Student Sting Shows Extent of Recruiter's Push-to-Enlist Tactics

Arvada, Colorado
May 1, 2005
Student-led sting ensnarls recruiters

How Far Will The Army Go?

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..

ast 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.
student who led investigation
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?
McSwane: "Marijuana."
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.

Brodeur interviewed by Channel 4
"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.

CBS4 Video:

Additional Resources:

The U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Denver office released the following press release on April 29 in relation to this case:

Yesterday the Denver Army Recruiting Battalion took action against two Army recruiters for alleged impropriety. One recruiter is suspended from recruiting until completion of the investigation. The other recruiter, who was in transition to a new duty location, is being called back to the area for the investigation and is also not recruiting.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Brodeur, Denver Army Recruiting Battalion commander, said: "We began conducting an investigation immediately upon finding out about the allegations made toward these recruiters and are required to complete the investigation within 30 days.

"Recruiter misconduct is not acceptable and it violates honor, duty and trust.

"The Army takes a very serious approach to proper enlistment procedure and integrity. All allegations are investigated. We do not tolerate unprofessional behavior and our stringent guidelines for policing the recruiting force is evidence of that commitment."

(© 2005

Army pair's tactics eyed

Two Army recruiters in Golden have been suspended from their jobs while military officials look into allegations the two men used improper tactics to get an Arvada high school student to sign up for duty.

The Denver Army Recruiting Battalion, which oversees recruiting for Colorado and parts of three other states, launched the investigation Friday after CBS 4 News broadcast a report the previous night about the alleged improprieties.

The report featured David McSwane, an Arvada West High School honors student and editor of his school newspaper, who was "curious" to see what recruiters at a Golden recruitment facility would do if he told them he wanted to join the Army as a high school dropout with a serious marijuana problem.

McSwane, 17, said he had read about the challenges the military was facing in recruiting and wanted to find out "how desperate they really are."

"Being my age and in high school, you see recruiters all the time. It's something that's affecting people my age," he told The Rocky Mountain News Friday.

Starting in January, McSwane met with two recruiters in Golden several times and secretly taped a series of phone calls with them. On the tapes, one recruiter is apparently heard encouraging McSwane to create a fake high school diploma to cover for the fact that he had dropped out.

"It can be like Faith Hill Baptist School or something — whatever you choose," the recruiter said.

McSwane said he bought a phony diploma, complete with a transcript, from a Web site for $200. He was told that it passed the Army's academic evaluation.

"At one point, I thought he would look up my academic record, but he never did," McSwane said.

McSwane got a friend to film another recruiter driving him to a store to purchase a detoxification kit to rid his system of supposed marijuana traces.

By the middle of March, McSwane was asked to sign a routine paper attesting that everything he had told recruiters was true.

"He wanted me to strip down and get on the scale and sign some papers — I walked out . . . and never came back," he said.

McSwane's story was published with his principal's approval in the high school newspaper, The Westwind, on March 17.

Debbie Cannon, public affairs chief for the Denver Army Recruiting Battalion, wouldn't comment on the allegations. She expected the investigation to be completed within 30 days.

"Recruiter misconduct is not acceptable and it violates honor, duty and trust," Lt. Col. Jeffrey Brodeur, the battalion's commander, said in a statement.

McSwane said he got the feeling from the recruiters he talked to that they were desperately trying to sign him up by a certain date so that they could meet a monthly quota.

"I'd like to see the Army investigate this thoroughly, not just two guys in this office," he said.

By John Aguilar, Rocky Mountain News April 30, 2005,1299,DRMN_15_3741396,00.html

ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) -- On the orders of their colonel, Army investigators went to the home of high school student David McSwane to collect his evidence.

Brodeur artview of photoThe man in charge of recruiting in the Denver area, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Brodeur said "The first thing I have to do is aggressively investigate any improprieties, and there are apparently glaring improprieties."

The colonel asked McSwane to turn over tapes that he recorded on the phone and a videotape showing a recruiter driving him to purchase a substance to help him pass a drug test. McSwane had made up a story to see how far recruiters would go to enlist him.

On a taped conversation, McSwane said "I have a drug problem." The recruiter said, "OK." "My diploma and transcript isn't real," McSwane said. The recruiter said, "OK."

The recorded phone conversations includes recruiters instructing McSwane how to create a phony diploma.

"I hope they look into recruiting tactics and see that this is something that is going on," McSwane said. "People are in the Army that have gotten in this way."

CBS4 asked the colonel if the tactics could be due to pressure to meet quotas for new soldiers.

"Sir, listen, it doesn't matter what the quotas are, it doesn't matter if your quota is one or 10 for this month," Brodeur said. "It is unacceptable."

Brodeur called the Army an "All-Star Army" that doesn't need soldiers with drug problems or those who don't meet academic standards.

"The people of the United States of America and the state of Colorado deserve better," Brodeur said. "They don't need recruiters that are like this, if this is in fact true."

The Army's investigation into the recruiting tactics will be completed next month.

thank you to The Westwind
and the leadership of the faculty of Arvada West High School
for their support of high school investigative journalism

(© 2005
additional reporting © Rocky Mountain News

Glass shattered at recruit office

An Army and Marines recruitment center in Westminster was shot at eight times early Friday, an incident that police believe is related to the airing of CBS 4 News' report on alleged recruitment improprieties.

"The timeliness is too significant to ignore," said Westminster police investigator Tim Read. "The report was at 10 p.m. (Thursday night) and by 7 this morning, the damage occurred

No one was injured in the shooting, which shattered some glass at the front of the building at 7355 W. 88th Ave.

Debbie Cannon, with the Denver Army Recruiting Battalion, called the shooting an "isolated incident" and not the result of the broadcast.,1299,DRMN_15_3741399,00.html

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