(Originally appeared in Radar on Jan. 26-27, 2007)
An overwhelmingly popular war…a maximum one-year tour of duty…and a hospitable Middle Eastern paradise.
Military recruiters must be beating them off with an M16, right?
To test this hypothesis, Radar’s Teddy Wayne called recruiting stations around the country disguised as a veritable Breakfast Club of misfit would-be soldiers, all dramatically unqualified or unattractive for service in some way: a flamboyant gay man concerned with the availability of hair pomades in Iraq; a chronic IBS sufferer who subsists mostly on celery; a timid mama’s boy who wants to bring his own alarm-rigged plastic sheets; an “Ultimate Street Fighter” raring to inflict his throwing stars and nunchakus on Osama; a possible crystal meth dealer who has “hypothetically” done a boatload of drugs; and a lobotomy patient whose side effects include problems with “Decision-Making Ethical Opportunities” and involuntary recall of announcers’ comments from a 1986 Mets game.
A couple of generations ago, the military would have rejected them faster than you can say “quagmire.” But a dismal 2005 saw the worst enlistment shortfall since 1979. A slew of financial incentives (including $2,000 referral bonuses for selling out your friends), raising the active duty age limit from 35 to 42, and even a laxer policy on tattoos helped the Army rebound and barely reach its 2006 goals. Despairing recruiters have some serious quotas to meet. And for the promise of a fresh, warm body, it seems they’re willing to overlook a few flaws.
The following transcripts are from actual phone calls to military recruiters in December 2006. Enjoy them, and support the troops—even these ones.
RECRUITER: Can I get your name?
RECRUITER: And last name?
RADAR: Fierstein. My issue, it may sound superficial, but I’m a real fashion freak.
RECRUITER: You’re a real what?
RADAR: A real fashion freak. I take care of myself, I groom, and my questions are related to that. First of all, do you have to do the whole shaved-head thing?
RECRUITER: The whole shaved-head thing…in basic, yeah, they do do that. As soon as you graduate basic, as long as it falls within the guidelines, any length is good.
RADAR: I do like a spiky, Ryan Seacrest kind of thing. Is that allowed?
RECRUITER: Yeah, that’s fine.
RADAR: Okay, and you can use mousse and gel—
RECRUITER: Yeah, it’s just before basic training.
RADAR: I’m concerned about, if I ever go to Iraq, I don’t do too well with the humidity, and I use a lot of anti-humectant pomades. I wanted to make sure I could still use those.
RADAR: Great. The other thing, I’m a real clotheshound, and I gotta admit, I kind of like the uniforms, but I’m not into green for the most part.
RECRUITER: Actually, we’re wearing a digital pattern now, and it’s blue and tan.
RADAR: Can you spice it up with some yellows or reds?
RECRUITER: No, you can’t.
RADAR: Is your underwear also camouflage?
RECRUITER: No, that’s pretty much up to you.
RADAR: So you can go wild with underwear—and socks, maybe?
RADAR: Good, ‘cause I’ve got a lot of red and yellow stripes, I’m a huge yellow and red freak.
RECRUITER: Fashion’s your big issue here.
RADAR: Yeah, it is.
RECRUITER: No, I understand that. What kind of job field would you be looking at?
RADAR: I want to spread freedom. What I feel is that, in Iraq, they’re not getting the freedom to choose things like what kind of clothes they can wear, what they can put in their hair, and I want to help them get that opportunity, too. I feel it’s unfair.
RECRUITER: Well, they’re pretty up-to-date when it comes to hairstyles and stuff like that. Hygiene’s a big thing to them. We actually employed several civilian local nationals to cut hair on post when we were in Iraq. So when you’d go to the barber it’d be an Iraqi local that was a barber downtown but he wasn’t making enough, or somebody else had a hand over him—whether it was just corruption, period, or he just couldn’t practice, but now he was on our base and he’s getting paid a decent salary. They were great when it came to hair.
RADAR: Does he know how to do the Seacrest style, can he do things like that?
RECRUITER: Yeah, he had clippers, he had scissors, he had everything.
RADAR: He’s got all the hair gels, the anti-humectant pomades?
RECRUITER: No, he didn’t have all that stuff, you have to bring all that on your own.
RADAR: What’s the policy on jewelry?
RECRUITER: Jewelry? What are you asking about here?
RADAR: Earrings, maybe some jangly necklaces, maybe a cravat or something—accessories and jewelry.
RECRUITER: Okay, getting back to the fashion thing…while you’re on duty, you’re not allowed to wear any earrings.
RADAR: What about piercings—piercings elsewhere?
RECRUITER: Um, no, I really can’t speculate on that, but I don’t believe they’re allowed.
RADAR: They’re not visible, though. No one, except maybe a few people, would ever see it.
RECRUITER: It’s against the regulations, so I’m gonna have to say no. But I can’t speak for the whole army. I can only tell you that it’s wrong, and if you hide it, you hide it.
RADAR: Trust me, honey, no one’s gonna see this one. You know what I mean?
RECRUITER: You know what, Harvey, I need to get some info from you to find out if you’re even qualified for the military, because usually only three out of ten are qualified to process, and one out of ten actually make it.
RADAR: Well, I’m a one-out-of-ten kind of guy.
RECRUITER: (laughs) All right. Let’s hope so here. Can I get your date of birth?
RECRUITER: Good year. I’m born the same year.
RADAR: Maybe we’ve partied before without knowing it.
RECRUITER: I’ve just moved into the area. I haven’t really made it out at all. My wife won’t let me—
RADAR: I’ve only been here a couple of weeks, too. Where do you go out?
RECRUITER: Uh, I really haven’t been out too much…Any college?
RADAR: I went to a fashion school for about six months, and dropped out, it really wasn’t my thing. Sorry, I know you answered a lot of these questions before—I know you said you can’t spice up the uniforms, but can you bring along things that give it a little flair, like a silk handkerchief, if it’s digital camouflage also, in your uniform?
RECRUITER: Again, Harvey, that’s job-dependent. If my guys are working in the motor pool and it’s hot out, and they want to throw a handkerchief over their head to keep the sweat from hitting their eyes, I have no problem with it.
RADAR: Oh, I wouldn’t put it over my head. I’m talking about in the front pocket, a little shimmy.
RECRUITER: No—when you’re in formation, this uniformity is required. When I was at Bragg, you couldn’t roll your sleeves.
RADAR: In the summertime, I even have a camouflage military tank-top, plus some denim cut-offs and flip-flops.
RECRUITER: Off the clock, that’s not an issue.
RADAR: Does the army have designers who help design the next generation of the hot military wear?
RECRUITER: We really don’t have anything like that right now.
RADAR: That would be my preferred job. I heard some other thing—missions called “escorts.” Is that a correct term?
RECRUITER: Don’t know.
RADAR: ‘Cause I have experience in that. I just heard about this the other day on CNN.
RECRUITER: Okay, before I get job-specific, let me make sure you’re fully qualified. You haven’t had any health issues, have you?
RADAR: No, just—let’s put it, things from a couple late nights of clubbing.
RECRUITER: Okay. Ever taken any prescription medication?
RADAR: Just to cure what ails ya from the clubbing nights.
RECRUITER: Okay. You ever been in trouble with the police?
RADAR: No, except for two guys—it wasn’t real police, they were dressed up like police at a club one night, they were kind of—
RADAR: —they were in costume, but they weren’t real police, but—
RADAR: —I got into something—
RECRUITER: Have you ever had anything expelled, expunged, dismissed, dropped, stricken from your record?
RADAR: Oh, I thought you were gonna say expelled from my body. No, not that I know of.
RECRUITER: And what’s your current height and weight?
RADAR: Five-ten, 160, tight. The one other question I had, I keep hearing about this “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Is that, like, bitchy gossip?
RECRUITER: Actually, for something like that I’m gonna have to refer you here to my station commander. Let me put you on hold, you can talk to him.
[same recruiter comes back in a few minutes]
RECRUITER: Now, what was that question, real quick, one more time?
RADAR: I hear a lot about “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, I want to know if that means bitchy gossip in the locker room.
RECRUITER: No, I’ve gotten the guidelines from my boss here. They do not allow homosexuality in the military service, but because of that policy, that policy states that we are prohibited to ask, and if somebody of that sexual orientation would like to serve their country, they can enlist, but they’re prohibited to tell their sexual orientation, and they’re prohibited to demonstrate it.
RADAR: Can you ask other soldiers about it?
RADAR: Can you make hints?
RECRUITER: No. That’s defined as a statement, an act, or anything to that nature.
RADAR: It couldn’t be like, cough once for yes, cough twice for no?
RECRUITER: No. That would still be asking, in a sense.
RADAR: All right.
RECRUITER: Let me grab a little more info from you. You don’t have any kids, do you?
RADAR: No, definitely not. Not gonna happen anytime soon, either.
RECRUITER: Never been married?
RADAR: I don’t think I’m allowed.
RECRUITER: Job field-wise, there’s really no place in the military for design, or changing the uniform—
RADAR: That was just my dream job. I could still just be a soldier.
RECRUITER: Okay, we can’t really change the uniforms—
RADAR: But you can wear the red-and-yellow underwear, that kind of stuff.
RECRUITER: Yeah, that’s all you…I need a little something to work with here. Hobbies, you know, things that we can look at different job careers for you.
RADAR: I love rollerblading—
RECRUITER: What kind of rollerblading?
RADAR: I do this thing, it’s dance-rollerblading, a bunch of guys get together, they dance to techno, house music, early-90’s house. Is there something like that? Could I maybe start up a club like that in the army?
RECRUITER: No. I did skate when I was in the army with a couple of buddies. So there are skate parks out there.
RADAR: This thing doesn’t take much space, you get a bunch of guys together, they put on some early-90’s British house, you just dance on the blades for, like, hours.
RECRUITER: All right.
RADAR: Other hobbies, I’m into the opera, I’m into travel.
RECRUITER: On your free time, you’re welcome to travel wherever. My little brother’s in Germany, and he travels all over Europe.
RADAR: Oh, I’ve heard Hamburg is wild. I’d love to go there.
RECRUITER: What about military police?
RADAR: I’m not great with discipline stuff, except in certain role-play situations.
RECRUITER: Okay. Well, what time should I tell my station commander here for Friday?
RADAR: Maybe Friday afternoon.
RECRUITER: What do you think about three o’clock?
RADAR: I’ll have to talk to my friend first.
RECRUITER: All right, well, I’ll see you then.
The IBS Sufferer
RECRUITER: What’s your name?
RADAR: Charlie Koop.
RECRUITER: Any kids?
RECRUITER: None that you know of.
RADAR: I can’t. I’m sterile, actually.
RECRUITER: Uh…any health problems?
RADAR: That’s actually what I want to talk to you about. I don’t know what the restrictions are, but I’ve got some minor things that are a nuisance in my life here.
RECRUITER: Like what?
RADAR: I’ve got hay fever, for instance.
RECRUITER: Everybody’s got hay fever.
RADAR: Okay. I’ve got halitosis. Pretty severe halitosis.
RECRUITER: Chew some mints.
RADAR: Okay. I’ve got pretty bad dandruff.
RECRUITER: Dry skin.
RADAR: Just dandruff. It flakes off on my shoulders. I don’t know if you’re wearing a camouflage uniform, if it would suddenly make you more visible.
RECRUITER: No. Anything else?
RADAR: Yeah, I’ve got some IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
RECRUITER: Jeez, man, you got all kinds of problems!
RADAR: Yeah, but these are minor things. Definite no-nos are dairy and wheat, and if I get salt or sugar, too much salt or sugar, I get bad diarrhea. Here, I eat a lot of vegetable roots. Two out of my three meals are some kind of thing involving celery and radishes.
RECRUITER: You ever see a doctor about this?
RADAR: Sure, he prescribed the celery—I eat celery-shake mixes all the time, and I’m curious if you could bring those over to Iraq, or if they have them there already.
RECRUITER: For any health issues, we collect documentation from your doctor, we send it down to our doctor, and he signs off yes or no.
RADAR: Do you know yourself if you’re allowed to bring your own food over there, like celery-shake mixes? To Iraq.
RECRUITER: You could have ‘em mailed over, sure.
RADAR: Great. Do you know if they have celery fields there? That’s the one thing I can really eat the most of, is celery. If they have celery fields already in Iraq that I could maybe harvest—
RECRUITER: You can Google that one, I don’t know. You can have ‘em mailed over.
RADAR: Yeah, but it’s best if it’s fresh, of course. You take, like, 10 or 12 celery stalks, you mix it up in a blender—
RECRUITER: That’s all you eat?!
RADAR: For breakfast and lunch, and then I have a sensible dinner. Usually, some radishes, some potatoes.
RECRUITER: You’re all veggies?
RADAR: Pretty much, ‘cause meat usually has salt in it, and like I said, I get explosive diarrhea with that. So I try and stay away from the meat.
RECRUITER: What we’d do is, I’d have you sign a release of information, I could fax it down to [your doctor’s] office, and he faxes me all the documentation up here.
RADAR: But you must have other soldiers who have this kind of explosive diarrhea when they eat certain foods.
RECRUITER: It depends on what you eat. Hell, I can get it sometimes.
RADAR: Yeah, but I’m telling you, I’m lactose-intolerant, I’m celiac, I’m salt- and sugar-resistant—it’s called “The Fearsome Foursome,” is the term for people like me.
RADAR: Is there, like, a Fearsome Foursome support group over there? Someone I could talk to to see—
RECRUITER: Uh, probably not. Next question. You ever been in trouble with the cops?
RADAR: One time I accidentally ate something I shouldn’t have eaten, had an accident, and the cops thought I was showing them up, because it smelled bad, but it was really just an accident.
RECRUITER: You ate something?
RADAR: I had a Twizzler one day, which I didn’t realize had so much sugar in it. I was talking with a cop, I had an accident in front of him, he thought I was being funny, when it was really just ‘cause I ate the Twizzler.
RECRUITER: (laughs) Did he take you to jail or anything?
RADAR: They took me down, because he thought I was doing something to show him up, but I produced some documentation—my doctor had to come in, actually, and say, “No, if he eats sugar at all, he’ll have explosive diarrhea.”
RECRUITER: Oh, good Lord.
RADAR: The only other medical issue I have, really, that might cause a problem, I get hives when I’m in stressful situations, a big outbreak of hives everywhere. If I went to Iraq, would there be a placement somewhere that would avoid stress?
RECRUITER: I can’t guarantee you’re going to Iraq. You got a lot of health issues. I mean, the hay fever is no big deal. The halitosis is no big deal. Dry skin, no big deal. The irritable bowels, that’s an issue.
RADAR: If I can get my celery shakes, I can eat those three times a day, really, and that’s all I need.
RECRUITER: You’re gonna have to come in and see me.
RADAR: I get stressed out for interviews and stuff like that—I might have the hives on me then. It’s a job interview kind of thing, it may not happen during a war.
RECRUITER: I’ll tell you what, call me back, let me know when you can come around the office.
RADAR: Sounds good. Thanks.
The Mama’s Boy
RADAR: I’m thinking about maybe possibly enlisting. Do you need parental consent?
RECRUITER: If they’re seventeen.
RADAR: No, I’m twenty-seven, but I live with my mother. Does she still need to give her consent?
RECRUITER: No, she doesn’t.
RADAR: She really doesn’t want me to go, and it’s been a big source of tension between us lately. She’s very concerned about my safety, and I am a little bit, too, to be honest. Is there anything I could say to her?
RECRUITER: See, you live in South Dakota. You’ve probably got a better chance of getting hit by a drunk driver than getting killed in the army.
RADAR: So it really is not that bad over there?
RECRUITER: The news—they portray the worst part. It’s all on what are you gonna believe and what are you not…all the news reporters are also in the area of Baghdad, when we’re in the entire country, where maybe not a lot goes on.
RADAR: Do they have drunk driving there?
RADAR: If you’re there, do you have a good chance of getting hit by a drunk driver in Iraq?
RECRUITER: (laughs) No, not really.
RADAR: And basic training, is that the kind of thing you see in movies, with drill sergeants?
RECRUITER: If you see the movie “Full Metal Jacket,” no, it’s definitely not like that. The drill sergeants may be in your face, but that’s only if you do something really stupid.
RADAR: But they don’t yell at you too much?
RECRUITER: They’re gonna tell you right off the bat they do not yell. They talk loud enough so everybody can hear.
RADAR: Just sort of a high decibel level, but not yelling?
RADAR: Is there a way to be put in with a gentler drill sergeant, a guy who doesn’t yell too much? Is there a way to request that?
RADAR: That’s something my mother is concerned about, too. She doesn’t want me to be with a bunch of really yelling kind of guys.
RECRUITER: It depends on how your platoon is. The more you act like a team, the less you’re gonna hear from the drill sergeants.
RADAR: So do you have to do everything as a team there?
RADAR: It’s something I hoped I’ve left behind me in high school—do you have to shower with the other guys, or do you get your own private showers?
RECRUITER: Yeah, there’s public showers. Open showers.
RADAR: Is there a way around that?
RECRUITER: Not that I know of.
RADAR: Not even baths? Where you can hide behind the bathtub?
RADAR: That’s gonna be an issue. Is that like that in Iraq, also?
RECRUITER: In Iraq they had private showers. I wasn’t expecting it.
RADAR: Great. Is there a way to skip the basic training and go straight to Iraq so I don’t have to deal with the shower issue?
RADAR: There’s no way to get a note to get out of the shower?
RECRUITER: No, you have to bathe, and all they have is showers.
RADAR: Is bathing optional? At summer camp, I went once a whole month, when I was twelve, just so I didn’t have to shower.
RECRUITER: If you do not take showers, they’re gonna notice, and they’re gonna make you take one.
RADAR: I’ll talk to my mother about that, maybe she has some ideas. This is kind of embarrassing—are there certain medical issues that will keep you out?
RECRUITER: What kind of medical issues?
RADAR: Maybe once every two weeks or so I’ll have an accident, at nighttime. At home it’s not a problem, because my mom gives me plastic sheets, and we have an alarm system set up where it rings if there’s any moisture.
RECRUITER: That would keep you out.
RADAR: It’s a good alarm system—moisture sets off the alarm, it wakes you up, and you pretty much avert the issue. If I could bring that along with me?
RECRUITER: They will not let you bring your own sheets.
RADAR: Well, we’ve been working on it, and I’ve gotten a lot better. I haven’t had an accident in about a month. If you go a month between these things, that hardly counts as bed-wetting, right?
RECRUITER: Well, just see how much further you can go.
RADAR: What would you say is a good limit for when it becomes no longer a problem, but just an occasional issue?
RECRUITER: Go probably another month or two.
RADAR: So two or three months between. Okay, I think I can do it. What else could I tell her to make sure she knows it’s not gonna be that scary for me? ‘Cause she doesn’t even know I’m calling right now. She’d kill me if she knew.
RECRUITER: We are the best-trained army in the world. We take any precaution we can to help out our soldiers. When it comes to body armor, the best weapons, the best equipment, the best vehicles.
RADAR: Could I carry a cell phone on me in case someone needed to know where I am? For instance, here, whenever I go out, I’m supposed to call and leave a note telling her where I’m going.
RECRUITER: You don’t want to call and let ‘em know where you’re going, ‘cause if anybody picks up on that, you’ve just compromised the mission.
RADAR: But in case you don’t have a ride home, they can pick you up.
RECRUITER: You’re talking about Iraq?
RADAR: Yeah. If you’re on a mission, don’t you tell your friends where you’re going?
RECRUITER: Yeah, your unit will know where you’re going. If someone gets lost, they’ll make sure to come find you.
RADAR: Okay, I can tell her that, too.
RECRUITER: When we go out, we have alternate routes, and we’ve got our own strip-maps, and stuff that, if we get lost, we can make our way back.
RADAR: Here, she only lets me drive if I have a MapQuest thing printed out the whole way through.
RECRUITER: (laughs) I don’t know if MapQuest is available over there in Iraq.
RADAR: Maybe Google maps has it, then. I heard October was the most violent month there?
RECRUITER: Yes, that’s during Ramadan. It’s the month of fasting, where they don’t eat or drink anything during the day, and it makes them really—it gets them riled up.
RADAR: So as long as I’m not there during Ramadan, they’ll be more peaceful, because they’re getting food and drinks?
RECRUITER: Uh huh.
RADAR: That’s good. So if I joined the army soon, I would be sent over—I’d be there for next October?
RECRUITER: Yeah, probably.
RADAR: Is there a way to come back here just for October so I could avoid Ramadan?
RECRUITER: Not that I know of.
RADAR: How would I explain that to her, that I have to be there during Ramadan, when they get riled up?
RECRUITER: As long as you’re not eating or drinking water around other Muslims, you’ll be okay.
RADAR: Oh, that’s the only reason they got angry? ‘Cause they see you eating and drinking, and they’re jealous that we’re eating and drinking?
RECRUITER: Uh huh.
RADAR: And the guys you’re soldiers with—do they hang out?
RECRUITER: Yeah, you get some free time.
RADAR: I’ve never been good with bonding with the guys, but I’ve heard you make good friends in the military.
RECRUITER: You do. I’ve made a lot of friends.
RADAR: That’s part of why even my mother wants me to join, to make some friends. You’re allowed to take pictures there?
RECRUITER: Yeah, there’s plenty of Iraq photos floating around.
RADAR: Good, so I could take pictures of them, send it to my mother—
RADAR: —to prove to her that I made some friends there.
RECRUITER: Oh, yeah, of course.
RADAR: All right, well I’m gonna talk this over with my mother. This is better—now I can give her some factoids. Thank you.
RECRUITER: Thank you.
The Martial Arts Master
RADAR: I’m thinking about enlisting, serving my country.
RECRUITER: Good. How long you been doing that crazy nonsense for?
RADAR: Which crazy nonsense?
RECRUITER: Joining, serving your country. I’m messing, it was a poor joke. I apologize.
RADAR: I’m into guns a lot, I’m into shooting. I might as well put it to use, get some Al-Qaedas while I’m at it.
RECRUITER: Good deal. What’s your name?
RADAR: Mark Chapman. You know what kind of guns they issue you?
RECRUITER: 249 Bravo, which is the SAW.
RADAR: Oh, the Squad Automatic Weapon. Oh, nice. That’s got what, a 5.56 caliber?
RECRUITER: That’s correct. Boy, you all over it.
RADAR: What’s the rate of fire on something like that? 750, 800?
RECRUITER: You got a little bit deeper than my knowledge goes. I’m in communications.
RADAR: Mow down a lot of Al-Qaedas with that one, huh?
RECRUITER: Yes, sir, I’m sure you could.
RADAR: That’d be nice. What else do they give you over there?
RECRUITER: Nine millimeter, the M16.
RADAR: M16? They got the M240?
RADAR: I’ve never gotten to use one of those.
RECRUITER: It’s a larger weapon system. It’s rate of fire is pretty slow. It’s one-off.
RADAR: Save that one for Osama.
RECRUITER: (laughs) Yeah.
RADAR: Give me one shot, that’s all I need.
RECRUITER: Yes, sir.
RADAR: Have you ever fired one of these?
RECRUITER: No, the only weapon systems I’ve fired are the M16 and the nine millimeter.
RADAR: How’s the M16 feel?
RECRUITER: It’s a good weapon system. I like it. I’m accurate up to 300 yards with it.
RADAR: Three hundred—wow. I’ve never had the privilege of holding one of those, but I’d love to get my hands on one of those.
RECRUITER: Well, I’d love to see you with your hands around one of those.
RADAR: Do they let you bring your own guns over there?
RECRUITER: No, it’s all issued.
RADAR: What about other weaponry? I’m into martial arts, Ultimate Street Fighting. You use throwing stars, nunchakus, and your hands—the Holy Trinity. They let you practice that over there?
RECRUITER: Yeah, of course. If you’re instructor-qualified.
RADAR: So I could bring my own throwing stars?
RECRUITER: Oh, yeah.
RADAR: Six- or eight-point, do they a rule on that?
RECRUITER: (laughs) I have no idea, dog.
RADAR: What are the rules when you get over there? Can you basically do whatever you want?
RECRUITER: No. You’re doing whatever your job is. If you’re a killer, that’s what you’re doing. If you’re a ranger, that kind of thing, that’s what you’re doing. If you’re in a medical field, you’re doing medical stuff.
RADAR: I want to be a killer, though. Once you do that, you can do whatever you want, basically?
RECRUITER: No, you have to abide by the rules of the Geneva Conventions.
RADAR: What if you find Osama?
RECRUITER: You can get a lot of awards.
RADAR: But you can do what you want to—have a little fun while their backs are turned?
RECRUITER: No, that’s not authorized.
RADAR: I’d love to get a couple throwing stars up in his face.
RECRUITER: I feel you.
RADAR: Some nunchakus action. You’re basically saying, they’ll say to you, you can’t do what you want, but do you what you want, we didn’t say anything, if it comes to Osama.
RECRUITER: (laughs) Nah. When can I get you into the office, Mark?
RADAR: I don’t have a car, I’ll have to check with my friend.
RECRUITER: I can shoot over there and pick you up.
RADAR: My other question, I’m a big surfer, I spent some time in California. Is there any surfing opportunities in Iraq?
RECRUITER: I don’t think so.
RADAR: I heard all this stuff about “waterboards” on the news—that’s what we called our surfboards, “waterboards.”
RECRUITER: I have no idea.
RADAR: On CNN, they kept saying, “Waterboarding is the new craze in Iraq.”
RECRUITER: I haven’t heard anything about it.
RADAR: If I found some waterboarding opportunities, there’s no reason I couldn’t do it?
RECRUITER: It would be at the discretion of the commander.
RADAR: If the commander said, “Yeah, go ahead and waterboard.”
RECRUITER: If the commander said go for it, hell, yeah, go—what do you call it, waterboarding?
RADAR: Yeah. They say you can do it with Iraqis even, if they’re into it also—the good ones, obviously.
RADAR: It’d be fun to waterboard some Iraqi kids.
RECRUITER: Oh, yeah.
RADAR: The other question is, there’s an Exxon down the street. I’ve been here about two weeks, I go by there every day. A guy who works there, he’s definitely of the Al-Qaeda persuasion. He’s on his cell phone all day, I’m pretty sure he’s planning something. Who do I talk to about that?
RECRUITER: The police.
RADAR: What about taking matters into my own hands, if they don’t do anything?
RECRUITER: I wouldn’t recommend that. You might be interfering with some investigation. You don’t know what they got going on. You may interrupt an entire operation.
RADAR: About four years ago in bar, I got into a fight with an off-duty cop, but he was too fucking pansy-ass to press charges because he was embarrassed he got beaten by me, so no charges were pressed. Nothing’s on my record, is there a problem?
RECRUITER: If there’s no record, and you were never charged…you know what I’m saying? We’re still gonna do a police check.
RADAR: But he was too afraid.
RECRUITER: Too afraid?
RADAR: Too afraid of me. He didn’t want to see me in court.
RECRUITER: I feel you. Is there any problem with me coming to pick you up?
RADAR: My friend might want to join, too, so I’ll call you back later.
RECRUITER: Well, Mark, I can’t wait for you to call me back, dog.
RADAR: What I’m mostly concerned with is the army’s policy on past drug use, when it’s unintentional drug use. I’ve taken some drugs when I was younger—accidentally—and I want to know the army’s policy on that.
RECRUITER: What kind of stuff do you have on your record?
RADAR: Nothing on my record, no one else knows about it.
RECRUITER: You haven’t been in trouble for it?
RADAR: No. It was always, someone would give it to me, they would tell me it was something else—I’m not gonna say I did it, but say they gave me mushrooms. They would say, “These are normal mushrooms, eat them,” and I’d think it was a food to eat, and it would turn out mushrooms the drug. But that’s hypothetically speaking.
RECRUITER: As long as there’s no record of it, you know? There’s no way to really track it, as long as you haven’t been in trouble for it, but the military doesn’t tolerate drug use.
RADAR: Yeah, this is all in the past, but hypothetically, if you did something like ‘shrooms, or if you hypothetically did speed, or maybe acid, or opium, or meth, or methadone—would they have any issues with that, if it was in the past? If it’s not on your record?
RECRUITER: If you tell us about it, we’ll have to do background checks and everything.
RADAR: I’m not saying I did it, I’m saying, hypothetically.
RECRUITER: Yeah. As long as there’s no record of it, there’s no way for anybody to pin anything on you to cause any problems, you know what I’m saying?
RADAR: Even the bigger ones, though? I’m talking about—hypothetically—X, or Foxy, or salvia divinorum, or peyote, or, like, you know, ludes, nitrous oxide, whippets, Benadryl, things like that, coke, you know, hashish—hypothetically, if you did these things, but no one’s ever caught you, it’s a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy?
RECRUITER: Um, well, I’ll say, if you tell us about it, we’ll have to do background checks, but as long as there’s nothing on your record, we can get waivers for it.
RADAR: Okay, great. Yeah, no, I never did those, just wanted to know.
RECRUITER: Yeah. So, you haven’t done anything?
RADAR: No. Clean as a whistle.
RECRUITER: Okay. How long have you been at your current address?
RADAR: Just a couple of weeks. I like to pass in, pass out kind of thing…I’m unemployed now, or official unemployment—I make some money on the side, but I’m not officially employed, but I do some stuff on the side to get some cash, so I’ve been moving around, going where the supply-demand thing works.
RECRUITER: Yeah, okay. And your height and weight?
RADAR: About five-ten, and my weight fluctuates depending on what I’ve been doing, I sometimes get down there to about 140, then I eat food again for a while and get up to 160, but when I’m in certain phases, I’ll drop some pounds.
RECRUITER: What do you think your weight is now?
RADAR: Right now I’m doing okay, 155. I’ve been healthy and stuff, but every few months, I’ll get on a binge of losing weight.
RECRUITER: Your religion?
RADAR: Spiritual, it’s more than anything else. I get in touch with the mystical side of things, now and then.
RECRUITER: Okay. Have any kids?
RADAR: Not that I know of.
RECRUITER: Have you gone to college any?
RADAR: I was in Bronx Community College, mostly to make some contacts, and get some names of students, but I left after a few months.
RECRUITER: Have you had any medical problems since birth?
RADAR: Just minor glaucoma which has since cleared up.
RECRUITER: How old were you?
RADAR: About sixteen or so, and I knocked it out pretty quickly.
RECRUITER: Anything else?
RADAR: Every so often I get the shakes a little bit, in my hands, but it’s mostly not an issue.
RADAR: And now and then, in the way for other people it’s a nightmare, for me, it might be while I’m awake, I’ll have a sort of daymare—I’ll have an image of something from the past that comes up and haunts me. Every six months or so, I’ll have a five-minute episode where I think I’m somewhere else, and I have to be restrained a little bit.
RECRUITER: Okay. So you have ever taken any kind of behavioral medication?
RADAR: You mean, like, prescription?
RECRUITER: Uh, yeah.
RADAR: No, nothing prescription, no.
RECRUITER: Have you taken any other thing that’s not prescription?
RECRUITER: Okay. Do you have any tattoos?
RADAR: One time, I got kind of wild, I got a tattoo of a needle on my ankle. Like a syringe needle, not a sewing needle.
RECRUITER: Syringe needle on…which ankle?
RADAR: Right ankle. It starts on the ankle and goes down and points to an area between two of the toes.
RECRUITER: Okay. Have you had any law violations, including traffic tickets, even on your juvenile record?
RADAR: Nothing I’ve been caught for, so, no.
RECRUITER: (laughs) Okay. Would you be able to come in and set up an appointment with us?
RADAR: I could ask my friend if he could give me a ride. Are you guys open on Friday?
RECRUITER: That’s all right, I could come and get you.
RADAR: My friend is thinking about coming in as well. We’re doing some projects on our own, in his laboratory here, so I don’t know if your coming here might disrupt things. He likes to keep his lab kind of clean.
RECRUITER: What kind of lab?
RADAR: He just does a lot of science experiments, that kind of thing.
RECRUITER: Oh. Is he going to school for that type of stuff or something?
RADAR: He took a class—it’s sort of recreational now. Sort of a fun little hobby on the side. But I’ll call you back today or tomorrow.
RECRUITER: Okay, go ahead and give me a call back as soon as you find out, and I can set up my schedule this week. I’m sure I can fit you guys in.
RADAR: Great, thank you.
The Lobotomized Recruit
RADAR: I had surgery about twenty years ago, when I was a kid, that doesn’t really affect me now—
RECRUITER: What was the surgery on?
RADAR: It was a very partial—it’s got a stigma attached to it now—a very partial frontal lobotomy in the occipital region.
RADAR: The technical term for what it does is, it causes problems with “Decision-Making Ethical Opportunities,” DMEOs, and these are judgments related to moral dilemmas. The kind of things that some people quickly make a moral decision on, it takes me longer to process, and sometimes I make the wrong decision.
RECRUITER: And they fixed that by having this procedure?
RADAR: No, that’s the side effect. I was having some trouble with cerebellum routines.
RECRUITER: Okay. Do you have any other problems at all? Like, law problems?
RADAR: What’s your stance on past drug use?
RECRUITER: If you’ve used drugs in the past, usually marijuana, it doesn’t disqualify you from joining, but it takes away some jobs.
RADAR: I have not taken marijuana, but I’ve some other things. Usually it was accidentally taken, someone would give me something, they’d tell me it was something else—
RECRUITER: Was it methamphetamine?
RADAR: I could go through the list. Off the top of my head, I took ‘shrooms—RECRUITER: ‘Shrooms are a recreational drug. Did you ever do cocaine, LCD, PCP?
RADAR: Yeah, those three. Acid, opium, crystal meth, methadone, X, Foxy.
RECRUITER: Have you ever been arrested for them?
RADAR: No, again, because it was an accident. Salvia divinorum, peyote, Benadryl, ludes, whippets. But I never touched pot.
RECRUITER: All that, and you never touched pot? Usually it’s the other way around.
RADAR: I’ve been very careful with the frontal lobotomy. Pot is the one thing that really screws with you with the side effects.
RECRUITER: What I can tell you is, the surgery, it doesn’t sound good. You’d have to have medical documents from your doctor that actually did the surgery, and you’d have to do a medical waiver.
RADAR: I don’t know if I could find the doctor, I think he got kicked out of the country.
RECRUITER: You’d have to have those documents.
RADAR: Apparently, he’s in Latin America or something.
RECRUITER: Do you know what hospital he works for?
RADAR: I don’t think he works in a hospital, it’s in the back of his house or something. He got exiled soon after my surgery. It was a big nationwide case—
RADAR: After my surgery he got run out of town. I heard he ended up in Chile, and is just doing under-the-radar things on his own.
RECRUITER: It sounds like a pretty serious surgery from the army’s standpoint. It’d be difficult to get you in, but it’s not impossible. With the drug use and (laughs) that surgery—I mean, you said frontal lobotomy, and that’s pretty serious.
RADAR: No, partial frontal lobotomy.
RECRUITER: No, that’s pretty serious.
RADAR: I mean, it was to correct some cerebellum issues—Hernandez, Carter, Strawberry—it was just some minor things.
RECRUITER: From what it sounds like, that’s what I’m judging it on.
RADAR: It was ’86, it happened in, October. They had the Mets game on during the surgery, and I still sometimes—the other only tiny minor side effect—will say, involuntarily, things from that game, comments from the announcers.
RECRUITER: Uh huh.
RADAR: I usually can control it, but sometimes it comes out. Will that cause problems?
RECRUITER: Well, if it gives you problems like ethical decisions, that will most likely disqualify you.
RADAR: No, I’m talking about saying things from the baseball game. It causes me a lot of issues with job interviews, especially.
RECRUITER: That’d probably be a problem with us, ‘cause you have to go through a full physical and mental eval.
RADAR: I’ll be doing an interview, I’ll say, like, “Hernandez, batting .317 with fourteen homers, 93 RBIs,” and not even know where it came from.
RECRUITER: I’d say you’re probably disqualified, man, I can tell you that.
RADAR: Okay, I told you this, but if I went to another guy and didn’t tell him about the drug use or the lobotomy—
RECRUITER: I don’t endorse that, you shouldn’t go around lying to people, you can get yourself and the recruiter in a lot of trouble.
RADAR: The thing is, I don’t know that always at the time, because of the DMEOs, ‘cause of the lobotomy. Could I blame it on that? Could I lie, but I’ll be like, “I didn’t know, it’s a problem ‘cause of my lobotomy”?
RECRUITER: That’s on you, but please don’t come to the station and lie to another recruiter, you could get yourself and another guy in a lot of trouble. Okay?
RADAR: All right, thanks, man.