WASHINGTON - The Army has ordered a one-day halt in recruiting activities nationwide to address complaints about aggressive tactics used by military recruiters as they struggle to meet monthly goals, Army officials said today.
The order for a recruiting "stand down" comes in the midst of a significant recruiting slump, blamed on the Iraq war, in which the Army has missed its active-duty recruiting goals for the past three months.
The personnel shortfalls have placed increased pressures on recruiters to meet monthly quotas, drawing attention to incidents in which recruiters have forcefully gone after prospective enlistees.
In recent incidents, one recruiter threatened a prospect with prison time for not keeping an appointment, another provided a possible enlistee with laxatives to help him lose weight and pass a military physical, and recruits were instructed on how to cover up instances of drug use, according to news reports.
Schools and parents have complained about recruiters aggressively pursuing teenagers in class and at home.
Army spokesman Col. Joseph Curtin said that the decision was made to give recruiters a day to "focus on how they can do a very tough mission without violating good order and discipline." Commanders of each unit will go over proper procedures with their subordinates, clearly establishing which recruiting tactics are off limits.
The decision to call the stand down was made by Maj. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, head of U.S. Army Recruiting Command. The stand down date will be May 20, according to Douglas Smith, a spokesman for Army Recruiting Command.
Smith said that the Army is investigating 480 allegations of improper conduct by Army recruiters made this fiscal year. There were 957 allegations in 2004, 955 in 2003, and 745 in 2002, Smith said.
The military often orders unit stand downs when repeated vehicle, helicopter, or jet crashes prompt the need for investigations. It is far less common for the Army to pause operations for reasons other than safety.
The stand down will affect all 7,500 Army recruiters at 1,700 recruiting stations nationwide, officials said.
The Army has missed its monthly recruiting targets from February to April, and at the end of last month the Army was 15 percent off the pace to hit its annual target of 80,000 recruits for this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
The Army still hopes it can emerge from the slump by the summer, historically the best season for recruiting. Over the past year, the Army has added hundreds of recruiters and spent millions of dollars on new advertising campaigns to counter the "Iraq effect" - the violent news out of Iraq that is turning off potential recruits from joining the military.
The lackluster figures had also hit the Marine Corps, which in April missed its fourth straight monthly recruiting goal.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.