Responding to the recruiters

February 10, 2009

Trey Kindlinger responds to two military recruiters who were upset by students who ran them off campus at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

In January, SocialistWorker.org reported on a victory for activists at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), where protests by members of the Campus Antiwar Network apparently pressured the director for Campus Life to issue an order to stop allowing military recruiters in the Student Alumni Union (see "Recruiters banned at RIT").

The article described the activists' quick response after learning that recruiters for the National Guard were due to arrive on January 15. CAN members organized to confront the recruiters with questions about their policies and U.S. military operations. But the recruiters were unable to reserve a table because of the new policy.

After publishing the article, we received replies from two people who said they were the recruiters referred to in the story.

We asked Iraq Veterans Against the War member Trey Kindlinger, who served in the U.S. Navy for nine years before leaving the military as a conscientious objector, to give his opinion of what the recruiters had to say. Here, we print the recruiters' responses, followed by Trey Kindlinger's answer to their objections.

The recruiters

Jefferey Watts: I was the one guy in uniform you spoke to during the time this all happened. I never said we didn't get shipped overseas. I never said we didn't do active-duty work if we were called upon us to do. I don't appreciate ridiculous statements and lies. Let's try to keep the facts about what went down accurate and truthful.

In fact, I recall picking up the sheet of paper on which you had printed "things recruiters tell you that are untrue," or some propaganda-based crap. I also recall telling the people at the table that I myself was a recruit, and had not gone to basic training, and I had not been lied to by my recruiter or told any of the things on that bit of propaganda you were passing out.

So I suppose if you are going to spread bullshit, you better have some facts next time, and most of all, you better not be making up statements, because it makes you look incredibly ignorant and not credible.

Sgt. Surace: My name is Sgt. Surace (NY Army National Guard). I am the recruiter for RIT. I just want to let RIT students know that recruiters are here for people who want to be a part of the military. We are not here for the people who don't want to enlist.

Antiwar activists picket the main military recruiting center in San Francisco
Antiwar activists picket the main military recruiting center in San Francisco (Jeff Paterson | Not In Our Name)

There are many people out there who have dreams of being part of a team that serves and protect our nation. The National Guard is on call to protect the people of the United States--whether it is deploying to help innocent people who were hurt or killed during 9/11, or deploying overseas to help our active duty men and women.

We all know what we do, and if a person thinks that they are going to join the military and never be in a place they wish they never were in, chances are they will not pass the entrance exam to get in.

Recruiters are the only avenue for people who want to get in to the military. Banning recruiters from campus only cuts off opportunities for fellow students.


Trey Kindlinger

This letter is in response to Sgt. Surace and Jeffrey Watts. As a member of the military for nine years, I find many aspects of their responses to the SocialistWorker.org article offensive and off base.

For one, most people do not join the military because of "dreams of being part of a team that serves and protects our nation." The overwhelming majority of people join the various components of the military for financial reasons. College assistance, health insurance and retirement possibilities are all strong lures to enlistment.

If all who joined the military were joining out of some sense of nationalism, recruiting numbers would have stayed fairly even, and would have jumped during a time of war or national crisis. Yet one needs to look no further than the current financial crisis to see how recruiting goals are only now being met after years of conflict following 9/11.

Secondly, Sgt. Surace's argument that the National Guard is called on to go overseas and fight is a new addition to the Guard's job description. The Congressional Budget Office reported in 2007 that "deployment was a departure from the previous practice of not mobilizing Army National Guard units for 'peacetime' operations." Indeed, prior to 2002, only one National Guard unit on average was deployed overseas.

Post-"Shock and Awe" in Iraq, it has been Pentagon policy to have a deployment rotation of one-for-six for the National Guard. In other words, if a unit does deploy for a year, it should be six years before they go back. But the operations tempo in combat has been much, much higher than that.

Third, a new recruit never knows what he or she will do in the military. The recruiter is the first step into this indoctrination.

Recruiters are trained by professional salespeople steeped in the bait-and-switch culture. They will never tell a potential recruit that they'll never see combat. What they'll tell a young person is that they'll probably never participate in armed conflict, or switch the conversation to all the benefits a potential recruit would receive upon enlistment.

That's why boot camp is crucial in reconditioning civilians. And as for passing an entrance exam, I as well as everyone in the military took the ASVAB. I was never asked whether I wanted to be in a combat zone. I think I would have answered no.

As for Mr. Watts, it appears he has been through boot camp. He didn't mention his time in the Guard, but every person I have ever talked to--in all four branches of the military--has had stories about how they were lied to by recruiters. Mr. Watts would be the first to have no such stories.

The actions of counter-recruiters at RIT stand as an example of true democracy. The CAN chapter at RIT stood up for the truth. The fact that they were able to disband the recruiting mini-station attests to the power of struggle in fighting the under-funding of schools and the military-industrial complex.

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