Yo Soy el Army

Military recruiters take aim at Latino youth

Military recruitment has become one of several battlefields for anti-war activists and Iraq war supporters who disagree over recruiting strategies directed at high school-aged kids. But one of the fiercest battles underway now could determine the success of military recruitment programs aimed exclusively at Latino youth.

In the Oct. 3 issue of The Nation magazine, journalist Roberto Lovato reports on what he calls the “Latinization of the Pentagon’s recruitment strategy,” stating that the Pentagon is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to research and recruit Latino youth. The Latino population is of course the fastest growing ethnic minority in the country –and Lovato points out that Latinos are a target for recruiters because they comprise such a large part of the low-income 17- to 21-year-old population.

“Latinos already in the military are concentrated in the low ranks of the Marines and the Army, serving in the high-casualty, high-risk jobs of front-line troops urgently needed in Iraq,” Lovato says. “Latino enlistment increased from 10.4 percent of new recruits in 2000 to 13 percent in 2004.”

Nevertheless, dozens of counter-recruiting groups are springing up in Latino communities nationwide. Some of the most prominent have set up Web sites where they publish guides for limiting military access to school campuses, promoting the use of “opt-out” forms that prevent schools from turning over contact information on students and helping kids understand their rights if they sign up with recruiters and later repent. Here are a few of those sites:

* www.projectyano.org

Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities (YANO) publishes in English and Spanish and is headed up by San Diego professor Jorge Mariscal to educate Latino parents and students about military recruitment in the schools. One column, for example, carries the headline: “What do I do when a recruiter becomes aggressive with my son or daughter?”

* www.guerreroazteca.org

Proyecto Guerrero Azteca Por La Paz is headed by Fernando Suarez del Solar, who lives in Escondido, Calif., and speaks at schools and forums about military recruiting strategies and how recruiters lure kids. Suarez Del Solar’s son, Jesus, a Marine, died in the Iraq war in 2003. The site publishes in Spanish and English.

* www.0101aztlan.net/latinosforpeace.aspx

This site is devoted to garnering anti-war support apparently by petitioning, and argues that the Bush Administration has failed to explain its reasons for going to war. No other information was provided at last check.

­Leslie Layton