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U.S. Army ‘education benefits’ misunderstood

When 25-year-old Anthony Reyes entered the military seven years ago, he was given a handful of promises regarding his education. But these promises were only possibilities.

“When I was signing up, they promise you that you’ll be able to get college credit or you’ll be able to go to school while you’re in the military and that’s not always true,” Reyes said. “For me I wasn’t able to. They didn’t put it on contract but verbally, yeah. A lot of this stuff is verbal. That’s a pretty big issue right there.”

After serving as a mechanic for the U.S. Army for three years, Reyes said he decided to go back to school. He now attends Cal State Long Beach and is majoring in nursing. Recruiters using education benefits as a strategy is a major issue veterans face, according to a Communication and Mass Media Complete database search. Reyes agrees this problem is present for Cal State Long Beach student veterans, as well.

“There is all kinds of stuff,” Reyes said. “I don’t mean to rag on the military so much because I am grateful that the military has done so much for me. But as far as recruiting, I think that’s a major thing. A lot of people think that their getting into something that’s going to set them up for life and really, it doesn’t all the time.”

CSULB Veterans Affairs Program Assistant Lynisha McDuel deals with veterans’ problems often and agrees recruiters’ education promises are a concern.

“They need to be a little more upfront with them about what’s actually going to happen and what the more realistic situation would be,” McDuel said. “Rather than just tell them we’ll give you money for your education and we’ll help you go to school while you’re serving, I think they need to explain. [They should] lay it all out on the table so they can make an informed decision.”

McDuel said the biggest problem with education being used as a recruiting tactic is the lack of information.

“I find they haven’t been fully informed of the process and things like that,” McDuel said. “They don’t always know what some of the road blocks may be while pursuing their education or you know things like that, so they’ll come in and I’ll end up telling them.

“But it’s a little bit too late by then. So, I think they’re just misinformed. Or not [being] well enough informed seems to be the problem I encounter most often.”

Reyes said the benefits veterans receive from the G.I. Bill only pay for classes that count directly toward their major. When signing his contract, Reyes said he was not informed of these concerns.

“There are all kinds of limits that they put you on to getting your benefits and you have to abide by them,” Reyes said. “They have strict rules. They don’t tell you any of that. The recruiters will bullshit you, anything. They will do anything in their power to get you to sign up.”

McDuel said recruiters will drop pamphlets off in her office or ask for student contact information. By law, she is required to give it to them.

Tony Clemetson is in charge of advertising and public affairs for the U.S. Army for the city of Los Angeles.

“I think recruiting uses everything the Army offers,” Clemetson said. “People are always looking for something; they aren’t going to do anything for free.”

Clemetson said people join the military for all kinds of reasons; education is just one of them. He also said he does not believe education is overly used as a recruiting tactic.

“Recruiters are always going to talk to them about their needs and what they want,” Clemetson said. “It’s still up to them if they join or not.”

Reyes said he wishes the recruiters would use a different tactic when trying to enlist soldiers.

“I wish they would just be straight up, but I guess their recruiting goals wouldn’t be met if they were straight up,” Reyes said. “It would make sure all the people going into the military really want to get into the military; they didn’t get [in] just because of lies.”

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