How to talk a boy out of enlisting

A friend of the family tells me her 17 year old son wants to join the army. He starts his senior year in high school this fall and wants to be a cop when he grows up. One way or another, he gets a hold of an army recruiter, or visa versa, and is promised that if he enlists to become an MP, they will promise that he won’t have to serve overseas. :rolleyes:

My first instinct was to track down this recruiter and do things to him or her that I am not allowed to describe on this message board. I served in the army for seven years and am fully aware of what goes on in the recruiting office.

My friend is a single mom. She can’t afford to send her son to college. He doesn’t want to be a financial strain on her. I can appreciate all of that. He’s a dumb kid under the illusion that he can prove his manhood by being a soldier. I know that they will chew him up and spit him out. If he makes it through boot camp and MP school, they will surely ship his skinny ass off to patrol or guard something far from the suburbia he’s known all of his life.

I asked her if she would like me to have a few words with the boy, man to man, father figuresque, former soldier to new recruit, and she was enthusiastic. His biological father has been long out of the picture and has had no contact in many years. She fears for her son’s safety but knows that in the end she can’t stop him.

I’ve decided to help her out. My question is whether I should take the kind and gentle approach, maybe take him to see F9/11 followed by a nice sit down I’ve-been-there-done-that speech or rip him a new asshole, in a fatherly way.

We have three kids, two of them sons. One is starting college this fall. I have experience with talking to kids.

I’d like to hear from the Teeming Millions any thoughts or advice you would like to offer. I you want to get nasty, I’ll follow you to The Pit. I have a date with him tomorrow night. The recruiter visits the following night.

If he can’t afford college, I can’t see how the Military is such a bad option. It really isn’t all that dangerous.

I’d ask him if he wants some advice from you on this. If no- then no.

Have you been living in a cave for the last 4 years, DrDeth?

E72521 --hunt up some images of battle wounds/corpses/amputees online & show them to this dim kid. Concentrate on burn victims.

Describe the food. :stuck_out_tongue:

He’ll come around, unless he is hopeless.

Well, if he simply must join, talk him into joining the Air Force or the Navy at the very least. They have MPs as well, but he’ll probably be a lot safer. Indeed, the Coast Guard might be right up his alley.

Alternatively, you could ask him if he has any idea what it feel like to get shot. Then hit him with a sledgehammer in the kidney. If he’d rather take another whack with the sledgehammer than get student loans, let him go.

I personally think a tour in the military is good for any single person. Just stay out of the combat arms.

He will get to go places he would most likely never be able to go. Meet people he will remember forever.

In our old ages for most of us, memories will be all we have.

Judging from other threads about the recruitment process, it’d obviously be good to (1) establish and (2) explain firmly to him how vague such recruiters promises are.

Signifying nothing much: Dropping out of school and joining the military right after my 17th birthday was one of the better moves I’ve ever made. (Yes, they took me even though I was a dropout)

There followed a GED in the military, then to college after my four years of service, then to a career in a field that I love following college graduation.

In all likelihood that’s not what you wanted to hear. His mileage may, and most probably will, vary. Still, the Army is not the end of the world.

Good suggestions. I could be wrong but Navy or Air Force MPs shouldn’t be likely to see combat.

sigh There is NOTHING wrong with going military, it is a decent financial opportunity for someone with absolutely no skills in anything, who has a high school education, a clean police history and decent physical condition to get money to build a future with. Todays military can save money, take classes either in person or remotely to trim down the number of hours needed to spend in a brick and mortar school, get a tradeskill [if they chose the right MOS] and get out of the house and village/city they come from and meet people of differing backgrounds. Beats the hell out of sitting around whinging that they cant get a good job and cant afford school…
Dude, if he wants to go, let him. Just make certain he is aware that recruiters will say dang near anything to fill their quotas…and make certain he knows that even as an MP…he may still get sent overseas…BUT not everybody that goes dies, or even gets wounded. Mostly they get hot, sweaty, dirty and bored out of their skulls…
My friend is a single mom. She can’t afford to send her son to college. He doesn’t want to be a financial strain on her. I can appreciate all of that. He’s a dumb kid under the illusion that he can prove his manhood by being a soldier. I know that they will chew him up and spit him out. If he makes it through boot camp and MP school, they will surely ship his skinny ass off to patrol or guard something far from the suburbia he’s known all of his life.

I teach just this age level, and I gotta tell youl I would tread very, very carefully. This is a child on the cusp of being an adult making an adult desison. You have to respect that–if you treat him like a dumb kid who’s done messed up big time, you are going to be degrading his first real foray into being an adult–he’s likely to either get angry and do something really stupid (like sign up as straight infatry just to show you all) or retreat back into adolecence, since he’s getting the message loud and clear that no one takes him and his ability to make choices seriously.

This isn’t to say you can’t reason with him–you can. But you have to do so in a way that doesn’t disparage his ability to make the final choice himself.

Can’t you require recruiters to make their promises in writing?

Doesn’t the boy need to know what he’s doing during the negotiation?

This promise that he won’t be shipped overseas has to be some sort of “misunderstanding”.

He can’t even be promised an MP job, betcha. What backup MOS would he be willing to sign up for?

The military is not a bad choice. If he can’t afford college, doesn’t have many skills that will earn a decent living and doesn’t want to be a drain on family, then he is in the same boat I was at 18.

The military was the best choice I made as a teenager, not a tragic mistake.

If you want to cousel against the military, go ahead, but shame on you for assuming it has to be a bad thing. If you want to give useful advise, suggest another way for him to attain his goals without overly imposing on his family. If you can’t think of one, then might I suggest telling him:

The Air Force treats people the best but promotes the slowest.
The Navy is second best and provides fine technical training and faster promotions, but long sea duty is a probability.
The Marines mean business, are the most military of the branches and don’t see much need for what they see as coddling and other branches see as quality of life.
The Army is somewhere between the Navy and Marines for quality of life. If he can get a job outside the combat arms fields he will be much happier.

Damn people! :smack: Have not you ever heard of loans, grants, and financial aid? If he is poor, the better for the above. I can’t see why anyone cannot go to college due to lack of funds. The one catch is, is that you have to pay some of it back.

I wasn’t planning on the army sucks approach, more like the recruiters lie through their teeth angle. Or its a dangerous world out there and you don’t have a clue what you’re about to do.

I went in at the very end of the Viet Nam GI bill era. I was able to go to college after my enlistment. I had a good time and made a lot of friends, and traveled the world. I liked it so much that I re-upped once. The service was good to me, but I know this kid and he aint army material.

I’m thinking I’ll take him to see F9/11, not to convince him that GWB is an asshat or make him politically aware, but for him to see the dead mutilated bodies and watch the predatory Marine recruiters in action. He’s close to his mom, maybe the last letter home scene will get his attention. Then we could discuss how easy it would be for him to get a scholarship to a community college and major in criminal science while he waits until he’s old enough to get into a police academy.

Worst case scenario maybe I can talk him into the Coast Guard. Thanks for all of the great suggestions.

It’s a pity that you couldn’t catch this kid three years ago, and get him into the JROTC. He might still be able to join for his last year of high school. My daughter was all set to join the military when she was in middle school/junior high, and took JROTC in place of PE all during high school She enjoyed it, but found that she didn’t really like being IN the military as much as she had enjoyed being a military brat.

I didn’t want her taking JROTC, but I allowed her to, after telling her that it wouldn’t be what I would choose for her, but that she needed to start making her own life decisions. As it happened, the guy in charge of the JROTC program was a great teacher and a great role model. For about four years, about half of her statements were preceded by “Major Merriweather says”. She thought the world of Major Merriweather, and it was good for her to have a positive role model during those years. She’d always been a good kid, but she really worked on herself in order to be more worthy of the Major’s approval.

I don’t know if the ROTC is an option for this kid. Is it? He’d be far more likely to get into his chosen field if he has a degree in law enforcement.

And I’d get him to ask the recruiter for a notarized statement of the promises, too. Try to be there when he asks this, and bring a camera. My husband believed all the pretty promises HIS recruiter spun him, too.

Recruiters lie, lie and then lie. That’s part of the job. No recruiter in a little office in a strip mall has anywhere near the pull to ensure: a) a particular category of service or b) where anyone goes once they are signed up. The Army makes all of those decisions after you sign up, based on tests, needs, etc. Some recruiters will have “forms” with places for promises and signatures, but those aren’t binding on anyone.

And in the particular case of MPs, there is no way anyone at any time can remotely promise no overseas duty. In fact, it’s a pretty certain thing an MP will go overseas at some point. (BTW: By step-brother was an AP and servered 2 tours in VietNam. Got his Purple Heart there, but that was from putting down a race riot, not “enemy” action.)

The US is extremely stressed for ground troops right now. Look at all the Reserves and NGs stuck on extended tours in Iraq. You think the Army has tons of regulars just hanging out in the US?

Anyone who doesn’t know this isn’t capable of making adult decisions and should have it firmly explained to him. The kid is thinking like a 6 year old watching ads during cartoons.

This is an adult decision that requires adult thinking processes. Some adults choose to go in, great. Some don’t. But going in based on a recruiter’s promise is essentially idiotic.

(Note that suggesting other branches may not really be an option. The Navy and Air Force are cutting back on recruitment. You have to be a better than average applicant to get in. Only the Army is in “we’ll take anyone” mode.)

What is military material and why doesn’t he have what it takes to make a decent soldier, sailor, or marine? Does he suffer from some sort of physical impairment? Does he have some sort of mental defect? Is he incapable of working with others? Is he stupid (beyond just being 17 of course)? Why would the military be a poor career choice for him? Even if he doesn’t make a career out of it maybe 3 years will provide him with valuable life lessons that will stay with him for life.

I’d explain to him that recruiters are indeed full of crap and he shouldn’t believe much of what they say. If he wants to be an MP he’s going to have to jump through the hoops the military requires him to jump through. Maybe he’ll opt for something else after that.


So not only did you have a good time, made a lot of friends, travelled the world, earned money for college, etc. but it sucked so bad you re-upped! What are you going to say when he says that sounds pretty good?

“The mobile infantry made me the man I am today!”

There are far, far worse things he could do than join the miltary and the chances of his getting seriously injured, while somewhat higher than normal, are actually (overall) not that terrible.

I mean what are his real options? Your kids are college bound with the support of their family. His family has no serious money, he’s obviously not scholastically oriented, or he’d be looking more toward college. If he wants to be a cop, a good miltary record is an excellent pathway into that line of work.

Don’t use your apparent omniscience to pre-judge his chances. Let him join. He may blossom, and one day keep bad guys off the streets as an effective policeman.

I have a suggestion, being former military myself, I’m surprised you haven’t thought of it already. There are two things you can do, but both depend on finding out who his recruiter is. First, they have whats known as a pre boot camp, it’s like boot camp lite, but not a boy scout trip. They have all the yelling the left-right-left and rushing to chow experienced in Basic/Boot Camp. It’s typically held over a weekend, so if you have Army or Guard base within two hours it’s entire possible it’s available to you.

The second option is split-training. At seventeen he can enlist now do Basic/Boot this summer and then do AIT (School for your specialty) the next summer and begin his regular tour. I know it may now be too late for that (depends on your district, but many or at least some districts won’t penalize military service) but it’s worth looking into especially if he’s determined to go. The beauty of this option is that he can change specialties if he doesn’t like the idea of getting shot at, which I’m sure you remember is thoroughly bought home in Basic/Boot. As a happy bonus, he’ll most likely be promoted soon after entering AIT, giving him a leg up.

As former Army even with the current environment, I’m still encouraging my kids to do military service. It’s more devolping than college to me, yet you still have some one to hold your hand, a screaming at you somebody, but somebody.