Top Story: Peace Corps Option for Military Recruits Sparks Concerns

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By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-23-45.balt.east.verizon.net - 141.157.23.45) on Monday, August 01, 2005 - 10:56 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Option for Military Recruits Sparks Concerns

Peace Corps Option for Military Recruits Sparks Concerns

The recruitment program has sparked debate and rising opposition among current and former Peace Corps officials. Some welcome it as a way to expand the cadre of idealistic volunteers created by President John F. Kennedy. But many say it could lead to suspicions abroad that the Peace Corps, which has 7,733 workers in 73 countries, is working together with the U.S. armed forces.

Peace Corps Option for Military Recruits Sparks Concerns

Peace Corps Option for Military Recruits Sparks Concerns

By Alan Cooperman

Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, August 2, 2005; A11

The U.S. military, struggling to fill its voluntary ranks, is offering to allow recruits to meet part of their military obligations by serving in the Peace Corps, which has resisted any ties to the Defense Department or U.S. intelligence agencies since its founding in 1961.

The recruitment program has sparked debate and rising opposition among current and former Peace Corps officials. Some welcome it as a way to expand the cadre of idealistic volunteers created by President John F. Kennedy. But many say it could lead to suspicions abroad that the Peace Corps, which has 7,733 workers in 73 countries, is working together with the U.S. armed forces.

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"Does this raise red flags for the Peace Corps community? I'd say yes -- emphatically so," said Kevin Quigley, president of the National Peace Corps Association, an organization of returned volunteers, staff and supporters. "We think a real or perceived linkage between the Peace Corps and military service could damage the Peace Corps and potentially put the safety of Peace Corps volunteers at risk."

Congress authorized the recruitment program three years ago in legislation that drew little attention at the time but is stirring controversy now, for two reasons: The military has begun to promote it, and the day is drawing closer when the first batch of about 4,300 recruits will be eligible to apply to the Peace Corps, after having spent 3 1/2 years in the armed forces. That could happen as early as 2007.

Two longtime proponents of national service programs, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), devised the legislation "to provide Americans with more opportunities to serve their country," said Bayh's spokeswoman, Meghan Keck. When it stalled as a separate bill, aides to the senators said, they folded it into a 306-page defense budget bill, where it did not attract opposition.

Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez, who was appointed in 2002 by President Bush, said in a recent interview that the Peace Corps was unaware of the provision until after it became law. Vasquez declined to say whether he would have opposed the legislation, had he known about it in time.

"There might have been a discussion, there could have been some dialogue on this, but obviously that didn't happen," he said.

Several former Peace Corps leaders said they hope that Congress and the Bush administration will reverse course and scuttle the program. They include former senator Harris Wofford (D-Pa.), who helped found the Peace Corps as a young aide in the Kennedy White House; Carol Bellamy, the former New York City Council president who headed the Peace Corps from 1993 to 1995; and Mark L. Schneider, who was a volunteer in El Salvador in the late 1960s and headed the Peace Corps during the last two years of the Clinton administration.

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"Democratic and Republican administrations alike have kept a bright line separating the Peace Corps from short-term foreign and security policies," Schneider said. "Blurring that sharp line is a bad idea, particularly now, given the unfortunate rise in anti-American sentiment following the Iraq war."

After the law went into effect in 2003, the Defense Department was slow to promote the option of combining military and Peace Corps service, but it is now energetically flogging the "National Call to Service" program, recruiters said. The Army, which began a pilot project in 10 of its 41 recruiting districts in October 2003, expanded it into a nationwide effort this year. The Air Force, Navy and Marines offer identical programs, said Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

In all of the services, recruits are eligible for a $5,000 cash bonus or repayment of $18,000 in student loans if they agree to spend three months in boot camp, 15 months on active duty and two years in the Reserves or National Guard.

After that, they can fulfill the remainder of their eight-year military obligation in the Individual Ready Reserves -- available for call-up, but without regular drilling duties -- or by serving in the Peace Corps or Americorps, the domestic national service program created in 1993.

Vasquez emphasized that recruits have no guarantee that they will be accepted into the Peace Corps. Once they complete their active duty and Reserve or National Guard service, they can apply to the Corps. But they will not receive any preferential treatment, and the Peace Corps is not changing its admission standards, he said.

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"Ultimately, the impact to Peace Corps in terms of how we recruit, who we accept into service, remains very much intact and consistent with what we've done for 40-plus years," the Peace Corps director said. "I am an individual who embraces a very important facet of Peace Corps, and that is the Peace Corps' independence as an agency within the executive branch."

Wofford, who worked in the White House with Sargent Shriver, the Kennedy brother-in-law who became the Peace Corps' first director, said the Corps historically has shown "passionate determination" to maintain that independence. At the outset in 1961, Shriver appealed to Kennedy to keep the Peace Corps from being placed under the Agency for International Development. Later, the Corps fought to uphold rules barring intelligence officers from joining the Peace Corps and prohibiting former Peace Corps volunteers from working for U.S. intelligence agencies.

Several current Peace Corps volunteers said they opposed the military recruitment option but were reluctant to speak out publicly, because the Peace Corps forbids volunteers from talking to the media without permission.

"We are already accused on a daily basis of being CIA agents so I don't see how this [link to the U.S. military] could help," a volunteer in Burkina Faso said by e-mail.

"It is hard enough trying to integrate yourself into a completely different culture, convincing people that . . . Americans are not these gun-toting sex maniacs . . . without having a connection to the U.S. military," another volunteer in Africa wrote.

Former volunteers expressed a variety of reservations.

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Pat Reilly, a former chairwoman of the National Peace Corps Association who served in Liberia from 1972 to 1975 and spent several years as a full-time Peace Corps recruiter, said she worries about the motivation of people who enter the Peace Corps to fulfill a military service obligation. "The magic that makes the Peace Corps work is motivation, and when you tinker with that, then it won't work for the applicant and it won't work for the people it serves," she said.

John Coyne, who served in Ethiopia during the 1960s and was a regional director in the Corps' New York office from 1996 to 2001, said numerous military veterans have joined the Peace Corps and been superb volunteers. But he said there has always been a "clear separation" between the two kinds of service. The new recruitment program "eats away at the purity of the Peace Corps as designed by Kennedy, which is that it was not going to be military," he said.

So far, the number of enlistees is tiny compared with the 1.4 million men and women serving in the military, but large compared with the Peace Corps, which receives about 12,000 applications to fill about 4,000 openings each year.

In 2004 and the first five months of this year, 4,301 people entered the armed services under the National Call to Service program. Of those, 2,935 enlisted in the Navy, 614 in the Air Force, 444 in the Army and 308 in the Marines. Pentagon and Peace Corps officials said they have no way of knowing how many will apply to the Peace Corps when they become eligible to do so in 2007 or 2008.

In his 2002 State of the Union address, Bush called for doubling the size of the Peace Corps, from 7,000 to 14,000 volunteers, within five years. That same year, the administration named a career Navy officer with 12 years of experience in military recruiting to head the Peace Corps' recruitment and selection office.

Since then, however, the Corps has grown by little more than 10 percent. Barbara Daly, a spokeswoman for the Corps, said that tight budgets -- rather than a shortage of qualified candidates -- were the reason.

"The president has been very supportive of the Peace Corps and has requested budget increases each fiscal year that would allow for this" gradual doubling, she said. "Congress has not approved our budget at the levels requested by the president."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company





When this story was posted in July 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:


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The Peace Corps Library Date: March 27 2005 No: 536 The Peace Corps Library
Peace Corps Online is proud to announce that the Peace Corps Library is now available online. With over 30,000 index entries in 500 categories, this is the largest collection of Peace Corps related stories in the world. From Acting to Zucchini, you can find hundreds of stories about what RPCVs with your same interests or from your Country of Service are doing today. If you have a web site, support the "Peace Corps Library" and link to it today.

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Special Events for RPCVs Date: July 13 2005 No: 683 Special Events for RPCVs
Join the NPCA in DC for Advocacy Day on July 28
NPCA to hold Virtual Leaders Forum on July 29
RPCV's "Taking the Early Bus" at Cal State until Aug 15
"Artists and Patrons in Traditional African Cultures" in NY thru Sept 30
See RPCV Musical "Doing Good" in CA through Sept
RPCV Film Festival in DC in October

July 17, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: July 17 2005 No: 690 July 17, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
C. Payne Lucas writes "Can we win the war on HIV/Aids?" 11 July
Director Vasquez hints at expansion in Bangladesh 17 July
Why didn't I spend my life helping others? 17 July
John Beasley returns to the islands of Micronesia 17 July
Jennifer Field to study glacier melting 17 July
Tucker McCravy works with Serendib in Sri Lanka 17 July
David Vick writes "Waging civilized warfare" 16 July
Tom Petri says Nelson helped to promote civility 16 July
Peace Corps Director Visits Volunteers in Mongolia 15 July
John Bridgeland writes "An example for Boomers" 15 July
Robert Blackwill says India and US have a great future 15 July
Peace Corps debuts new internet recruitment tool 14 July
Eight New Country Directors Appointed 13 July
Shelton Johnson Honored for Buffalo Soldier program 13 July
Bill Lorenz leads trek for Sudanese refugees 12 July
Emilie Pryor says Peace Corps ignores Lariam problems 12 July
DDN is Award Finalist for reporting on PC Safety 11 July
Randy Lewis to hire 200 people with cognitive disabilities 10 July
Maryland needs people like Tom Lewis 10 July
Dan DeWayne puts on music festival 10 July

July 9, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: July 9 2005 No: 675 July 9, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
Mike Honda says Democratic Party in paradigm shift 6 July
Peace Corps Suspends Program in Gabon 8 July
Thomas Tighe says Thailand is faring better 8 July
Michael Parmly appointed top diplomat in Cuba 7 July
Paul Timmreck got his start trailing garbage trucks 7 July
Shays says London explosions should be wakeup call 7 July
Tom Murphy says: Be Vigilant, But Not Afraid 7 July
Gov. Doyle saddened and outraged by London Attacks 7 July
RPCV Films organizing Film Festival 6 July
Terez Rose writes Aid for Africa Will the G8 Help? 6 July
Carl Youngberg takes ballet to Honduras 6 July
Kafatia faces a mandatory eight years in prison 6 July
Bill Moyers says LBJ hated FOIA law 6 July
Andy and Trudy Anderson work with The Hunger Project 5 July
Thomas A. Dine deplores the attack against reporter 5 July
Mime Troupe tackles history, politics and the World Bank 4 July
Francis Mandanici says investigation could lead to impeachment 4 July
Beth Bedinotti says motherhood is "toughest job" 1 July
Director Vasquez Visits Volunteers in Eastern Caribbean 1 July

July 8, 2005: PC suspends program in Gabon Date: July 10 2005 No: 679 July 8, 2005: PC suspends program in Gabon
Peace Corps announced the suspension of the program in Gabon citing the high cost of the program. In addition, a 2003 Inspector General report documented safety and security costs of $1 million that would be necessary to keep the program operating successfully. Background: In 1998 Peace Corps Volunteer Karen Phillips was was found murdered in the weeds about 100 yards from her home in Oyem, Gabon. Her killer has never been brought to justice.

Friends of the Peace Corps 170,000  strong Date: April 2 2005 No: 543 Friends of the Peace Corps 170,000 strong
170,000 is a very special number for the RPCV community - it's the number of Volunteers who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961. It's also a number that is very special to us because March is the first month since our founding in January, 2001 that our readership has exceeded 170,000. And while we know that not everyone who comes to this site is an RPCV, they are all "Friends of the Peace Corps." Thanks everybody for making PCOL your source of news for the Returned Volunteer community.


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Story Source: Washington Post

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Speaking Out; Military; Intelligence Issues; Safety and Security of Volunteers

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By RPCVCA (169.214.171.66.subscriber.vzavenue.net - 66.171.214.169) on Tuesday, August 02, 2005 - 1:43 pm: Edit Post

NO! The military is an honorable and noble service and honorably discharged veterans are most assuredly welcome in PC. However, it's important to PC's mission that it hold a strict line of separation between the agency and the military and intelligence services. Therefore, PC should NOT be an alternative for fulfilling one's military obligation. PC must also retain its status as an independent agency.

It's challenging enough for PC to counter misperceptions that it is somehow linked to military and intelligence services. This also has important repercussions on the safety and security of PCVs.

By Christopher E. Barnhart (206.228.12.107) on Thursday, August 11, 2005 - 3:00 pm: Edit Post

I served in the Somali, Africa from 1966 to 1968 as a school construction volunteer. This was during the height of the Vietnam War. At that time, the United States Military was looked on with distain by Somalis for it's involvement in Vietnam. In the 1990's, the US Military was involved in Somalia on a humanitarian mission that was subverted and resulted in the "Black Hawk Down" incident and the US withdrawal from Somalia. Now the US is again engaged in a unjust and illegal war, this time it's Iraq and Afganistan. Allowing military personnel to serve part of their services as PC Volunteers could subvert the true mission of the Peace Corp. It could set a bad precedence and possibly put PC Volunteers who have no direct linkage to the US Military in "harms way" as focal points for terrorist attacks against innocent PC Volunteers around the world.

By Christopher E. Barnhart (206.228.12.107) on Thursday, August 11, 2005 - 3:00 pm: Edit Post

I served in the Somali, Africa from 1966 to 1968 as a school construction volunteer. This was during the height of the Vietnam War. At that time, the United States Military was looked on with distain by Somalis for it's involvement in Vietnam. In the 1990's, the US Military was involved in Somalia on a humanitarian mission that was subverted and resulted in the "Black Hawk Down" incident and the US withdrawal from Somalia. Now the US is again engaged in a unjust and illegal war, this time it's Iraq and Afganistan. Allowing military personnel to serve part of their services as PC Volunteers could subvert the true mission of the Peace Corp. It could set a bad precedence and possibly put PC Volunteers who have no direct linkage to the US Military in "harms way" as focal points for terrorist attacks against innocent PC Volunteers around the world.

By Ed Brylawski (cpe-geonor-rtr-e0.mlf.ptd.net - 24.229.13.80) on Thursday, August 11, 2005 - 2:59 pm: Edit Post

I would contend that the Peace Corps should be an independent agency wholly separated from the military or information agencies. When I served in Panama in 66 and 67 many Panamanians suspected we worked for the CIA, and it was important to be able to honestly say that we had nothing to do with any information agency.

Panama Group 10 1966 & 1967

By Dan Miller (ip-200-53-106-124-mty.marcatel.net.mx - 200.53.106.124) on Thursday, August 11, 2005 - 11:06 pm: Edit Post

Obviously one of the areas that the US is doing very poorly in is foreign affairs. Polls show that we are hated like no time ever before. If we are going to recover at all, we need to support those few bright spots that still exist.

Peace Corps is one of those few bright spots and its magic is the willingness of the volunteers to more than meet the challenges that arise and to focus on making the world a better place for everyone, especially the most downtrodden. This requires that the motivation of the volunteer be absolutely as clean and pure as possible. If we allow Peace Corps to become a place where military personnel can escape what they consider even worse conditions (getting shot at, for instance), then what we end up with are volunteers that really don't care about their jobs and at best, are just marking time, at worst making locals despise the US because of the behavior of the only US representative they have close knowledge of.

The statement by Mr. Vasquez that we have had military volunteers before is beside the point. They had been discharged from the service or close enough to it to make no difference. They weren't using the Peace Corps to escape the military. Exmilitary volunteers that truly are motivated make excellent volunteers because they may be more used to harsh conditions that sometimes are the lot of PCV's and because some of them want to compensate for some of the things they did to people during their military service. The most effective volunteer in my group was a veteran of the Cambodia invasion, but he was there because he wanted to be, not because it was the better of two undesirable alternatives.

If we cannot get the present law changed, then any military serviceman who tries to volunteer should only be considered if there is absolutely no doubt that he truly is motivated to serve and is likely to be a truly outstanding candidate. Otherwise he should be rejected even if he is the equal of a nonmilitary volunteer who is accepted. The difference is the motivation and the fact that has been emphasized time and again that we are already regarded as CIA. We don't need to give the opposition more ammunition to shoot us with, figuratively speaking.

By Anonymous (24.115.131.217.res-cmts.tv13.ptd.net - 24.115.131.217) on Friday, August 12, 2005 - 12:37 am: Edit Post

Wise Chinesse saying, "Don't let the Fox into the hen house". Don't expect eggs in the morning either.
Sneaky deals stink from the start and just keep on stinking.
PC people should unite and voice their disgust with the underhanded way of introducing spooks into PC.
White dress isn't white if you put stains on it and that's exactly what the hawks want to do.
PC is last vestiage of descency and honesty the US has to hold up to the World. The rest is Hawks and Wal-Mart. Don't turn PC into right wing, spook filled Langly OP. We don't need their ship of fools on our boat. If you think for one minute X-service war vets won't have a few trained spooks with them. I'll tell the tooth fairy to leave you and George a dollar under your pillow.
Very sad day when they have to corrupt the only descent Gov't operation for a better world. Taint it with their parnoia, fill it with spooks and those who've killed. Use it and abuse it like a forgotten mistress. No dignity, no shame, no intregity. Have we really sunk so low in our American values. I'm an American and I served four years with PC and happen to think it was the proudest and honor worthy service I could perform for this great country. For 15 bucks a month and 2 grand muster out pay. That was it
no welfare checks, no GI bennies, no Golden CEO parchute, NO stock options, no political bennies. ZIP in cash values. But I walk tall and with a heart filled of wonderful helpful caring memories of the people I helped and the lives I touched.
I doubt if there is a more wealthy man in America with memories of what I believe America is about helping and sharing, not bombing and killing. You can't take the kill out of killing, once you crossed that line there is no turning back. PC was an alternative to the killing fields. It was and should remain the helping fields. With a sign over the door. "NO SPOOKS NEED APPLY".
Tell it to White HOuse, to the senate, the house and anyone who will listen, NO SPOOKS in PC.
Keep Military seperate from PC. We don't ask the Church to use ;pimps and prostitutes as basket collectors. Why the military in bed with PC. the fit doesn't fit and will never fit. Voice your conceren. Miltary and Peace how ridiculous the marrage like oil and water, think about it.

By Flemming Heegaard (ha90s418.d.shentel.net - 204.111.91.162) on Friday, August 12, 2005 - 10:46 am: Edit Post

As an RPCV from one of the first groups of volunteers (Nepal I: 1962-64) I must register my complete and total disagreement with this terrible idea.

We do NOT want to mix the military option with the peace option, this would finally and totally destroy the Peace Corps as the face of a democratic and peaceful America.

The US attack on Iraq has been bad enough for our image, let's not give ourselves the coup de grace!

Flemminng Heegaard

By username (po.lewisbuilds.com - 67.131.11.163) on Friday, August 12, 2005 - 6:17 pm: Edit Post

My $0.02 on this is consistent with other posters here.

I served in Panama in 95-97, during the end of the era of US Military presence. Even though the relationships between US Miliatary and it's personnel and the Panamanian gov't and people was good, we as PCV's were asked to limit our exposure and communication with members of the military.

From my perspective, I saw this as a very good thing as it made sure we PCV's were not perceived as being tied to the military or intelligence organizations. I am worried about how this new law and it's possible implementation will affect the perception of people in the countries where we serve... even in countries like Panama.

Perception is king. Whether there is any connection between the US Military and Peace Corps is irrelevant. What matters is what the PERCEIVED connection is throughout the world.

I do not mind honorably discharged Vets from participating in the PC, and I think they can add valuable knowledge, skills, and perspective to the the mix. I do have a problem with the US Miliatry actively recruiting from within it's ranks for PC service.

So, many of us have a bad opinion of this law... the question is what will we do?

By Moriah Hart (66-52-154-69.oak.napanet.net - 66.52.154.69) on Sunday, August 14, 2005 - 11:42 am: Edit Post

I was in the Republic of Moldova as a TEFL Volunteer 1997-99. On a daily basis I had to deny any link to the military and/or CIA. People just could not understand why else I would be there. Eventually I think most people believed me.

I worked in an unsettled region, as do many PCVs, we are naturally targets as Americans. My safety would have been at greater jeopardy had there been a real tie with the military. This law puts RPCVs in direct physical danger, not to mention endangers our goals.

By Rolf Goetze (140.241.0.20) on Monday, August 15, 2005 - 10:15 am: Edit Post

Peace Corps motivation (not for self or pay) is a prime aspect of our service. Separateness from CIA or US Military has always been essential.

Resist this disastrous idea. It reveals profound misunderstanding of how Americans views others in the world -- and shapes how others will view us in the future.

I was a Nepal I volunteer leader in Nepal (RPCV)with my wife '62 - '64.

By Dan Carroll (cpe000f665a10df-cm00111adf6072.cpe.net.cable.rogers.com - 69.198.180.93) on Monday, August 15, 2005 - 12:01 pm: Edit Post

I wrote a column on this topic:

"The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love...just got a little tougher, thanks to some help the U.S. Peace Corps didn't need."

Find it at The Wild Duck:

http://www.wildduckdiary.com/?p=93

By Anonymous (static-67-62-23-107.t1.cavtel.net - 67.62.23.107) on Thursday, August 18, 2005 - 5:49 pm: Edit Post

It comes to this question, I think:

Is it the service, or the intent to serve, that defines Peace Corps?

If its the intent, then the Call to Service program has no place, since the recruits come to PC as an alternative to serving in war...

But if its the service that makes a volunteer, then why shouldn't we take the former military folks? If the maturity and perspective of an RPCV comes from their having experienced an intensely personal encouter with another way of living, why do the reasons for applying matter so much?

Most of us who've served as volunteers in the past know that what brought us to PC (curiousity? altruism?) ended up being very different from what kept us through the two years...I think its at least plausible that the military folks could end up being just as successful as the rest of us...


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