After a local scandal made them stand down, Army recruiters work to put more boots on the ground.

Granted, section 9258 allows secondary school students and their parents to request that info not be released to military recruiters without written consent and requires that educational agencies and schools let parents know about this option. But Erin Durban, the youth-and-militarism program director for the Colorado branch of the American Friends Service Committee, an organization affiliated with the Religious Society of Friends, aka the Quakers, fears that most parents have no clue about this release of information, let alone the stipulation allowing them to stop it. "Some of the districts in Colorado won't even disclose to us if they have a policy about this or not," she says. "So how can parents know about it?"

To make sure even reluctant educators live up to their legal responsibility, the AFSC created "12 Days of Opt-out," a September campaign intended to inform parents and students that they can "opt out" of releasing their contact information to military recruiters. As part of this effort, Durban and her staff tried to figure out how districts on the Front Range handle opting out, and they discovered plenty of inconsistencies. Their research shows that schools in Denver, Jefferson County and the Poudre School District have designated a single individual to handle all opt-out forms for schools in their areas, but institutions in the Boulder Valley and Colorado Springs districts set up their own procedures, thereby creating a confusing patchwork of guidelines. And elsewhere in the state, Durban found that even mentioning the idea of opting out was often greeted with hostility. She notes that one superintendent she contacted expressed his displeasure by referring disparagingly to "the un-American Friends Service Committee."

The Student Privacy Protection Act, a bill sponsored by Representative Mike Honda, a California Democrat, would simplify things for pacifists by requiring that parents who want the military to get their contact information sign a form allowing it, rather than having recruiters receive everything automatically. But with the odds extremely slim that the legislation will pass, the AFSC plans to energetically publicize the opt-out alternative in conjunction with several other groups in the rapidly growing anti-war movement, including the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth and Leave My Child Alone. The latter is distributing a DVD starring controversial peace-activist mom Cindy Sheehan, who decries unsolicited calls from recruiters with this comment: "If it was, like, a marketer that kept on trying to call you, that would be illegal. But it's okay for the military to do that, because apparently they don't have to answer to anybody."

Matt Collins
They offer the basics: Sergeant Rodney Shivers at 
the Westminster recruiting office.
Mark Manger
They offer the basics: Sergeant Rodney Shivers at the Westminster recruiting office.

To Brodeur, such remarks reflect a brand of bias that makes his job that much tougher. "At the end of the day, young people see influencers as their most credible source of information," he says. "But these influencers -- which take the shape of a father, a mother, an aunt, an uncle, a religious leader, sometimes a coach -- are where we find most of our obstacles. If influencers would let young people make a decision about the Army based on the pros and cons instead of the preconceptions they might have, I think our contract rate would be much higher."

Shivers, meanwhile, does his best to turn himself into an influencer. He instructs one Pomona girl to put his business card on the family refrigerator to annoy her brother, who's in the Navy, and when a tall kid with braces and a Hawaiian shirt asks him, "What's your weapon of choice?" he answers with unfeigned zeal.

"The M4," Shivers declares, his eyes shining. "You can maneuver it, because it's got a sling. You can wear it on your back and then pull it out like a sword. It's awesome."

A boy wearing an untucked gray dress shirt with a casually knotted tie sidles up to Shivers a moment later. "I've always wanted to be in the Army," he announces.

"What's stopping you?" Shivers wants to know.


"How old are you?

"Fifteen," the boy answers.

"It's still stopping you. You've got to be seventeen."

"I thought you had to be eighteen."

"Seventeen with parental consent," Shivers confirms.

The boy's expression brightens in a way that Shivers recognizes. "If someone is really interested in the Army as a career, they'll come up and tell you," he says as the student departs. "They're just like I was when I was a kid."

Although he's always had a thing for firearms, Shivers's initial attraction to the Army was all about pragmatism. The youngest of eight children born into a single-parent home in economically depressed Dayton, Texas, he greatly admired his older brother, who'd joined the military years earlier. "I'd watch him coming home, driving different cars, wearing nice clothes, and then I'd see his peers stuck in dead-end jobs, going nowhere," he recalls. "And I thought, whatever the military is doing, it's doing something right."

Less than a month after graduating from high school, he entered basic training, which he describes as "a surprise. I didn't think it would be, the way I was -- the kind of guy with a big ego. But all of a sudden, here was a guy shorter than me breaking that ego down to shoe size." To prevent his recruits from suffering the same shock, he runs them through a basic-training primer outside the Westminster office. After surviving his regimen of sprints and calisthenics, "They say basic was easy."

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