My brother wants to join the National Guard. WTF?
March 16, 2006 7:06 AM   Subscribe

My little brother just announced that he's seriously considering joining the National Guard. Help my family and I either a) discourage him, or b) make peace with his decision.

He's 22 years old with no college education. For the past several years he's been bouncing around from one low-paying job to another. Albeit, he's been doing fun stuff like spending summers doing conservation work in Montana and winters working as a ski lift operator in Vermont.

He's always heard a different drummer and he's very impressionable. He's been spending A LOT of time with a recruiter and a friend of his who's passionate about the National Guard. I think that a lot of their influence shows in the e-mail from him that I've copy-and-pasted below.

I don't have a lot of specific knowledge about the National Guard to know whether or not the claims that he makes below are true. I don't know how to argue against what he's saying, but I'm anti-war, anti-bush, anti-violence so my knee-jerk reaction is to be terrified. I can't ever imagine making this life decision for myself. It scares me that this idea would even cross his mind. I have no idea how credible any of his claims are regarding the compensation and the option of avoiding deployment.

(aside: he has a history of drug-abuse problems and mental illness including hospitalization, but has been quite functional for some time.)

I am seriously thinking about joining the National Guard. If I did that, I would still live right here in Vermont and only have to serve 1 weekend a month, so I would still have time to go to school or work or anything else I need to do. I would learn all kinds of new skills, and I feel like it would greatly increase my confidence and responsibility. As far as being deployed is concerned, I talked to my friend who's in the guard about it for a long time and he said there is absolutely no way they can send me to the Middle East or anywhere else like that without my consent. He said that when they tried to deploy him, he refused and he didn't have to go to Iraq. If they do try to deploy me, which is unlikely at this point, I plan to either outright refuse, go to Canada, or get a psychologist to say that I am not mentally stable enough to go.
Everyone that they were going to send has already been sent, and they are actually sending people back now, and after this Iraq War the U.S. really doesn't have enough money to go and start another war, especially with Bush's approval rating being down to like 30-something now. Furthermore, I went to take the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) and my scores were well over 100, almost perfect, good enough to qualify me to be an officer or anything I want to be. I spoke with the recruiter, and he recommended a Supply and Logistics job for me which is not a combat position. Basically I would just sit in front of a computer and keep track of my unit's supplies and equipment. Just for completing the training for this job, I would receive a bonus of 20 thousand dollars. I would get $4500 a year towards my education, $297 for every weekend that I serve, as well as an additional $200 bonus. Also, I would have Health and Dental Insurance provided for me for the rest of my life. I feel like this is an excellent opportunity for me to get my life back on track, go to college, and achieve success to the level that I have always been capable. I hope that this idea does not totally freak you out. I have not enlisted yet, and do not plan to enlist until I am good and ready. I would probably go to Basic Training down south this Summer, and then go on to Advanced Training, and possibly also look into the Mountain School.
posted by TurkishGolds to Law & Government (41 answers total)
He said that when they tried to deploy him, he refused and he didn't have to go to Iraq.

I don't believe that's how the military actually, y'know, works. You sign up, they tell you to go, you go. Even in the National Guard.

Everyone that they were going to send has already been sent

Would that that were the case.

It sounds like the recruiter's a good psychologist, and is telling your brother exactly what he needs to hear to get him to join, whether or not it's actually true. I'd be wary, but it sounds at this point like your brother's decision's already made...
posted by pdb at 7:13 AM on March 16, 2006

It's the I plan to either outright refuse, go to Canada, or get a psychologist to say that I am not mentally stable enough to go that worries me personally.

If you're not ready to go to war/see combat, just don't join the army. He 'heard' and was 'told' that this or that would happend and he's practically guaranteed not to see combat. Sounds awfully iffy to me. The money is tempting as is all the promised opportunities, but the core issue is the fact that he would be signing up to the army. He doesn't seem to be thinking of the actual reality of being in the army and what that entails.

And, I don't know how it works in America, but in Finland any (medical/recorded) history of mental illness/drug abuse is an automatic dismissal from our compulsory military service. Which would classify your brother as unable to join the army no matter how much he wanted to.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:17 AM on March 16, 2006

My lifetime best friend, who along with myself happened to grow up about 2 towns over from your current location, serve(d|s) in the MA Army National Guard. He was fairly gung ho about it back in, what was it, 2002/3, and was even considering going Army full-time.

However, he was sent to Iraq for a 6-month term, ended up being stuck there for over a year and a half instead, and is now back here, wrestling with fairly bad post-traumatic stress disorder after what I am told is the usual state of affairs over there--shittons of death and violence, both of the insurgents, our soldiers, and civilians.

He was a medic and saw many, many people die despite he and his fellow medics' best attempts at saving them.

He also had mortars raining overhead the hospital area in the safest spot in Iraq, the Green Zone of Bagdad. I'm told he and his bunkmates prayed that the mortars would hit their intended targets farther away, instead of falling short.

When he returned Stateside it took him at least a month to stop reaching for his gun when he woke up in the middle of the night, and panicking when it wasn't there.

Just some thoughts he may want to consider. Serving our country is a noble cause, but right now the Army Guard is not exactly the best place to do it in. Maybe he should go Air Force?
posted by cyrusdogstar at 7:19 AM on March 16, 2006

Oh, and on my failure to preview: regarding the "he doesn't have to go if he doesn't want to", yea, I don't think that's how it works. Can't say for certain, but it IS the armed forces and you do NOT have a say in what you do or where you go.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 7:21 AM on March 16, 2006

Anecdotal, but I have some direct experience with recruiters, and there are some counterpoints you might consider as well...I enlisted in the Marine Corps my senior year of high school, tore up my knee in the spring and they waived me out of the program...

Recruiters will often tout the career benefits - money for college, chance to be an officer. ASVAB scores let them determine the fields you're best suited for, yes, but high ASVAB scores don't automatically get you into OCS - you have to have a degree, or go through something like a Warrant Officer program, or earn a field commission.

Recruiters are, bluntly, the sales reps for the military. Most of them are good guys. Mine were. But their quotas were relatively low compared to today's requirement for military personnel. And not all of them are particularly ethical. I've heard outright lies.

"Support and Logistics" could mean driving a fuel truck into a hot fire zone. Remember Jessica Lynch? She was with a support/logistics team.

I'm not saying this would be a good or a bad choice for him, but if he's going to make an informed decision, he needs to get more research from someone other than the recruiters. If there would be a way for him to talk to some other soldiers - away from the recruiters - that would probably be a good idea. His email sounds awfully naive, and reminds me a lot of the case I made to my parents when I enlisted, who were terrified.

In retrospect, I am glad things worked out the way they did for me.
posted by TeamBilly at 7:25 AM on March 16, 2006

First of all, it's one weekend a month and two weeks a year, unless his unit is deployed. Of course National Guard and reserve units have seen a lot of deployment in the last ten years. Anyone who joins any branch of the military should do so with the full understanding and acceptance that there is the real potential of going into combat.

The AVAB: He isn't qualifed to be an officer. He has to have a degree and go through Officer Candidate School, which is harder than Basic.

Health and Dental for the rest of his life? He needs to double check that. As a National Guard he doesn't even have health and dental during the month when he isn't on duty.

What he doesn't realize is that almost all the reserve and national guard units are combat units. So his Supply and Logistics job is still in a combat unit. Everyone carries a gun and everyone is expected to fight.

As a former member of the Army, I would not want your brother enlisting for two reasons: 1. He doesn't know what he is in for. He is too illinformed to make this decision. 2. He doesn't want to be in the military. He wants a free paycheck. I wouldn't want to be in a foxhole with him. Anyone who joins up planning to refuse to do his duty is a disgrace to the uniform and the country. (Note: I am against the war, it's not patriotic bs.)

It sounds like he is going to go through with it regardless of anything you say. The only thing you can try and do is help him understand everything his recruiter isn't telling him. Good luck.
posted by Apoch at 7:26 AM on March 16, 2006

This "friend" is presumably a decoy employed by the recruiter.

Truth: Enlisting into any branch of the armed forces, including the national guard, ends all rights you may have to exit the service. You cannot "refuse" to be deployed. Or rather, you can, but you'll end up at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary.

The enlistment contract is a standard document. Please read it.

The ASVAB is scored on a percentile basis. The highest score is 99. If the recruiter is telling the guy he scored "well over 100" on the test, he's just fucking with him.

He won't be an officer. He doesn't have a college degree. He's enlisting. He'll be a Private. Supply and Logistics - if that's even in his enlistment contract - means "truck driver". They need lots of truck drivers in Iraq. You see those stories about convoys of trucks driven by National Guardsmen that get ambushed? That'll be your brother.

Canada is not taking U.S. deserters right now. Actually, there's a court case going on where several deserters are attempting to keep from being returned to the U.S. It looks like they're going to lose.

I don't know what to tell you. Your brother is being railroaded by two military personnel whose job is to get more recruits. They are in on it together, and they are smarter than he is. They are lying to him about what he can expect, and they won't be around when he gets ordered to Iraq.

(I am a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.)
posted by jellicle at 7:31 AM on March 16, 2006

Check out past posts abouts about army recruiters. The general consensus seems to be that they are big fat liars.
posted by chunking express at 7:31 AM on March 16, 2006

please understand that they can and will send your brother to iraq. if he doesnt want to go, they will put him in jail. once in iraq, they will order him to shoot and kill people he doesnt know. (he wont know their personalities, their motivations, their culture, what they believe they are fighting against). but he will kill them. and if he doesnt obey this order, the millitary will have every right to shoot him instead. i know that sounds extreme but right now with recruitment and morale so low the millitary is getting desperate-- and the national guard makes up half of the combat force in Iraq
posted by petsounds at 7:36 AM on March 16, 2006

Here's some links:

Deceptions in Military Recruiting

Lies Military Recruiters Tell

Military Recruiting FAQ

Doesn't he wonder why the government is so willing to waste all that money on a National Guard enlistment who can just decide he doesn't want to participate in a given war? And does he imagine all those National Guard troops are dying in Iraq right now because that's their idea of a good time? I just don't get how you can look at Iraq today and think signing up for the National Guard to get free college is a good plan.
posted by scottreynen at 7:36 AM on March 16, 2006

It use to be the case that the National Guard wasn't often deployed and even if it was, it was for no longer than 6 months. Now, according to wikipedia...current Department of Defense policy is that no Guardsman will be involuntarily activated for a total of more than 24 months (cumulative) in one six year enlistment period. The only guy I've known personally to not get deployed once he was called had a knee injury.

Maybe get him to go to a Veterns Hospital and talk to some of the National Guard guys who are there...I'm guessing quite a few of them thought 'ah, hell, i can do one week a month' and now they're trying to figure out where their leg went.
posted by nadawi at 7:38 AM on March 16, 2006

What caught my eye was the way your brother's letter is phrased like a recruitment spiel, but in the first person. "I would learn all kinds of new skills, and I feel like it would greatly increase my confidence and responsibility." This sounds like a bullshit cover letter that you get taught to write in school, except extolling the job's virtues rather than the writer's.

However, this is a good sign. If he is regurgitating someone else's opinions on why the army is a good idea, chances are it will be reasonably easy to tear the arguments to pieces. Check out the facts he states, maybe get a friend from the army to tell him what it's really like.

But before you go and start trying your utmost to dissuade your brother, think about whether you are doing it because you are worried about him, or because his potential choice may conflict with your own political views. Even if it is the former, don't go overboard with the arguments against the army: it's his decision.
posted by pollystark at 7:40 AM on March 16, 2006

Everyone that they were going to send has already been sent, and they are actually sending people back now, and after this Iraq War the U.S. really doesn't have enough money to go and start another war, especially with Bush's approval rating being down to like 30-something now.

I wouldn't want to risk my life on this logic.
posted by ColdChef at 7:40 AM on March 16, 2006

Recruiters lie. When it's tough to get new recruits, they lie progressively more & better. If you get some fantasy going that after you are in and find out the recruiter lied, you'll go find him and use your new military-killer skills to punish him, forget it. You're under the UCMJ by then, and assaulting the recruiter will put you in the stockade or the aforementioned Leavenworth. As will refusing to go where you're told.

Tell your brother not to be a sucker, which is what he's being. Funding for his education is not worth his legs or his life.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:47 AM on March 16, 2006

Here's my take on it:

My cousin joined the Army Reserve (somewhat different, but I think similar enough?) right after September 11th. Joey was the ultimate redneck - gentlemanly, twangy, a bit shy and very kind and friendly, but sooo rednecky in a charming way. The Army gave him a great deal of training, and from what I've heard (I wasn't particularly close to him) really helped him to become a mature, disciplined young man.

He was killed on Sunday by an IED in Afghanistan, and I'll be flying down to North Carolina early next week to help his mother and wife bury him. He was twenty-nine years old, and had a daughter who just turned two. I'm sure the medals he's to be awarded posthumously will do his mother, wife, daughter and stepson an enormous fucking great lot of good. Not.

If your brother wants to get discipline, learn skills, whatever - there are better ways to do it than the Army. If you don't want to fight....DON'T JOIN THE FUCKING ARMY! You know, that thing? That exists to fight our enemies? Yeah, that. I'm sorry I can't give alternatives, but it sounds like he needs a highly structures, highly disciplined teaching environment that doesn't involve being shipped overseas to fight a war. There's got to be something that's a better fit for him out there.
posted by kalimac at 7:50 AM on March 16, 2006

Here's a current story about National Guard deployments in Iraq. Guard troops represent 20% of the force in Iraq right now.

The total size of the Army National Guard (all 50 states) is about 350,000 men. According to that article, about 100,000 Army National Guard are on active duty (serving full time, not one weekend/month) right now - in Iraq, in Afghanistan, or keeping the home fires burning while the active duty troops are in Iraq or Afghanistan. If you enlist in the Guard, you WILL be called to active duty. Your odds of ending up in Iraq are not 100% - you might luck out and get an assignment stateside. But it's completely beyond your control...
posted by jellicle at 7:52 AM on March 16, 2006

er, they just sent a shitload of MN guardsmen over this week. So, no they haven't sent everyone they are going to send. Even if there is some drawback (they are talking about increasing levels in the next week or so because of a pilgrimage event), they will need replacements for the units that aren't drawback.
posted by edgeways at 7:53 AM on March 16, 2006

Sorry for the rapid second, but I just wanted to repeat what Apoch said:

As a former member of the Army, I would not want your brother enlisting for two reasons: 1. He doesn't know what he is in for. He is too illinformed to make this decision. 2. He doesn't want to be in the military. He wants a free paycheck. I wouldn't want to be in a foxhole with him. Anyone who joins up planning to refuse to do his duty is a disgrace to the uniform and the country. (Note: I am against the war, it's not patriotic bs.)

What I was trying to say, but a thousand times more eloquent - much thanks, Apoch.
posted by kalimac at 7:54 AM on March 16, 2006

To echo what Apoch said, I'm not against military service, but it should be for the right reasons.

It's not an easy paycheck.
posted by ColdChef at 7:58 AM on March 16, 2006

He will have to serve 1 weekend a month, which doesn't seem like a lot, but is a lot, especially down the road, when there's nothing new or interesting about the National Guard for him, and he's stopped believing their sales pitch, and it's just a tedious chore that he'll have to continue for years and years.
posted by Hildago at 8:03 AM on March 16, 2006

but in Finland any (medical/recorded) history of mental illness/drug abuse is an automatic dismissal from our compulsory military service.

that's right -- I'd be a surprised if, even with the current enlisting problems, they actually take in somebody with a history of mental trouble / drug abuse

and as said above, Canada is not welcoming to US deserters anymore
posted by matteo at 8:09 AM on March 16, 2006

Just show him how long it takes to load this page. Or maybe this one if you want to put faces to coffins.
posted by lowlife at 8:15 AM on March 16, 2006

It's a great sign that he wants to get his shit together, but those recruiters have quotas, and many will say nearly anything to get people to sign up (as previously above). And of course they're trained specifically to lure kids like your brother in.
It sounds like you might not get that far arguing against him on this, so maybe it'd be best to provide alternatives - college funding, Peace Corps, etc. (I wish I could think of more).
That said, he might be right that this could really help him out (in the sense that he'll have a very structured environment). It's too bad Bush is notorious for sending so many National Guardsmen to Iraq. The NG ain't what it used to be.
posted by hellbient at 8:17 AM on March 16, 2006

He should read this book. It's a true story of a guy who joined The Guard for college money. It's all about his wacky, madcap adventures in Iraq.
posted by bondcliff at 8:40 AM on March 16, 2006

1. Recruiters lie. If you go to basic training, you'll hear story after story about the lying recruiter that got that person in the Guard, only to find in basic that none of it was true.

2. I was in the guard, assigned to a unit based at Hill AFB in Utah. I was told that I wouldn't have to go anywhere, ever. The only reason I didn't have to go was my medical discharge. If they tell you to go, you have to go, and the chain of command are very hesitant to question orders. That's how they got there.

3. Not sending any more people to Iraq? Man, that recruiter's good! Besides, Iraq today, North Korea/Iran tomorrow. I wouldn't join the military (again) with Bush in office. He's far too aggressive for my taste.

4. Supply and Logistics people get killed too, and that's why they still have to wear BDUs and learn how to shoot M16s.

5. The drug problems are going to bite him hard in basic, and probably after. Your instructors have access to your medical records in basic, and they're not supposed to say anything about them or give you a hard time about your past. But this is far from what really happens. I didn't have these issues, but fellow trainees did.

6. Let's not forget that you're in the military, and your job is being a military person. What you trained to do is not what your CO and his higher-ups care about. If your colonel and another unit's colonel are golfing buddies and the other guy needs someone to fill a combat spot, odds are someone in your unit is going to combat. And that someone could very well be you.
posted by SlyBevel at 8:50 AM on March 16, 2006

I'm a reservist in the Army.

I would like to believe that the letter from your brother was a sugar-coating of his decision, to make your family feel better about military service.

I can understand him downplaying the risks involved. I did (and do) the same thing for my family. Who wants to imagine their brother or son being shot at by terrorists? He's a 22 year old man, and we're in a war. He knows what joining the military means.

As for the whole "I'll run to Canada" stuff, I'd like to think that he's just, again, making you feel better. Once he's worn the uniform, met his brothers-in-arms, and done the training, it would take a pretty morally abhorrent person to run away. Even if your brother was such a snake, the certainty of a lifetime in prison would keep him in line. There are a lot of lonely Marines locked-up in Ft. Leavenworth.

Other points:

While the ASVAB composite stops at 99, the score he is referring to is most likely his GT score. That does, in fact, reach into the hundreds. It would probably qualify him for anything he wants to be, and once he gets a college education, he would be eligible for Officer Candidate School. (He'd have to take the ASVAB again by then, if it's even required for OCS anymore.)

Supply is not a combat position. And he's more-or-less right about what Supply does.

If he serves 20 years, he'll have medical and dental provided for life, yes.

And he's right: it is a good opportunity to straighten out his life. During Basic and AIT, he'll meet a new crowd of people, and will work with them for months at a time toward common goals. He'll experience a totally different lifestyle. He'll learn a job, and learn it well. He'll have a Real Accomplishment on life's little clipboard. Even if he only stays in for 6, he'll always be able to say "I was in the Army." That's a pretty cool thing.

As for his friend who "refused to go", chances are he was offered a volunteer deployment. You usually CAN refuse those, because there are plenty of people eager to fill them. If his unit was mobilized, though, he would have to go.

Joining the military isn't an easy decision; it's terrifying. He's volunteering for more than the risk of war... he's volunteering to live a completely alien lifestyle. Nothing that you've seen on TV or in the movies can prepare you for the emotional and physical intensity of basic training. Nothing can prepare you for a world where the social boundaries are drawn in large red lines, and a typical work day involves jumping out of an airplane (Airborne all the way!) or firing-off a rocket launcher. He'll stand in freezing cold rain for hours at a time, crawl through mud, won't be able to complain, and might even learn that, hey, I can do this sort of thing. It's a hard life, but might learn to love it.

He'll get a million experiences that simply don't exist in the civilian world, and he'll have stories to last a lifetime.

He's not asking your permission to join; he's asking your blessing. I'd say give it to him.
posted by rentalkarma at 8:51 AM on March 16, 2006

I believe that the National Guard does provide lots of career, monetary, and educational opportunities for people who join, especially those who don't have a college degree. But it sounds like your brother doesn't realize what he's thinking about getting himself into. It's no picnic, and it is the armed forces. They can deploy you to anywhere they choose, and you cannot (legally) get out of it. There's no guarantee that he'll get a cushy computer job. He sounds very naive about the requirements and perhaps would be unwilling to fulfill the actual requirements, if he fully understood them. It just doesn't seem like a good fit.
posted by emd3737 at 9:00 AM on March 16, 2006

Is he joining the Vermont National Guard?

If so, pretty much EVERYONE (including my former neighbor and many former co-workers (I left Vermont last fall), have been deployed numerous times since 2001.

Vermont has lost more soldiers per capita than any other state (last that I checked).

Watch the Vermont evening news... it is ALL that they ever talk about.

For more evidence of this, 802 online has had a lot of coverage of this issue.

If your brother really thinks he won't go to Iraq or Afganistan, he's kidding himself.
posted by k8t at 9:21 AM on March 16, 2006

Basically I would just sit in front of a computer and keep track of my unit's supplies and equipment.

If he doesn't mind the idea of sitting in front of a computer, he most certainly doesn't need to join the NG to do so. Do you or your parents have any money? Could you loan him money to take some computer classes?
posted by hellbient at 9:21 AM on March 16, 2006

Recruiters lie. Yet another article about lying recruiters.

You can give him this information. I hope I'm wrong, but I would guess that he's probably going to believe the recruiter anyway. They are practiced liars, and they're telling him beautiful lies that he wants to believe.
posted by lemuria at 10:07 AM on March 16, 2006

I came to this wanting to tell you to suck it up and let him go. However, when he says "If they do try to deploy me, which is unlikely at this point, I plan to either outright refuse, go to Canada, or get a psychologist to say that I am not mentally stable enough to go." it changed my mind.

He doesnt need to get anywhere near the Army. If he is not ready to get deployed, he does not need to join: he will be doing the army and himself a huge disservice if he does join, and he will find it much harder to get out than it was to get in.

Furthermore, being in supply isnt that safe a job anymore. A large percentage of casualites are coming from IEDs, which are disproportinally hitting supply convoys, which are staffed by supply people. The army is actually having a problem enlisting/reenlisting Combat Service Support people (like Supply) moreso than combat arms soldiers, such as Infantrymen, etc; mainly because the Combat Service Support people are not as mentally prepared to face combat as people who sign up to be in the infantry.
posted by stupidcomputernickname at 10:10 AM on March 16, 2006


First, to set the table, I'm coming from the opposite side of just about everything from you. The National Guard is real military, do real training, and do real military work. It's a fine choice for people who wish to serve the country. So, if your brother wants to join just for the benefits, then my advice is to not even think about the military, yes even the NG, unless he intends to serve.

* He can't just refuse to go. That's dishonorable, dumb, and a crime.

* It's true that you have some options while you're in, such as specializations, etc., though there are some parameters.

* It's a contract. The benefits are not welfare, they're in exchange for service to the country. Sheesh.

* There's no guarantee that he will go to Iraq but there's no guarantee that he won't.

* Supply troops can get shot and blow up too. In some cases, supply is exposed to more attacks (forward supply) than hard core elite units.

* Most of those who serve come back intact and have gained experience, perspective, and skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

* If he still thinks the NG is a good choice for him (and he for the NG), he should honorably serve the country.

* If you want more arguments against him joining, how about (a) he will be unpopular (read into that if you want) amongst those who do serve, (b) he could go to jail, and (c) he could still be compelled to serve (in Iraq or wherever) without all the choices he thinks he'll have.

Keep in mind that Bush really couldn't care less what the polls say. If he feels the military needs to strike Iran or Syria, buckle up, because we're going in.
posted by mumeishi at 10:25 AM on March 16, 2006

Little anecdote about those recruiters; my brother joined the Army fresh out of high school, and became slightly disillusioned within a few years. A recruiter talked him into reupping for two years and promised him a bonus of several thousand dollars. When the time came for my brother to sign the papers, he did what his mama always told him to do; he read them first and discovered the contract was drawn up for five years instead of two. When he pointed this little fact out to the recruiting officer, he was told that in order to get the bonus he'd have to sign up for five years, so of course they had been talking about five years all along. My brother refused to sign until they changed that contract even though it meant not getting the bonus, but refused to shake the guy's hand at the little ceremony they had for reenlisting. Word of his small protest got around, and several other guys on base introduced themselves and told him the recruiting officer had done the exact same thing to them... except they hadn't carefully read the contract.

(Of course my brother ended up turning into a mostly gung ho Bush-supporting anti-Arab guy who still blames Iraq for 9/11, and is currently in the National Guard training as a medic. He might get sent back to Iraq when he's done. So he'd probably tell you that he likes the military life today.)

And no, rentalkarma, the young man certainly doesn't need our permission to join, and should be supported if he does so... but that doesn't mean we shouldn't warn him about being railroaded into something that isn't going to turn out the way he thinks it will.
posted by Soliloquy at 10:33 AM on March 16, 2006

He's made an excellent listing of all the benefits and has a pretty half-assed list of the negatives, given the propensity for fabrication that recruitment officers have. I'd recommend interrogating him on whether the benefits are really that great. Health and dental insurance? Great, I have that through my employer and plan to use the retirement plan from here or wherever I end up. Going to college? Has he thought about the weekends when he's going to be behind on his schoolwork and he has to spend his time in the guard?

From my own experience, the friends who joined the armed forces as a way to get their lives on track and get money for college haven't touched the school money. If he's having motivational issues the national guard might help, but remind him that by joining he's starting on a path he has to follow through with if he wants to hit his goals.
posted by mikeh at 11:13 AM on March 16, 2006

Consider the Air Guard. Much safer, less demanding.

His letter sounds like the typical recruiter snowjob. I especially like the mountain school part.

He doesn't come off as very reliable. Unfortunately for him, the most impressive people in the Army are either in dangerous jobs, e.g., Infantry or Armor, or are very smart, e.g., Intel.
His history probably precludes Intel.

If he goes, a lot depends on his MOS, Military Occupational Specialty. It's a two-number, one-letter code. Can you find out what he's thinking about and post it?
posted by atchafalaya at 11:54 AM on March 16, 2006

A stint in the army may be a good way to instill discipline and give direction to your brother. These are good things. There is very little doubt that he'd end up going to either Iraq or Afghanistan, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as most come back just fine, but it is a risk, and a bigger one than most people will ever face. He might not come back at all, or worse, he might come back half the man he was before. From what you say though, it looks like he'd be in infantry, so it's a big risk.
posted by furtive at 12:06 PM on March 16, 2006

atchafalaya, I don't have the number, but he said that it's "Supply Sargent"
posted by TurkishGolds at 12:22 PM on March 16, 2006

Unless things have completely turned upside down in the recruiting game, recruiters cannot actually guarantee you a particular MOS. They can promise it to you, but unless you asked for "grunt," odds are you won't get it. Once you're in the military, it's all about what they need, not what's good for you. Because most enlistees don't ask for grunt, and because the Army needs so many grunts, your promise of a Lingerie Inspector position is not likely to become reality.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:23 PM on March 16, 2006

Supply is not infantry. Supply is supply. The two have nothing in common, as any grunt would be happy to point out. Infantry fights the war. Supply tracks the inventory of toilet paper.

And Kirth, the National Guard is different from active duty. When you join the guard, your MOS is guaranteed in your contract.

And tell me more of this Lingerie Inspector MOS...
posted by rentalkarma at 2:21 PM on March 16, 2006

Let him go. It's his choice and it's up to him to decide if it's a mistake or not. Not you. Not your family. It's no different than if your family were homophobic and he came out of the closet. Well, it's vastly different, but it still follows the idea of letting people live their own lives.
posted by cellphone at 2:40 PM on March 16, 2006

kalimac, I am very sorry to hear about your cousin -- my condolences. Sounds like he a very good man.

Good points made here, both pro and con. On balance, I would support his decision to enlist: it may very well give him the confidence, stability, and training that he needs to "grow up." Yes, there is a chance that he serve in a war-zone. Not a huge chance, but a chance nonetheless. And being a supply troop is indeed quite different from infantry. Still potentially dangerous, but much less so than many other career fields. The drugs and mental issues may very well disqualify him for service; not enough information for me to say with certainty. And if he has a choice in what career field to aim for, I would recommend anything in the medical field. Again, some danger exists in every job, but much less for medics than others.

Good luck to him.
posted by davidmsc at 7:30 PM on March 16, 2006

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