They're Coming To A School Near You.
Click on your state to find out the schedule for your area.
The U.S. Army and Navy Recruiting Commands are deploying a powerful recruiting weapon and they're using America's schoolyards and classrooms to do it. The Army Cinema Vans, the Army Cinema Pods, the Army Adventure Van, the Rockwall and the Navy Exhibit Centers are crisscrossing the country as we speak, with high-tech "educational" shows that glamorize military life.
What are the Recruiting Vans?
Seven Army Cinema Vans, each equipped with nine slide projectors and three screens. Four Rockwalls for simultaneous rockclimbing and recruiting. Eight Cinema Pods, carrying the recruiters and slide show directly into classrooms. The Army Adventure Van, featuring an M-1 tank simulator, a Cobra helicopter simulator, and a "Weaponeer" an M 16 rifle simulator. The Weaponeer provides each student with a printout showing exactly where each "hit" tore through their depersonalized, but human, target. Five Navy Exhibit Centers include a "Nuclear Power Van," and an "America's Sea Power Van." Seven parking spaces long by two deep, the Vans provide, according to the Army, "educational multi-media shows." The Recruiting Commands, who control the vans, aim to keep them filled all day long with class after class of students. Local recruiters are always present at these "educational" events. The Army's 16 vans visit a total of 2000 schools per year, propagandizing 380,000 "recruitable" students. The Navy visits approximately 500 schools, including community colleges and vocational schools. Both vans stop by shopping malls, state fairs, rodeos - wherever young people can be found. Two "National Science" vans, sponsored by the military and the National Science Center, also tour the country. In each case, the Pentagon's Recruiting Commands and local recruiters use school grounds, school facilities, and school time to glorify the armed forces and their version of history.
A Learning Experience?
The Army Recruiting Command advertises the vans as a "A Learning Experience." The Navy baldly calls them, "Recruiting Vans." But so-called academic slide shows are packaged with far more blatant advertisements for the U.S. military. The vans are designed to recruit, not to educate. "The vans zero in on our target market, and that's in high schools," explained Fred Zinchiak, Public Affairs Specialist in the Sacramento Army Recruiting Battalion. The Cinema Van's so-called "academic" shows include We the People - "217 years of American history from the birth of the nation through Operation Desert Storm" and Math. It All Starts Here, one of several shows explicitly geared to junior high school students. But the real intent of the Vans is to portray the military as a glamorous, painless "opportunity." The Army slide shows feature Combat Arms - The Tough Choice, with 21 minutes of artillery, armor, and combat engineering, doubtless without the carnage that results when these weapons are actually used; Path to the Future, bringing to multi-media life the recruiters' empty promises about education and career training; and Path to Professionalism, a "guide on the transition from civilian to soldier," which glorifies a soldier's first year without mentioning the hazing, humiliation, and loss of civil rights endemic to basic training. The Navy's videos include Steel Boats and Iron Men, Sea Warriors, Angels Over America, and, The Navy and You Full Speed Ahead.
What We Can Do.
Discover which area schools are targeted. The first step is to find a journalist(or a newsletter reporter) who will call the regional Recruiting Command's public affairs office to find out which schools in your area are being visited by the van on which days. This is public information and the military is required to provide it upon request. Then ...Work to get the visit canceled. Organize parents and teachers, pressure school boards and administrators not to sacrifice precious school hours to fill recruiters'quotas. In the Fall of 1995, Women Against Military Madness in Minneapolis, MN convinced 4 out of 5 schools in the metro area to cancel the visit. Alternatively, make it optional - and encourage students to opt out. When the Van arrives, be there to counter it. Bring leaflets and brochures to the schoolyard where the Cinema Van is parked and raise awareness among students, teachers, and the community. Show counter-recruitment videos, depicting the realities of war and military life, either on-site or in a nearby location.
Demand equal access. Bring speakers, videos, and counter-recruitment literature into classrooms. Federal Courts have consistently ruled that if public schools create a public forum by allowing military recruiters access to students, critics of the military are entitled to equal access. Contact us for a simple flyer, meant to reach principals and administrators, which cites the relevant court cases. In December of 1995, activists with the Nonviolent Action Community of Cascadia in Seattle used this approach and presented It's Not Just a Job, WRL's video depicting the realities of military life, to hundreds of students. If the military passes out cards asking for students' names and addresses, we can do the same.
Stage Street theater. In Duluth, Minnesota, peace activists stopped the annual visit of a Navy recruiting ship by greeting it with body bags and demonstrators. Simple, creative, attention-getting actions can gather publicity and make students stop to think.
Take it to the media. In January 1996, CCCO generated national coverage of the Cinema Van on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer: the Vans are visible, photogenic, and the perfect media hook for your action. In addition to getting press coverage for any event or action, op-ed pieces, letters to the editor, and talk radio can get the word out that high schools and community colleges shouldn't be recruiting stations. Please send us clippings, video footage, and reports on your actions so we can share your successes across the country in future fax/email updates, on our web page, and in our revamped magazine, The Objector.
Sustain Activism Throughout the School Year.
Although these vans are an egregious use of federal and school resources to militarize youth, military recruiters often have nearly unlimited access to students throughout the year. We have the right to equal access... in guidance counselors' offices, libraries, at career days, etc. We have brochures, a new anti-militarist 'zine written by and for youth, and even an anti-war comic book available to counter the military's message.