Insider: 'It's Much Bigger Than What You Captured' - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NC5 Investigates: Dishonorable Deceptions

Insider: 'It's Much Bigger Than What You Captured'

Recruiting insider talks to Phil Williams Recruiting insider talks to Phil Williams
Fort Knox, Kentucky -- home of U.S. Army Recruiting Command Fort Knox, Kentucky -- home of U.S. Army Recruiting Command
Lt. Col. Patrick Brewington Lt. Col. Patrick Brewington
(Story created: 7/9/07)

The U.S. Army says it's closer to wrapping-up an investigation of some Middle Tennessee recruiters.

A NewsChannel 5 investigation caught those recruiters on hidden cameras, engaging in what one officer says were Dishonorable Deceptions.

In a letter to Congress, Secretary of the Army Pete Geren says that "the investigating officer concluded that four recruiters" -- including one who did not appear on camera -- "improperly advised an 'applicant' that he did not have to disclose" his use of psychiatric medications.

He says commanders are now reviewing the evidence and statements from the recruiters to determine what should happen to them.

Still, the Secretary also insists that the Army is doing a good job of policing its recruiters.

But now a veteran recruiting insider is breaking ranks and questioning whether top Army officials are really doing enough.

"It's much bigger than what you captured, it's a whole lot bigger than that," he tells NewsChannel 5's chief investigative reporter Phil Williams.

This longtime insider from Fort Knox's U.S. Army Recruiting Command says our investigation only hints at a recruiting crisis -- a crisis for which, he argues, top brass share responsibility.

"I'm not going to say it's just pressure on recruiters cause some people will just cheat because it's easier," he says.

"But some, they fall to it because of the pressure that's placed upon them."

Lt. Col. Patrick Brewington's statement reflects the Army's official position that "there is no pressure that should cause you to compromise your integrity."

But when recruiters get out in the field, this insider says,  "Now, they're finding, you're either a hero or you're a zero or, as they call them, dirtbags."

Williams ask Brewington, "Are there quotas?"

"No, there are not quotas -- we have missions," he replies.

But the insider says those are just words.

"However you want to call it, you have a number that has to be met," he says.

"You've got the pressure," Williams adds.

"You have the pressure," he replies.

Brewington explains, "We encourage them to meet them. But he's not going to be kicked out of the Army because he didn't meet his goal."

But tell that to the recruiters, some of who say that pressure to cut corners can come from their own superiors.

"Have you ever been threatened?" Williams asks.

"Yes, I have."

It's a similar story to those accounts shared by other Army recruiters.

In fact, NewsChannel 5 Investigates obtained a reprimand in which a commander threatens a career recruiter: "Your lack of performance jeopardizes the company and the nation. I will not recommend that you return back to your (job) or be allowed to stay in the Army."

"He's holding his career out in front of him," the insider tells Williams.

"Is that appropriate?" Williams asks.

"No. Oh, no. Definitely not."

"So why would it go on?"

"That commander, he's under pressure too."

Which is why, if a recruiter is bringing in the soldiers, the insider says his or her superiors may be tempted to overlook improprieties that they see the recruiter taking.

"There's times that those things will never be reported up," the insider says.

"Because it's not in the commander's best interests?" Williams asks.

"Well, that guy is producing contracts."

And even if a such recruiter is found by his superiors to have engaged in some impropriety, the punishment may not be severe.

"As long as you are putting contracts in, you're kind of protected in some ways."

As "NewsChannel 5 Investigates" first reported back in May, the Army's own figures show that 5 of every 10 recruiters who were found to have engaged in improprieties were relieved of duty five years ago.

Now, just 3 out of 10 get the harshest penalty. (See "Summary of Army Recruiting Investigations.")

And the Fort Knox insider notes that headquarters does have a few investigators who can conduct independent investigations, but they can't do anything unless it's first approved by top brass.

"If they don't want that investigating group to go out, they can simply stop it."

And when those investigators have gone out into the field, he says there have been cases where they were ordered *not* to pursue new leads.

"They told them to stick to their scope -- don't go uncovering other things," the insider adds.

"In other words," Williams asks, "let this be a little problem and don't let it blow up into a big scandal?"

"That's exactly what it is."

And that, he fears, may be exactly what the Army is doing again.

In fact, a government study concluded that recruiting misconduct occurs most frequently towards the end of the monthly recruiting cycle -- as recruiters realize they may not meet their quotas.

The insider says the Army needs to come clean with the public about how difficult it is to recruit soldiers in the middle of an unpopular war -- and stop putting all the pressure on the recruiters.

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