February 9, 2006
What's the U.S. Army to do when its go-to population for new recruits becomes disillusioned and stops enlisting? African-Americans represented 22% of new Army recruits 4 years ago, and now make up only 14%. How about moving on to another population of young people that are poorer, less educated, and have fewer job opportunities than average?
Yes, the Army is recruiting hard among Latino teens. As the NY Times reports, in cities with high Latino populations, those young people have become a top priority for the military. Latinos make up the fastest growing pool of military-age people, and as Lt. Col. Jeffrey Brodeur, commanding officer at the recruitment office for several western states says, "They are extremely patriotic."
However patriotic they may be, these kids also have parents, many of whom are wary of the recruiters that don't speak their language. And, you know, are trying to convince their kids to go off to war. "My parents think I'm going to go in the Army and die, but I wanted to do it," said an 18 year-old who has already enlisted and will go to boot camp once he graduates from high school.
The military can be an effective way to get out of poverty, but poor people who aren't white have historically been better represented on the front lines than among officers. The Times says, "Critics say that Latinos often wind up as cannon fodder on the casualty-prone front lines. African-Americans saw the same thing happen during the 1970's and 1980's, an accusation that still reverberates. Hispanics make up only 4.7 percent of the military's officer corps."
Let's just call this new initiative Operation: Escudo Humano.
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