In late November, I opened my Facebook account to find a new message from someone I didn’t know. The message, it turned out, had been sent by a local recruiter, inquiring about my interest in the armed forces. The bizarreness of the moment piqued my interest—though perhaps not in the sense that the recruiter suspected—and from that moment onwards, I set forth to learn more about armed forces recruitment at Carmel High.
Although Army and Naval recruiters can be found at college fairs and other events in the area, Marine recruiters are a real mainstay on campus. I was unable to find any numbers or statistics for recruitment on the Monterey Peninsula, but the armed forces appear as strong as ever in the face of increasing international tension—and general economic malaise. The Department of Defense recently announced that “all four active services met or exceeded their numerical accession goals for fiscal 2014, through July.”
Under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, military recruiters are entitled to the same contact information provided to colleges or potential employers. Here at Carmel Unified, like in most of the nation, student home phone numbers are available on an opt-out basis—when students enter the high school, their parents can check a box if they don’t want them to be contacted by recruiters.
Principal Rick Lopez says he allows armed forces recruiters on campus in the same way that he allows college representatives—with the caveat that they limit their presence to students who are interested (and avoid making anyone else uncomfortable in the process).
“I recognize that recruiters fulfill a service to our community and our country … I [tell them] that I don’t mind them being on campus, as long as they only contact students that search them out,” Lopez says.
In my experience, the recruiters have held their end of the bargain (although one student I spoke to was perturbed by the use of social media in recruiting, referring to the dogged determination of some recruiters as “car salesmanship”).
When I approached the recruitment table in the breezeway, I was able to talk with representatives about the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) without any pressure. (The recruiters also offered that I try and see how many pull-ups I could do, but I declined).
After mentioning a scholarship, Sergeant Chad Winchell, the Marines head recruiter for the Monterey Peninsula, invited me to discuss the issue further at the Armed Forces Recruitment Center on Fremont Street in Seaside. I agreed and visited the office on a Wednesday afternoon.
I was welcomed into a memorabilia-filled office by Winchell, and over the course of an hour and a half, we discussed various aspects of life in the Marines. I filled out the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, an eligibility and workplace assessment test, and watched an infomercial video depicting military operations.
At one point, I asked Winchell about the use of new media in recruitment. In response, he matter-of-factly asserted that social networks like Facebook help him to reach more students (through “friend suggestions”) and spread more information about the Marines. After all, teens are “more likely to respond to a message than a phone call,” Winchell said.
While it’s a little disconcerting to think that Facebook now hosts both Farmville and armed forces recruiters, the messages are the same—the only thing that’s changed, according to Winchell, is the medium.
Although I did not sign any paperwork, the recruiters repeatedly assured me that there was nothing binding about our discussion.
“You’re not a Marine until you step into…boot camp,” Winchell said. (And even then, trainees are able to leave if they have a pressing family obligation).
The scholarship opportunities and resources available to prospective troops are certainly impressive, but I’ve personally decided against pursuing this path further. However, for students weighing their options for life after high school, the armed forces could very well be worth a look.