The Military Targets Youth for Recruitment, Especially at Poor Schools
“As students were coming out of classrooms, [recruiters] would be by the door waiting for them."
Danielle Corcione - Teen Vogue
Since its inception, the United States military has recruited teenagers to enlist. During the Revolutionary War, when the military was formally established, young men were encouraged to fight for their country voluntarily. During the Civil War, conscription — essentially mandatory military enrollment for men of a certain age — was implemented, initially targeting men age 21 to 30. The draft was later expanded to include men as young as 18, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, and continued over centuries as a way to maintain a base of military servicepeople. In a statement to Teen Vogue, Lisa M. Ferguson, media relations chief for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, said, “The Army seeks qualified individuals 17 [to] 34 years old.”
Since the draft ended in 1973, the military has relied on an all-volunteer service and has targeted young people, using strategies that include placing recruiters in schools. This is allowed because the No Child Left Behind Act, signed by President George W. Bush in 2002, requires military recruiters be granted the same access in schools as college recruiters.
The military markets to teenagers, particularly those in poorer school districts, because the armed services need a large population, and the sooner young people join, the more likely they are to stay and build a career. (According to the government, “184,000 personnel must be recruited into the Armed Forces each year to replace those who complete their commitment or retire.”) Modern-day recruiters sell the idea of an experience that often resonates more with poorer students because, for many, service with an honorable discharge can mean a free ride to college, or potentially a path to citizenship. (Only the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Dept. can grant citizenship, but the military can only accelerate the process. If a person doesn't qualify for citizenship, they would still have to complete their service years in the military.)