Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Truth in Recruitment carries on during Covid

 Excellent article posted today in Antiwar.com  by Kate Connell and Fred Nadis about the work of Truth in Recruitment, a group like SOY in Santa Barbara, CA:

Counter-Recruitment in the Time of Covid

In 2016-17, the U.S. Army visited Santa Maria High School and nearby Pioneer Valley High School in California over 80 times. The Marines visited Ernest Righetti High School in Santa Maria over 60 times that year. One Santa Maria alumnus commented, “It’s as if they, the recruiters, are on staff.” A parent of a high school student at Pioneer Valley commented, "I consider recruiters on campus talking to 14 year olds as "grooming" young people to be more open to recruitment in their senior year. I want my daughter to have more access to college recruiters and for our schools to promote peace and nonviolent solutions to conflict."

This is a sample of what high schools, particularly in rural areas, experience nationwide, and the difficulty of confronting the presence of military recruiters on campus. While our nonprofit counter-recruitment group, Truth in Recruitment, based in Santa Barbara, California, views such military access as beyond excessive, as far as the military is concerned, now that the pandemic has closed campuses, those were the good old days. The Air Force’s Recruiting Service Commander, Maj. Gen. Edward Thomas Jr., commented to a journalist at Military.com, that the Covid-19 pandemic and high school shutdowns nationwide have made recruiting more difficult than previously.

Thomas stated that in-person recruiting at high schools was the highest yield way to recruit teenagers. “Studies that we’ve done show that, with face-to-face recruiting, when somebody is actually able to talk to a living, breathing, sharp Air Force [noncommissioned officer] out there, we can convert what we call leads to recruits at about an 8:1 ratio,” he said. “When we do this virtually and digitally, it’s about a 30:1 ratio.” With closed recruiting stations, no sporting events to sponsor or appear at, no hallways to walk, no coaches and teachers to groom, no high schools to show up at with trailers loaded with militarized video games, recruiters have shifted to social media to find likely students.

Yet the school shutdowns, combined with the economic uncertainty during the pandemic, have only made vulnerable populations more likely to enlist. The military also is aware of this. An AP reporter noted in June that in periods of high unemployment, the military becomes a more enticing option to teens from impoverished families.

This is apparent from our work. Truth in Recruitment has been working to reduce recruiter access to students in Santa Maria high schools where the demographics on some campuses are 85% Latinx students, many from immigrant farmworkers working in the fields. Nevertheless, the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District (SMJUHSD) was pleased to report in June 2020 that sixty students from all the area high schools had decided to enlist.

As a group dedicated to regulating the presence of military recruiters on campuses, and their access to students’ private information, we are seeing the consequences of both the pandemic and recruiters’ aggressive social media campaigns. Under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) of 2001, high schools that receive federal funds must allow recruiters to have the same access to students as employers and colleges. This law is often cited when school districts say that they cannot regulate recruiter access to their students and schools. But the key word in the law, which shows what is possible, is the word "same." As long as school policies apply the same regulations to all types of recruiters, districts can implement policies that regulate recruiter access. Many school districts across the country have passed policies regulating recruiter access, including Austin, Texas, Oakland, California, the San Diego Unified School District, and the Santa Barbara Unified School District, where Truth in Recruitment is based.

According to federal law, while districts are required to provide student names, addresses, and parents’ phone number, families have the right to "opt out" to prevent schools from releasing to the military further information about their children. However, now that teens have their own phones, recruiters have direct access to them – following them on social media, texting and emailing them privately – and have access to their friends in the process. Because of this, parental oversight is circumvented and a family’s privacy rights are ignored. Recruiters not only gain access to student’s through their phones, but through ‘surveys’ and sign up sheets, where they ask questions such as "citizenship status?" and other confidential information.

Recruiters online tactics can be dubious. For one example, The Nation reported that on July 15, 2020,the Army’s Esports team on Twitch advertised a fake giveaway foran Xbox Elite Series 2 controller, valued at more than $200.When clicked, animated giveaway advertisementsin the Army’s Twitch stream chat boxes led users to a recruiting web form with no mention of any giveaway.

Recent events reveal that building our military forces does not strengthen our country’s security. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the biggest threats to our nation cannot be stopped with military methods. It has also shown the risks that troops face from working and living close together, making them vulnerable to this deadly disease. In WW1, more troops died from disease than in combat.

The police killings of unarmed black people have also shown the ineffectiveness of force to ensure the safety of our communities. A young black woman on the news testified that she had considered joining the police force but changed her mind after seeing the systemic abuse of police departments, both in the killing of George Floyd and the way police brutalized peaceful protesters. Even more pointedly, the death of US Army SPC Vanessa Guillen, murdered by a fellow soldier at Ford Hood in Texas, after first being sexually harassed by an officer, indicates the unstated dangers that recruits can face.

How can those of us who are opposed to the current militarization of society in general and high schools in particular curtail the military’s push to meet recruitment "quotas?"

Step by step.

Because of the pandemic, TIR has had to adjust strategies and procedures; after winning the right, with help from the ACLU So Cal affiliate, in 2019 to table at high school events in Santa Maria – we are now faced with school closures. So instead, we have been conducting meetings, events and presentations remotely, utilizing services like Zoom. In fall of 2020, we met with the SMJUHSD and the new Superintendent in Santa Maria to establish a working relationship and so progress in our goals.

Throughout the pandemic, Truth in Recruitment has given online presentations to students and local community groups. The focus has been on the stakes of military careers and our campaign to regulate recruiters’ access to students. On social media, we have regularly posted about military recruiting tactics – in order to give students a more balanced view of what life in the military can mean and to recognize that they can choose nonmilitary career options. The presence of military recruiters on high schools does not serve an educational purpose. Our goal is to build student and family awareness so they can make educated choices about their future.

Kate Connell is the director of Truth in Recruitment and the parent of two students who attended Santa Barbara schools. She is a member of the Religious Society of Friends, Quakers. Along with parents, students, veterans, and other community members, she successfully led the effort to implement a policy regulating recruiters in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

Fred Nadis is an author and editor based in Santa Barbara, who volunteers as a grant writer for Truth in Recruitment.

Truth in Recruitment (TIR) is a project of the Santa Barbara Friends (Quaker) Meeting, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. TIR’s goal is to educate students, families, and school districts about alternatives to military careers, inform families of their children’s privacy rights, and advocate for policies regulating recruiter presence on campuses.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

A law clinic at Akins HS and the award -winning Internship leader who initiated it

I heard this story on The Texas Standard today -- what a great program!  Kudos to the law clinic students, to Armin Salek who initiated the clinic and to Dan Rather for awarding Mr. Salek the "best idea to innovate Texas education" award!

Nation’s First High School Law Clinic Nurtures Fledgling Legal Eagles

The sounds of Texas.

By Joy DiazAugust 4, 2020 12:53 pm


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

American Youthworks now enrolling: conservation and green building programs

I've been hearing radio spots on NPR this week that American Youthworks is enrolling students for its programs.  These are good opportunities for learning skills and doing creative, helpful work in areas of conservation and green building.  American Youthworks operates Youthbuild and Texas Conservation Corps, which are Americorps programs that include skills training, living wages, health care and education awards toward college.  These are sustainable options for youth!  Check them out at www.americanyouthworks.org

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

If you or someone you know is in the National Guard and facing activation in anti-BlackLivesMatter policing actions, you do have options

If you or someone you know is in the #NationalGuard and facing activation to participate in anti-#BlackLivesMatter "policing" actions...
Please know that you DO have options to avoid violating your conscience.
For help contact:
GI Rights Network
About Face: Veterans Against the War
Email: support@aboutfaceveterans.org
For veteran peer support

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Veterans for Peace calls on the Minnesota National Guard to Stand Down

Excellent statement from Veterans for Peace:

Veterans Call on the Minnesota National Guard to Stand Down

Veterans For Peace calls for the immediate withdrawal of the Minnesota National Guard. We are appalled to see military weapons, vehicles and equipment once again deployed in U.S. cities to control community members who are reacting to a long history of state-sanctioned violence. When an already embattled community is subjected to militarized intimidation, by design, their environment becomes a war zone. We call on all those who are serving with the National Guard to refuse to serve violent and racist interests.
Veterans For Peace denounces the ongoing instances of police violence against Black bodies and people of color, this time resulting in the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We also stand in opposition to the State of Minnesota’s and the Minneapolis police force’s militarized response to the right to protest.
Learning nothing from the now seemingly endless examples of ineffective attempts to silence protests with militarized violence—from Ferguson to Baltimore to New Orleans to Standing Rock—political figures continue to call on more military to quell the powerful resistance seen from the people in Minneapolis who demand justice. We continue to see the escalation of threats of violence from those in power--from Trump’s tweets threatening to shoot protestors to the governor’s decision to send in the national guard.
As Veterans For Peace, we know that increased militarization in our communities will never bring peace. We know that peace is only achieved with a strong commitment to justice. As veterans who served in various wars, we know there is a connection between increasing racist violence in the United States and the massive indiscriminate killing of hundreds of thousands of people in other lands. Growing racism against black, brown and Muslim people in the United States is a reflection of the racism that justifies killing non-white people abroad. The U.S. military deliberately uses racism to motivate young men and women to kill.
As veterans, we know what it’s like to be called to a “duty” that goes against our conscience. We urge all current National Guard members to lay down their weapons and refuse to fight against their neighbors and fellow community members. We urge you all to be fully informed as you make profound choices with possibly serious consequences. We urge any troops facing possible deployment to Minneapolis or already there to contact the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force at (619) 463-2369 and/or help@militarylawhelp.com for referral to a civilian attorney to discuss your options.
Our nation’s consistent option for militarization and the use of deadly force when it is not needed—at home and abroad—is exactly why we find ourselves in this situation. It makes no sense to think more violence and trauma heaped upon the Minneapolis community will quell the unrest. The Governor has moved beyond using a militarized police force to using the military. He is relying on intimidation and fear to end this. The only thing that will quiet this storm is justice.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Former US Air Force drone operator speaks out about atrocities of the US military

Drone operators in the US Air Force have suffered Post Traumatic Stress Injuries from their roles in remote killing.  War is not a game.  It dehumanizes on all sides.  A former drone operator testifies in an article in The Independent, by Craig Graziosi, February 8, 2020:

Brandon Bryant was enlisted in the US Air Force for six years. During his time with the military, he operated Predator drones, remotely firing missiles at targets more than 7,000 miles away from the small room containing his workspace near Las Vegas, Nevada.Mr. Bryant says he reached his breaking point with the US military after killing a child in Afghanistan that his superiors told him was “a dog.” Mr. Bryant recalls the moment: After firing a Hellfire missile at a building containing his target, he saw a child exit the building just as the missile struck. When he alerted his superiors about the situation after reviewing the tape, he was told “it was a f***ing dog, drop it.”Following that incident, Mr. Bryant quit the military and began speaking out against the drone program. During his time in the Air Force, Mr. Bryant estimates he contributed directly to killing 13 people himself and says his squadron fired on 1,626 targets including women and children. He says he has been left suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.     Mr. Bryant said he saw the man he targeted bleed out from his legs and watched as his body went cold on his thermal imaging screen. “The smoke clears, and there’s pieces of the two guys around the crater. And there’s this guy over here, and he’s missing his right leg above his knee. He’s holding it, and he’s rolling around, and the blood is squirting out of his leg … It took him a long time to die. I just watched him,” Mr. Bryant said in an interview with GQ.“That image on the screen is still in my head. Whenever I think about it, it still hurts me,” Mr. Bryant said. “When I pulled the trigger, I knew that it was wrong. When the middle struck I knew in my soul I had become a murderer.”Other airmen in Mr. Bryant’s squadron celebrated his first kill, saying “Brant’s popped his cherry.” Mr. Bryant was enlisted from 2006 to 2011, working as a sensor operator, which helps direct missiles to their targets.  
In a conversation with the Roots Action Network, Mr. Bryant recalled an instance early in his enlistment where he and his fellow drone operators were shown a video montage of drone strikes, after which they were told their jobs were to “kill people and break things.”
“It went against everything that I had ever learned about honor and justice and training. It was terrifying how dismissive people were about the whole affair. We were safe in the U.S. and those over there were not. We win. But that’s not how it goes,” Mr. Bryant said. 
Mr. Bryant said that despite his misgivings about the program, his superiors used punitive measures and mockery to keep him in line. 
“It broke my spirit. It went against everything I learned about being a warrior, about holding yourself to higher standards. My superiors psychologically beat me and ridiculed me to keep me in line. They took away my free time and forced me to sit in a seat or be tried under the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) for disobeying orders,” Mr. Bryant said. “In a sense, it was my prison. I served my time to learn and reflect. And so I hold the key now, to the entire apparatus. I just don’t know what to do with it.”
He has said the US military is “worse than the Nazis” because “we should know better.” 
Mr. Bryant said he and his family have been threatened for speaking out against the drone program and that he has lost friends and been estranged from other members of his family over his whistle-blowing. 
Ultimately Mr. Bryant wants the public to understand the dehumanizing effect of the drone program on the operators and the individuals targeted. 
“I would want people to know, beyond its existence, the consequences it has on us as a species to delineate our power into something so easily destructive. Every time we get closer to that edge, we’re going to have to realize where it places us,” Mr. Bryant said.
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