CR in the News

Recruitment wars

Nancy Townsley And Katie Sipos -

Local mom protests military visits to a Gaston school while a new Marine sees the service as 'another path' to success

Barb Smith of Forest Grove (with protest sign) and Jude Lichtenstein discuss military recruiting at Gaston Junior-Senior High. - photo: John SchragToting a red, white and blue protest sign, Barb Smith showed up outside Gaston Junior-Senior High School last Monday with a singular message: stop recruiting kids.

On the first day back to class after winter break, Smith - a Forest Grove artist and mother whose son, Arlo Gann, is an eighth grader at the tiny rural school - decided she'd let the sign speak her mind for her.

'I seem to have run out of options with the district,' said Smith, who's upset that military recruiters' access to Gaston's junior high students, which was curtailed late in 2010, appears to her to have ramped up again.

'I thought [protesting] might be a way to find other people who think the way I do and get them to come on board,' said Smith. 'Maybe it will start a movement.'

Meanwhile, Marine Pfc. Sara Schaffner, a 2011 Forest Grove High School graduate, has set her sights on continuing a three-generation family tradition in the military. The athletic, strawberry blond 19-year-old joined the USMC when she turned 18 and is stationed in North Carolina, where she's training to become a deployment logistics specialist.

In December Schaffner was home in Oregon, working as a recruiter out of the U.S. Marine Corps Hillsboro office. She visited several high schools, including her alma mater, telling mostly juniors and seniors about her experiences in the service so far.

'[The] military isn't a bad option, especially if you don't have money for college. It's another path that will make you successful in the end,' she says.

Two women, a pair of perspectives

Smith and Schaffner are two different women from separate generations with opposite perspectives about military service - particularly the way young people are recruited in the first place.

In a time of relative peace, when America is active in a single war, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, recruiting by the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines continues unabated. The Army even bumped up its maximum enlistment bonus from $20,000 to $40,000 last year in an effort to woo more recruits.

For Schaffner, joining the military represented a jumping-off point to get to where she wants to go, at least for now.

'I'm not yet sure if this is going to be a career,' she noted. 'I'm still feeling the waters.'

Still, she's proud to be a Marine, following in the soldierly footsteps of her grandfather, her father and her older brother, who's just finishing up his first tour of duty in Afghanistan.

'I wanted to do something with my life that wouldn't be just about me and would impact a lot of people for the better,' said Schaffner. 'I also wanted the honor, the image and the challenge.'

Smith, an admitted pacifist, has started an online blog,, which she hopes will pull like-minded folks toward her side of the political spectrum. But even she knows there will always be a need for young people to fill out the ranks of the country's military forces, something that's supported by federal law in the form of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, formerly the No Child Left Behind Act.

'The law allows military recruiters to be in public secondary schools,' said Smith. 'But my kid's secondary school has seventh through 12th grades in it, so the 12- and 13-year-olds are free to visit with the recruiters.

'That is one thing I hope to change.'

The death in August of Navy corpsman Ryley Gallinger-Long of Cornelius provided a sober reminder that the men and women who sign up to defend our country sometimes pay the ultimate price.

But Joshua Woods said he knew what he was getting into when he signed up.

'My whole family's military,' said Woods, who graduated from Forest Grove High last spring. 'If something happens, if I get hurt or killed, I did my job and served my country and protected the people I love.'

Woods said he was familiar with the realities of military life since he'd had the opportunity to visit bases through his family's connections. After graduation, Woods committed to the Air Force, where he hopes to be trained as a security specialist or a psychologist. 'People are often surprised that there are jobs in the military that will set you up for a job outside - not just toting guns around,' said Woods.

The military offers an array of specializations, ranging from dental assistants to engineers and beyond, said Staff Sergeant Todd Miller of the Hillsboro Army Recruiting Office.

And Forest Grove School District assistant superintendent John O'Neill added that the service provides 'a viable alternative to college' as a potential career. '[It's] a means to develop some knowledge of skills [students] haven't had previously that could serve them in future endeavors,' he said.

Informed decisions

Surveys conducted by local high schools show that military-bound seniors such as Schaffner, Woods and Gallinger-Long are a minority, typically representing no more than 6 percent of a graduating class in western Washington County. Still, some community members want to ensure those students are making informed decisions about a vocation that has received less and less attention in the 10-plus years U.S. troops have been in Afghanistan.

'When I was a kid, the [Vietnam] war was on TV and it wasn't controlled like it is now,' said Marcia Camacho of Forest Grove, a teacher at Cornelius Elementary School. 'It was in everybody's living room.'

In 2010, Camacho helped organize a panel at the Forest Grove City Library for the No Soy El Army tour. It was part of the Rural Organizing Project, an Oregon coalition of community peace and justice organizations that focused on informing Latino residents about what enlisting in the military entailed.

Camacho said recruiters aren't 'always telling the kids everything they need to know' and that she hoped the panel provided the first-hand information students needed to make an informed decision.

Regular visits

In Gaston, where military recruiters make regular visits to the junior-senior high school, principal Mike Durbin says their efforts have yielded relatively few students who actually sign on. Between 2007 and 2011, only nine seniors selected the military as their next step after high school.

Durbin said he and his staff attempted to curtail recruiters' contact with younger students last year by moving them from the main hallway into a designated classroom. But he insisted that in the end, the school can't ensure they don't talk to seventh and eighth graders.

'We will do everything in our power to keep the younger kids out of the area where the military is,' said Durbin. 'But we can't ban them from coming into the main building.'

Durbin is comfortable with what recruiters are saying to students. 'I honestly believe their message is simply, 'Stay in school, study hard and graduate,'' he said.

But Smith alleges that young pupils in Gaston rub elbows with recruiters long before they start receiving materials from colleges in their junior and senior years of high school. 'By my rough estimation, a student may have contact with a military recruiter approximately 12 times a year,' Smith wrote in a 2010 letter to the Gaston School Board.

A master calendar on the district's website reveals that one recruiter visit, from the Navy, occurred this month, on Jan. 4. The Air Force is set to visit Feb. 16, March 15 and April 19, while the Navy is due to return March 7, April 4 and May 2.

Smith originally met with Durbin and Gaston superintendent Dave Beasley in 2010 to express her grievances with the school's military recruitment policy. At first, she said, they advised her to tell her then 12-year-old son not to go near the recruiters, who were set up in a main hallway and had given him a free hat, a water bottle and a lanyard.

A few months later, Smith was happy to get an unwritten agreement with Durbin and school counselor Richard Ceder that recruiters would refrain from talking to seventh and eighth graders, who are typically 12 and 13 years old. But she took to protesting last week because, she said, that pact broke down when she had an argument with an Air Force recruiter in November.

After a tense meeting with administrators, Smith said she was permitted to be in the room when recruiters visit, but was instructed not to speak.

Forest Grove district policy states that it must must provide military recruiters and colleges with names, addresses and phone numbers of all secondary school students, unless those students or their parents tell the school in writing that they want that information kept private.

Principal Karen Robinson said military recruiters visit FGHS 'no more than once a month' and that, instead of an annual career fair, the school hosts monthly 'multiple college visits' as well as opportunities for internships as they come available.

Military 'selective'

Military recruiters say they're aware of public concerns about their recruiting methods and mission, but counter that they, like colleges, are selective. 'We're not here for people with nothing else to do,' Miller said. 'The Army isn't a last resort anymore.'

Only one-fourth of people age 17 to 24 qualify to enlist, and many who make the cut choose to wait, Miller noted. Even though he's from a military family, Miller himself didn't enlist until he was 30, because he 'just wasn't ready for it.'

Schaffner, who earned her first stripes earlier this month at Camp Johnson, looks at things another way. 'College graduates work in fast food joints now. But with the military, if you qualify, that's pretty good job security,' she said.


- Editor's note: Katie Sipos, a Pacific University student, wrote this article for a class project last May. The original story was updated for publication this week.


Protesters shut down recruiting center

Marilyn Bechtel -

FREMONT, Calif. - Over 100 demonstrators, including many from this city's large Afghan American community, shut down its military recruiting center in a non-violent action March 30 2012FREMONT, Calif. - Over 100 demonstrators, including many from this city's large Afghan American community, shut down its military recruiting center in a non-violent action March 30 as they protested the killing of 17 civilians by a U.S. soldier earlier in the month and other atrocities against Afghan civilians, and demanded an end to nearly eleven years of war.

The protest, organized by Afghans for Peace and Iraq Veterans against the War, was joined by others from Fremont's Afghan American community - the largest in the U.S. - and from San Francisco Bay Area Occupy movements and peace organizations. Demonstrators carried posters with photos of the civilians killed March 11, and placards bearing their names.

"Everything is intertwined with power and money and resources," Afghans for Peace member and college student Abass Darab told the crowd as demonstrators blocked the recruiting station's entrances.

Just as Native Americans were forced off their lands over resources, he said, the U.S. is in Afghanistan, "treating people the way we're treating them, because they have natural gas, they have minerals. None of the wars that are happening today have been without a huge impact on resources that are available in those countries.

"Everyone has to wake up and stand up against this," Darab said. "We have to realize they are a minority. The minority has a lot of money but we have numbers and we have power."

Citing the latest polls showing growing majorities, including Republicans, opposing the Afghanistan war, Vietnam veteran Francis Grinnon of Veterans for Peace called on participants to "reach out to the millions of Americans who oppose this war ... We need an independent, mass anti-war movement. We have to go out and do the work and build the movement."

Other speakers drew parallels between the atrocities against Afghan civilians and the murder last month of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Afghans in the crowd echoed the speakers' calls for a speedy end to the war. Said one young woman, a high school senior, "America needs to start solving its own problems. You can't go into another country and solve their problems. The soldiers are making it worse."

Harun Arsalai emphasized that there is no military solution. "The people, not the puppets, need to be in power," he said. "No corrupt leaders, no U.S., no Taliban. Afghanistan is the most fertile country in the world, yet people are starving there, and hundreds of thousands are dying."

Arsalai's father, Mohammad Arsalai, who emigrated from Afghanistan, said, "Everything is being destroyed. The U.S. and the U.S. puppets are destroying all the villages."

The latest opinion polls are showing a big drop in U.S. backing for the war. A New York Times/CBS News poll taken March 21-25 found 69 percent thought the U.S. shouldn't be fighting in Afghanistan, up from 53 percent in November. That view was shared by 60 percent of Republicans, with 40 percent saying the U.S. should leave before the end of 2014, when the Obama administration has projected all troops should leave.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll found 60 percent saying the war was not worth fighting, while a Pew Research Center poll found 57 percent saying U.S. troops should come home as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, reports from Afghanistan continue to allege that more than one soldier was involved in the March 11 killings. Children who witnessed the attack have reportedly spoken of soldiers carrying lights and standing in yards or entering houses, while village elders reported boot prints of several soldiers in the area, and helicopters hovering overhead during the attacks.

Photo: Marilyn Bechtel/PW


Some opt out of military options

11/4/2006 - USA TODAY

Judy Keen -

Kareem Miller, 17, left, greets fellow senior Kristofer Ozga, 17, as they pass each other between classes at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Ill. LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. — Brian Berman, a senior at Stevenson High School, doesn't want to join the military, doesn't want calls from recruiters, doesn't want them at his door.

So his parents signed a form that prevents the school from giving his contact information to recruiters. A provision of the No Child Left Behind law requires high schools to share students' names, phone numbers and addresses with military recruiters unless students or their parents choose to opt out.

Recruiters still come to school, he says, and "try to act all friendly." Berman, 18, doesn't buy their pitches about career and educational opportunities. "It's ridiculous," he says. "They're trying to bribe you to enlist."

Pentagon officials say recruiters just want the same information that goes to colleges and companies to make career pitches to students.

If Berman's parents had not signed the form, the school would be required to share his contact information with military recruiters under the 2001 law.

We Shut Down the Military Recruiting Stations

War Criminals Watch -

students from Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) along with members of Occupy Wall Street, Veterans For Peace, War Resisters League and World Can't Wait shut down three military recruiting stations that are situated within one block from BMCC and Stuyvesant High School on Chambers St. in ManhattanYesterday, approximately fifty people including students from Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) along with members of Occupy Wall Street, Veterans For Peace, War Resisters League and World Can't Wait shut down three military recruiting stations that are situated within one block from BMCC and Stuyvesant High School on Chambers St. in Manhattan. Students and others gathered outside the gates of BMCC on Wednesday morning demanding “Stop the Wars, Stop the Recruiters!”

Protesters and students marched to the Marines recruiting station just across from the college as they chanted, then entered and occupied the office. The marchers then marched to the Army recruiting station just up the block, where Matthis Chiroux, an Iraq War resister spoke out, saying, “They teach you to kill, to kill for capitalism, imperialism, sexism and racism.” Both the Army and Navy recruitment center down the street were already shut for the day – most likely after hearing about the scheduled protest.

World Can't Wait has been protesting outside the recruiting offices and doing outreach at the colleges up the block every Wednesday from noon – 1pm  as part of the We Are Not Your Soldiers project.

Miranda, a student protester wrote:

I am a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College. Every day when I get off the train, I walk one block to get to my classes. On that one block alone, I pass two military recruiting centers. There are four centers within a two-block radius of BMCC and Stuyvesant High School.

Upon reaching the U.S. Marine Recruitment Center, approximately five people went in before the doors were locked. Among those that entered was Elaine Brower, whose son has served in three combat tours in Iraq. She proposed that the commanding officer participate in a debate with a veteran from We Are Not Your Soldiers, to occur at either BMCC or Stuyvesant HS. He declined citing reasons such as it was undesirable to be put on the spot and answer unwanted questions.  And the group proceeded down Chambers to the Army, gathering people and talking to more students as we went.

The movement has volunteers at both BMCC and Stuyvesant HS, passing out flyers and promoting the message of “NOT join the military and DO join the movement to stop the recruiters and the wars.” If you want to get involved, we meet every Wednesday in front of BMCC, there’s always some awesome activity to be a part of. This affects us now. This affects our children. World Can’t Wait.

Occupy Military Recruiters protests can be put together with only a few people to start with - all it takes is the courage to tell the truth and a few friends. Professors, teachers, students, and parents who wish to have the “We Are Not Your Soldiers” tour visit their class can contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Portland high schools set to permit anti-war protesters to recruit students alongside the military

23 October 2011- Oregonian
Betsy Hammond -
Portland Counter-recruiters win equal access

The Portland school board is set to adopt a rule Monday to give "counter-recruiters" skeptical about the value of joining the military the same access to high school students that military recruiters enjoy under federal law.

Instead of standing out on the school sidewalk waving signs and offering fliers, as they have done regularly outside Portland high schools, anti-war activists will be able to staff recruiting tables and hand out pamphlets in the school career center or cafeteria, just like military recruiters in uniform.

"What we want is a balanced account of military service," said school board member Matt Morton, one of at least four board members lined up behind the new rule. "What's key is giving them all the information they need to make good decisions."

Share this

FacebookTwitterStumbleuponGoogle BookmarksRedditLinkedInRSS FeedPinterestInstagramSnapchat
The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY) is supported by individual contributions and a grant by the Craigslist Charitable Fund - 2023 Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. NNOMY websites are hosted by The Electric Embers Coop.

Gonate time or money to demilitarize our public schools



This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of issues connected with militarism and resistance. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Contact NNOMY


The National Network Opposing

the Militarization of youth
San Diego Peace Campus

3850 Westgate Place
San Diego, California 92105 U.S.A.  +1 619 798 8335
Tuesdays & Thursdays 12 Noon till 5pm PST
Skype: nnomy.demilitarization

Mobile Menu