How Far Will The Army Go?
Apr 28, 2005 9:59 pm US/Mountain
How far will U.S. Army recruiters go to bring young men and women into their ranks? An Arvada West High School senior recently decided to find out. The following is CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger's report..
ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) -- Last month the U.S. Army failed to meet its goal of 6,800 new troops.
Aware of this trend, David McSwane, a local high school student, decided he wanted to find out to what extent some recruiters would go to sign up soldiers who were not up to grade.
McSwane, 17, is actually just the kind of teenager the military would like. He's a high school journalist and honor student at Arvada West High School. But McSwane decided he wanted to see "how far the Army would go during a war to get one more solider."
McSwane contacted his local army recruiting office in Golden with a scenario he created. He told a recruiter that he was a dropout and didn't have a high school diploma.
"No problem," the recruiter explained. He suggested that McSwane create a fake diploma from a non-existent school.
McSwane recorded the recruiter saying that on the phone.
"It can be like Faith Hill Baptist School or something -- whatever you choose," the recruiter said.
As instructed, McSwane went on the computer to a Web site and for $200 arranged to have a phony diploma created that certified him as a graduate of Faith Hill Baptist High School, the very name the recruiter suggested. It came complete with a fake grade transcript.
"What was your reaction to them encouraging you to get a phony diploma?" CBS4's Rick Sallinger asked.
"I was shocked," McSwane said. "I'm sitting there looking at a poster that says 'Integrity, Honor, Respect' and he is telling me to lie."
McSwane also pretended he had a drug problem when he spoke with the recruiter.
The Army does not accept enlistees with drug problems.
"I have a problem with drugs," McSwane said, referring to the conversation he had with the recruiter. "I can't kick the habit ... just marijuana."
"[The recruiter] said 'Not a problem,' just take this detox ... he said he would pay half of it ... told me where to go."
Drug testers CBS4 contacted insist it doesn't work, but the recruiter claimed in another recorded phone conversation that taking "detoxification capsules and liquid" would help McSwane pass the required test.
"The two times I had the guys use it, it has worked both times," the recruiter said in the recorded conversation. "We didn't have to worry about anything."
Then the original recruiter was transferred and another recruiter, Sgt. Tim Pickel, picked up the ball.
A friend of McSwane shot videotape as Pickel drove McSwane to a store where he purchased the so-called detox kit.
CBS4 then went to the Army recruiting office and confronted Sgt. Pickel. CBS4 played him a conversation McSwane had with Pickel on the phone. The transcript of that conversation follows:
Pickel: When you said about the one problem that you had, what does it consist of?
Pickel: Oh, OK so nothing major?
McSwane: Yeah, he said he would take me down to get that stuff, I mean I have no idea what it is, so you would have to show me. Is that a problem?
Pickel: No, not at all.
Pickel quickly referred CBS4 to his superiors.
CBS4 then played the tapes and showed the video to Lt. Col. Jeffrey Brodeur, who heads army recruiting for the region.
"Let me sum up all of this with one word: unacceptable, completely unacceptable," Brodeur said.
Hearing recruiters talking about phony diplomas and ways to beat drug tests left Brodeur more than a little disturbed.
"Let me tell you something sir, I'm a soldier and have been a soldier for 20 years," Brodeur said. "This violates trust, it violates integrity, it violates honor and it violates duty."
The army says it is conducting a full investigation. Brodeur said there is no pressure or punishment for recruiters if quotas are not met. They are, however, rewarded when their goals are surpassed.