Twenty-five U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq last Saturday, making it the third deadliest day for American soldiers since the war began. And if the president has his way, more U.S. troops will be deployed.
That may mean heavier recruitment in high schools, but a local group hopes to keep kids' personal information out of military hands by shielding scores and phone numbers collected through the Armed Services Vocational Assessment and Battery (ASVAB) test.
An optional test administered to high school juniors and seniors by the military, the ASVAB is designed to help kids make career choices. However, the test also provides military field recruiters with information on high school students qualified for enlistment.
"We don't have a problem with the students taking the ASVAB. What we have a problem with is the expectation that the military is going to receive all the information," says George Grider, head of the Alternatives to the Military Project through the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center.
Grider hopes to convince the Memphis City Schools (MCS) Board to choose Option 8 districtwide, a move that would allow the students to take the test without having their scores given to the military.
The test is scheduled for February 19th through March 2nd at MCS, but not all schools offer the test. Sonja Sanes, the MCS high school guidance counseling supervisor, says the test helps determine where students are academically. She's never heard of Option 8, but she advises students not interested in military enlistment to stand their ground.
"You can tell the recruiter you're not interested," says Sanes. "They can be persistent, but when they ask the second time, you need to ask who their commander is. That closes that door."
But Grider, a military veteran, fears that students may feel pressured to join because they need money for college. He's not opposed to voluntary enlistment, but he wants kids to make informed choices and read the fine print.
"Our objection to military recruitment is they do not honor the American values of truth in advertising or informed consent," says Grider. Recruiters often make promises and offer incentives, though the military contract says that pay, status, allowances, and other benefits may change without notice.
A representative from the local Military Entrance Processing Command could not comment on recruitment practices.