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SDS Up Against New Military Recruitment Tactics at Summerfest

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) located Military recruiters on duty at Milwaukee’s largest music festival, Summerfest, this time, as professionally trained promotional models. Encore Nationwide, an independent contractor for promotional advertising, provides U.S. military recruitment teams with America’s top aspiring models to seduce young men into joining the military. As contractors, Encore models are hired into general positions and are then purchased to do promotional work by various paying companies, one of which happens to be the U.S. Air Force. The models are not required to have experience with the U.S. military, but are given the go ahead to use their good looks and one line marketing slogans to lure hopeful young people into the Air Force.

One of these slogans is, “Join the Air Force, get a free education,” a calling that is sure to round lower income youth yearning for the unaffordable college degree or Students for a Democratic Society investigating the scene. SDS member and Air Force veteran, Jacob Flom, asked about the details of this unbelievable benefit as if he were interested in joining the military. The models had no problem guaranteeing that his college tuition would be paid for in full, if he joined the military. Although, they were unable to explain the details of the G.I. bill, they answered other questions about the U.S. Air Force with the same certainty before admitting that they themselves had never had actual experience with any part of the U.S. military. Fortunately, there were specially trained recruiters nearby to suavely answer more detailed questions after the models had gotten the hook. Though Jacob refused to be directed toward the recruiters, he wasn’t sent away without his U.S. Air Force merchandise of choice, a hat, given to him only after he had signed an interest card with his full name and date of birth.

This year’s addition to the old recruitment campaign stood outside of the Virtual Army Experience video game that had been banned at last year’s festival after a flood of anti-war activists and parents protested its focus on young teenagers. The game, which glorifies the U.S. military in virtual combat scenarios, underwent a slight modification making realistic targets stationary rather than moving in order to avoid problems. Summerfest executive director, Don Smiley, has refused to reveal the dollar amount of the U.S. military’s festival contract, but surely it was enough to open the gates to still unsatisfied anti-war organizers.

To redirect the scores of misled youth in line for the video game, SDS handed out “anti-business” cards displaying information about their organization while making statements like, “Join the movement, not the military.” While recruiters pled us to leave their station, excited teenagers exclaimed, “I’m with you, SDS, but I really want to play this game!” Hopefully their young minds will be strong enough to ward off the psychological persuasions of the recruiters who continue their pursuit with slogans such as, “Empower yourself; defend America.”

If the unjust recruitment tactics of the U.S. Military aren’t enough to reveal the truth about its profit driven wars, Iraq veterans can explain the cold end of the so-called bargains conveyed by the new recruitment models.

Soldiers, who have had actual experience with the U.S. military, have confirmed that such guarantees were only marketing strategies. Many Iraq War Veterans have been denied G.I. rewards due to far-fetched hidden stipulations or have unknowingly agreed to pay reductions. The lucky recipients of G.I. funds have found that their benefits have failed to cover even one quarter of a modern college tuition. Flom states, “I joined the air force to pay for a private school education, but when I got out I found out that it would still barely cover a public school, and that was only because of the state benefits that Wisconsin had.” His benefits have been subject to change since he has been out of the military and he has not been offered funding for graduate school. While beautiful women are guaranteeing aspiring college students a free education, most university attending Iraq war veterans are burdening the weight of college loans in addition to varying levels of post-traumatic stress disorder.

But, the promotional models are also suffering an unfair burden. Encore has faced many legal complaints due to its unjust employment practices. One common accusation is that Encore guarantees jobs to women only to deny them of the position when a more profitable opportunity arises; leaving employees unexpectedly broke with no source of income. Women have also complained about non-payment for jobs completed. Encore has been known to hold the money made by its employees in interest bearing accounts where additional income can be generated for Encore’s executives. Models who do receive their payment in full can expect it at the very last minute.

When employees begin to catch wind of Encore’s scandalous practices, they are simply removed from its employment list with no warning or notification. For resulting official complaints, Encore keeps a variety of well articulated excuses to maintain its legal immunity to injustice, while creating poor reputations for honest employees. At the end of the month, all is justified by the exorbitant sums of money accumulated by Encore’s directors.

The exploitative techniques practiced by Encore are not unusual for an independent contractor nor is it that the U.S. government comfortably legitimizes these practices to falsely represent its services. While the military pawns are being moved across the board, from Iraq to Afghanistan, as a way to blind sight casual observers, these independent contractors are loading their pockets with the profits of war. As SDS and the rest of the anti-war movement continue to stand strong against the corporate elites backing U.S. interventions in the Middle East and elsewhere, the awareness of such corruption is rising. With no one interested in risking their lives to serve the interests of corporate elites, the U.S. government must resort to scandalous marketing techniques to convince citizens to do its dirty work.

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