Monday, May 8, 2006

How desperate are we for new recruits?

Steve Gilliard at the News Blog posted this article from the Oregonian about a high school senior from Portland, Ore. who was signed up and is being readied to go to basic training despite the fact that he is autistic. Here is an excerpt:

An Army of one wrong recruit
Autism - The signing of a disabled Portland man despite warnings reflects problems nationally for military enlistment

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Jared Guinther is 18. Tall and lanky, he will graduate from Marshall High School in June. Girls think he's cute, until they try to talk to him and he stammers or just stands there -- silent.

Diagnosed with autism at age 3, Jared is polite but won't talk to people unless they address him first. It's hard for him to make friends. He lives in his own private world.

Jared didn't know there was a war raging in Iraq until his parents told him last fall -- shortly after a military recruiter stopped him outside a Southeast Portland strip mall and complimented him on his black Converse All Stars.

"When Jared first started talking about joining the Army, I thought, 'Well, that isn't going to happen,' " said Paul Guinther, Jared's father. "I told my wife not to worry about it. They're not going to take anybody in the service who's autistic."

But they did. Last month, Jared came home with papers showing that he not only had enlisted, but also had signed up for the Army's most dangerous job: cavalry scout. He is scheduled to leave for basic training Aug. 16.

Officials are now investigating whether recruiters at the U.S. Army Recruiting Station in Southeast Portland improperly concealed Jared's disability, which should have made him ineligible for service.

It's hard to comprehend that the pressure on military recruiters is so great that they will ignore the mental fitness of potential recruits in order to meet their quotas. I'm sure that most recruiters are more responsible than this one, but I wonder how many other young soldiers who are unfit for duty are fighting in our armed forces.

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