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When Army Recruiting Gets Personal

By Tiffany Charbonnier
Brooklyn College

Brooklyn College students have been getting a rude awakening as Army recruiters have begun giving students personal phone calls.

What most students don't realize is that these calls are, in fact, legal. Since 1994, the U.S. Military and ROTC (Army Reserve Officers Training Corps) can attain directory information including students' phone numbers without students' consent from public schools like Brooklyn College for recruitment purposes. In exchange, the Secretary of Defense supplies federal grants (including research grants) to these public schools under the Solomon Amendment.

With an increased numerical goal for the amount of recruits brought into the Army each fiscal year, the Solomon Amendment, a federal law, comes in particularly handy. Under the amendment, an entire university can lose its federal funding if any of its schools block access to recruiters. Thus, all the colleges under the CUNY system must submit to CUNY's adherence to the amendment.

"At first, I thought the ROTC was a good opportunity. It offered to pay for all my school bills. But they wanted to meet two weeks out of the month for like six to eight years. It was a really big commitment that I didn't want to make. They came to my house, then, and wanted to bring me to the base. They were really pushy about it," said Justine Johnson, a senior majoring in economics.

"If you don't want to take out loans and you have the discipline to do it, it's a good idea. For me, I was like, um, never mind. I don't mind taking out loans," she continued.

"I got a call from the Army saying there's a whole bunch of opportunities. I said I didn't want to go. I don't see the point of it. I'd rather go to college. I'm only 17," said Nick Rozinon, a freshman majoring in business, management and finance.

Capt. Matthew Peck, company commander for recruiting at Brooklyn South Company, holds seven Army recruiting stations that recruit in Brooklyn including the Flatbush area, stresses the many benefits of joining the Army when he makes phone calls.

"We supply Army scholarships up to $80,000 for four years under the GI bill. If you're looking for excitement, you can travel with the Army to other states, like Hawaii, and other countries, like Korea.

"There is a sense of pride in the Army, and guaranteed income and benefits that establish an economic stability that perhaps other Americans cannot attain in this country during our current economic situation," said Capt. Peck.

While everyone who joins the military signs up for eight years of service, such service can fall under either the active Army or the Army reserves.

"The active Army is what people normally think of when they hear the Army. They picture a soldier. The Army Reserves, on the other hand, is like the National Guard. You train with the Army and then find a place to live and find a job, and remain close for emergency calls," said Capt. Peck.

Such opportunities are also tailored to each student. "There are three different areas underneath the Army: the Air Force, the Navy, and the Marine Corps. There are different programs and different options depending what you join. You can either be on a ship, or directly supporting a ship," continued Capt. Peck.

Before boarding the ship, however, students have the right to refuse to be contacted via telephone.

"The Army requests students' information through the registrar's office under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The records access officer, the college's legal officer, reviews the request and advises the registrar's office what information may be released. Students who fill out a general ‘do not release' form with the registrar's office will not have their information given to the military, or any other outside group requesting directory information, without the student's written consent,' said John Hamill, of the office of communications at Brooklyn College.

"While a few students have expressed concern over the years about this, once it was explained to them that we were legally bound to do so, they understood the College's position," continued Mr. Hamill.

"I've gotten calls from the Army many times. I don't like it. I don't agree with the Middle East, and I don't feel like being shipped to the Iraq War when no one even knows why we're there. And I also see a trend; you don't ever see the Army standing outside of NYU or Columbia," said Fikret Metjahic, a senior majoring in business, management and finance.

Mr. Metjahic is right. "A lot more people go through the CUNY system than anywhere else, and that's why we would target it more than other city schools," said Capt. Peck.

On the other side of the private/public coin, private schools are more likely to turn down federal funds. At least three institutions, including Vermont Law School, New York Law School and William Mitchell College of Law, have declined to allow military recruiting on campus and, thus, federal funds as well.

"We've been very successful in reaching our goal for this fiscal year, which ends at the end of this month. Our goal for the active Army is 80,000 soldiers. Our goal for the Army reserve is 26,200. We do recruit via telephone, but we also have national advertising on the Internet and TV, in magazines and movie theatres, etc. We recruit like any marketer would," said Douglas Smith, of the public affairs office within the U.S. Recruiting Army Command located at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

With the extensive list of benefits in joining the Army, one of the most highlighted is the opportunity to serve the people of the United States and live the Army values.

"We're here to serve the Army and protect the country. That's what we've done for 233 years, and that's what we're going to continue to do," said Capt. Peck.