Diligent army recruiters are preparing, like students, for the school year. They've spent the summer contacting school officials, offering their help, and anticipating the first day of school. They've sharpened their pencils and polished their boots.
"The goal is school ownership that can only lead to a greater number of Army enlistments," states the U.S. Army School Recruiting Program Handbook. "Like the farmer who fails to guard the hen house, we can easily relinquish ownership to the other services if we fail to maintain a strong SRP [school recruiting program]."
So how does one maintain a strong SRP? Well, "to effectively work the school market, recruiters must maintain rapport throughout the SY [school year] and develop a good working relationship with key influencers."
This means everything from keeping a visual presence in the school to buttering up officials with doughnuts.
The SRP is broken up into four phases, which align with the seasons. In each season throughout the school year, recruiters target various influencers like administrative staff, librarians, and student leaders such as newspaper editors and school presidents.
In July, the Army recruiting handbook encourages recruiters to not "forget the administrative staff since many of them act as representatives for the school policymakers... Always have something to give them (pen, calendar, cup, donuts, etc.,) and always remember secretary's week [April 23-29] with a card or flowers."
In August, the handbook suggests a more student-oriented technique: "The football team usually starts practicing in August. Contact the coach and volunteer to assist in leading calisthenics or calling cadence during team runs."
Later recruiters are encouraged to offer to be time-keepers at football games, occasionally eat at school cafeterias, and offer color guards before the big home game. During the school year intrepid recruiters should "deliver donuts and coffee for the faculty once a month. This will help in scheduling classroom presentations and advise teachers of the many Army opportunities."
With this in mind some parents have spent the summer mobilizing as well, like John Chestnut, who's hosting an opt-out meeting at his home in Los Osos next week.
â€˜Always have something to give them (pen, calendar, cup, donuts, etc.,) and always remember secretary's week with a card or flowers.'
From the U.S. Army School Recruiting Program Handbook
"The No Child Left Behind act allows access to school records and [recruiters] use those aggressively to contact graduating high school students to enroll them in military programs," said Chestnut, whose son William is a sophomore at Morro Bay High School.
The No Child Left Behind Act specifically allows recruiters to acquire students' names, phone numbers, and addresses from secondary schools. But, as Chestnut wants to let people know, there is an opt-out provision.
"The law allows parents or children who have reached 18 to specifically opt out of the database, but that requires a positive act on the part of the parents," said Chestnut. "Just like children under 18 need their parents permission to join the military."
Last year Chestnut became especially aware of the persistence of recruiters when he was hosting an exchange student.
"He was 18 and he received repeated recruiting calls despite the fact that he was an Italian exchange student, said Chestnut. "The disturbing thing was we had opted him out and we were getting the calls anyway."
The Internet has allowed parents like Chestnut to mobilize in ways that might not have been possible before. Web sites like leavemychildalone.org, millitaryfreezone.org, and millitaryfreeschools.org all offer information about opting out and provide forms for students to do so. The Internet also provides an easily searchable database of opt-out gatherings. Chestnut's gathering on Sept. 6 is currently the only opt-out gathering planned for SLO County.
"The focus of our meeting is going to be to try to provide effective response to some of the recruiting benefits," said Chestnut. "Kids are getting money and offers of training and whatnot; that kind of scholarship aid is available in non-military sources. So we're trying to get the word out."
Chestnut also wants to let parents and students know about another list to opt out of. "The military is developing a separate database that it's securing from data vendors, of people it's targeting for recruitment. That also has an opt-out possibility. So what we're trying to do is make sure that parents who are opting out are opting out at both the local school level and the national level."
According to Chestnut, the Central Coast Unified School District gives parents opt-out forms with their student's registration packets at the beginning of the year.
It's not known if Chestnut will be offering doughnuts at his opt-out gathering, but he will have refreshments and he invites all to come (see box for info).
Staff Writer John Peabody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opt out locally
John Chestnut's opt-out gathering is on Sept. 6 at 8 p.m. in Los Osos. RSVP at www.partylaunch.com/workingassets/findparty/index.cfm.