiters doing something wrong, since the presence of cameras wouldn’t be secret. Instead, the idea is to provide peace of mind to potential recruits and their friends and families that nothing improper could occur without it being recorded.

Mr. Maze notes that members of the committee are "generally supportive" of military recruiting efforts, and hope that the Pentagon "can find a way to boost confidence in the front-line recruiters by having their every move watched and recorded."

Yeah, that's a real confidence-builder.

In reality, it's nothing but a slap at the integrity and honor of everyone who recruits for the U.S. military. And, as someone who's "done the job," I take it as a personal insult.

During my military career, I served a tour as an ROTC instructor at one of the schools in the Southeastern Conference. Part of my duties involved recruiting new cadets for our program, on campus, at high school, even in their homes. And, by all accounts, I was pretty good at my job. Our enrollment jumped five-fold in a single year, and we produced the second-largest increase of any Air Force ROTC program in the nation.

Despite my success, I discovered that recruiting is tough work. Long hours and a fair amount of travel. Adjusting your schedule to meet with students and parents at night, or on the weekend. Honestly answering questions from prospective cadets and members of their family. Projecting an outstanding image in all dealings with prospects and members of the public, regardless of their feelings about the military. But the effort is worth it, particularly when you watch a young man or woman find themselves (and their career) by joining an ROTC program, or enlisting in the armed services.

I didn't need a camera to "watch my every move," because when Captain Spook went on a recruiting call, his conduct, honesty and integrity were never in question. The same holds true for about 99.5% of the officers and NCOs currently performing recruiting duties for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. True, there have been a few recruiters who've been caught breaking the rules, or engaging in unprofessional conduct. But the military's been successful in identifying those miscreants, and some are now pulling duty at Leavenworth.

Besides, the idea that video cameras could somehow prevent recruiters from engaging in unethical or illegal behavior is ludicrous. A recruiter who spends all of his (or her) time in the office probably won't meet their quota; that's why the good ones spend much of their time at schools or job fairs, trying to generate more contacts--and recruits. If a recruiter is trying to cut corners or sexually harass a recruit, they'll probably save the dirty business for an "out-of-office" business.

Bottom line: placing cameras in the office won't catch the dirtballs, but they will be an affront to the honest, ethical officers and NCOs who bring new recruits into our military. Pentagon leaders should make it very clear to the Senate Committee: we don't need cameras in our military recruiting offices. A process that has opened the gates of opportunity for millions of young men and women doesn't need the intrusion of Big Brother to keep recruiters in line. The existing system for identifying--and punishing--corrupt recruiters is working, thank you very much.

Better yet, military leaders could suggest a compromise that should scuttle this idea, once and for all. We'll agree to cameras in recruiting offices as soon as Congress installs cameras in the office of every Congressman and Senator. We could only imagine what those cameras would have captured in the offices of former Congressmen Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney (now in prison on corruption charges). Or how about Representative William Jefferson, recently indicted for reportedly taking $400,000 in bribes? Or California Senator Diane Feinstein, under an ethical cloud for allegedly steering defense contracts to a firm run by her husband.

Given the antics of "America's only native criminal class" (Mark Twain's timeless description of Congress), I'd say that public confidence would be better served by installing surveillance cameras in the House and Senate office buildings, rather than military recruiting offices.


Adrian said...

It seems to me like the more sensible use for cameras at military recruiting offices would be to discourage against any protesting that might cross the line. Do you know if there was any discussion of that in the bill?

Anonymous said...

Wasn't this a result of that drug-dealing incident a short while back?

Anonymous said...

PS: I see that I can't post links in this new Blogger system. Sorry about the messed up link above.

Any suggestions how to deal with this new, cranky Blogger?!

Unknown said...

Adrian--as I understand it, the cameras would be on the inside of the office, and not much use in photographing protestors.

Hoser--I'm sure the drug-dealing episode was a factor. However, such incidents remain few and far between, not enough (IMO) for the camera option.

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