Longform

An Army of Anyone

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"For the layperson who doesn't see it work and doesn't know all of the intricacies, it would be pretty doggone difficult to identify the vulnerabilities. If all you had were the recruiters at the station on your side to get you in the Army, you still wouldn't [get in with a fake diploma]. They could not bulldoze it through."

But in Little Rock, Kevin Heitman didn't need a bulldozer to become a U.S. soldier. He just needed a recruiter willing to provide that fake diploma.

"If this is true, this is terrible," says Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Collins of the Arkansas National Guard Recruiting Battalion, the man in charge of investigating Heitman's case.

"I think it is and has always been an isolated situation," Douglas Smith, spokesman for the national Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Kentucky, says of the Colorado recruiting problems. "The vast majority of all recruiters do the job of recruiting for the Army in an outstanding manner. All applicants for the service have to take a drug test; we screen all applicants for a criminal background. We check for a birth certificate, a Social Security number, look at the actual diploma."

Since Stand Down Day, "we've gone about our business of recruiting for America's army," Smith continues. "We had reports of recruiters bending the rules, violating procedures, and the General concluded it was necessary to stop the business of recruiting for a day to re-emphasize to all of us within the command the importance of maintaining America's trust in recruiters and in the institution.... Loyalty, duty, respect, honor, selfless service, integrity and courage -- all those should apply. Making our recruiting goals is important to the Army and to the nation, but doing so with integrity is also vitally important."

The Army will not come close to meeting its goal of getting 80,000 recruits by September 30. So at the same time the military talks about raising standards for recruiters, it might want to consider lowering its standards for recruits. Plenty of young men and women with drug issues and without high school diplomas would love to serve their country; so far, they just haven't found the right recruiter.

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J. David McSwane
Contact: J. David McSwane