Counter Recruitment

Student letter published in Portland Tribune

Aidan Rierson, one of the students who organized and participated in the protest of recruiters at Franklin High School on November 4th, had his letter to the editor published in the Portland Tribune on December 3.  The letter is a response to the misleading letter published on November 19th from Ernie Freund, the commander of the Portland Recruting Battalion.  The text of Aidan's letter is as follows:



Letter misrepresented Franklin protest

A recent letter ("Nonstudents disrupt Army recruiters," Nov. 19 Tribune) was littered with factual errors and misrepresentations.

I was the student who organized the action in question.  I am 16 years old and worked only with my peers, all of whom are under 18 and are students at Franklin High School.  The claim that "10 unidentified 20-year-olds" participated is simply not true, as well as the implication that we were armed or that we are criminals.

It is true that we distributed materials to our peers after they had spoken with recruiters.  Those materials did contain historically accurate images of war, such as the Pulitzer-Prize winning "Napalm Girl" photograph.  We chose to use these images of crimes the U.S. military has committed to show our peers what they could be signing up to do.  We also held up a sign that stated our belief that any organization that finds it fitting to use nuclear weapons on civilians should be labeled as terrorists, based on the definition of "using terror in pursuit of political aims."

The claims that we initimidated students or bullied anyone with military families are incorrect.  No students were approached in an aggressive manner, nor were insults uttered.  We were there to exercise our First Amendment rights and nothing more and believe that we have the right to discuss issues that impact the welfare of our peers.  It saddens me that  my peers and I are being attacked for expressing our pro-peace views.

Aidan Rierson
Southeast Portland


Response to letter from recruiters regarding student protest on November 4

On Wednesday November 4th, two counter recruiters from War Resistors League were at Franklin High School during a military recruiting event.  They witnessed a student led protest of the military recruiters and described it as follows:

"Soon after I arrived, a group of male juniors and seniors lined up in front of the military recruiter tables (while 5 students also male) were talking to recruiters.  The juniors and seniors were carrying large signs protesting the recruiters presence and also verbally talking across to the potential listees about the horrors of war.  They also flyered with graphic depictions of recent Middle East wars and the illegal, empire driven actions of the US. The principal of the school after about 10 minutes came out and asked the students to stop and leave the area and the students refused to leave on the basis of freedom of speech and their rights under out Constitution."

Following this event, Ernie Freund, the commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Battallion in Portland submitted a very misleading letter to the editor in two Portland publicatons; The Bee, and the Portland Tribune. The text of that letter is as follows:



Last Wednesday (November 4, just one week before Veterans Day), at Franklin High School, two Army recruiters offered information on military careers, education and medical benefits.  Recruiters help students to understand how Army service can help them accomplish their life goals.  When they turn 17 or have parental consent (17), youth can make informed decisions.

Under Portland Public Schools' equal access policy, PPS invited "counter recruiters."  This allegedly provides alternate perspectives and other career paths to students seeking military career information.  However, on November 4, about 10 unidentified 20-year olds (and perhaps some Franklin students) prepared for counter recruiting disrupted the event.  They distributed inflammatory materials labeling Soldiers terrorists and "hitmen" and containing explicit images.  They offered nothing helpful for students' futures, only propaganda, whereas recruiters had information on the free college-test preparation course available to all (

This mob intimidated students who sought information and also called Army recruiters "baby killers."  These two professionals have experienced worse; between them they have six combat tours and one Purple Heart.  I recognize and defend PPS students' right to assemble and exercise free speech in responsible ways.  If PPS has taught them well, they should research facts and exercise critical thought before responsible action.

However, no one should harass youth for seeking opportunities or insult and bully students with veteran family members.  It is very disturbing that PPS lacks sufficient capacity to prevent unknown outsiders from accessing and intimidating students.  Who were these individuals.... were they armed... or criminals?  Do parents consent?  PPS has not explained.

This under-resourced, paternalistic "equal access" approach does not protect students (who can legally decide themselves) but gives activists without credentials a stage for antics while denying deserving students opportunities.  Parents should ask PPS to reexamine the risk of "counter recruiter" access; it jeopardizes their goal to prepare students "to make productive life decisions."

In full disclosure, I command the U.S. Army Recruiting Battallion in Portland.  I am also the proud father of two PPS students.

Ernie Freund
via e-mail.


In response to Mr. Freund's irresponsible and misleading letter, our own Angie Hines has written and sent the following letter to both of these publications.


Dear Editor,

the November 2015 letter by Lt. Colonel Ernie Freund, U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion, asserted that the counter-recruiting team implanted protesters, up to age 20 and possibly armed criminals, into Franklin High School to confront military recruiters on November 4th, 2015.

His biased outburst is an insult to the intelligence and protected freedoms of the students. Freund has suggested to the public that these student demonstrators may be armed adult criminals. Considering the school shootings that have take place nationwide, this nescient comment humiliates families and survivors of such attacks. It promotes an atmosphere of fear, foments images of terror, and mocks American students' Constitutional Rights.

The students who protested on Nov. 4th did so on their own accord, with no assistance from the counter-recruiting team. Counter-recruiters were not involved in the planning or implementation of any student action that may have occurred. That is not what counter-military recruiters do on Portland Public School (PPS) campuses.

I have been a counter-recruiter for 5 years in the PPS District. I am an Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran. I never tell children not to join the military, but I do ask them to consider the severity of making that choice. That is what our voluntary counter-recruiting team does. Our educators comprise veterans ranging from wars in Vietnam, the Cold War, Iraq and Afghanistan. We are former special forces soldiers, combat, and non-combat veterans. We are social workers, former public school teachers, parents, and peaceful citizens.

The wars mentioned above have resulted in millions of deaths. The economic cost is in the trillions. Freund enjoys his paycheck, funded with our tax dollars, to write an appeal to abandon First Amendment protections. Freund's letter does nothing to help our veterans who remain vulnerable to tax austerity fall-out and risk higher rates of houselessness, unemployment, suicide, substance abuse, and moral injury than the non-veteran population.

Military recruiters seem to desire sole and unprohibited access to children and for the public to view dissenting PPS adolescents as weaponized adult aggressors, being "puppeteered" by the peace community.

As the Middle East and parts of Africa crumble into total chaos, resulting in the largest exodus in recent history, and rates of US military death by suicide surpasses death by combat, it it imperative that our youth have truthful information about the military. We should consider the words of thousands of veterans nationwide, hundreds of which who spoke at the 2009 Winter Soldier Testimonies, who will tell you that we do not wish war on our worst enemy.


Angela Hines
Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. Navy

Summer Update

Report on Counter-Recruiting Activity:

       As I reported to the Portland School Board in May, we are, overall, pleased with the implementation of the new Equal Access policy during this current school year.  Our volunteers staffed information tables 24 times this year—2 or 3 times at each of the PPS high schools.  Military recruiters from the different Armed Forces branches were present during each of those visits and, to my knowledge, not recruiting students at other times.
     To start things off, school district administrators sent a memo to high school principals last August recommending that each school schedule three visits per year, inviting both military recruiters and counter-recruiters to participate.  Not all visits went smoothly, as high school staff sometimes struggled to make the arrangements fair and equitable for all; but we have seen improvements in communication and the structure of the visits as the year has progressed.
     Military recruiters were obviously disturbed by the new arrangements for equal access and began pushing against the rules and reasonable decorum during school visits.  They did so by sending twice as many uniformed recruiters as was needed to staff their tables, they passed out expensive gifts and prizes to students that were well above the $5.00 limit imposed by the school district, and they tried to engage students who had not signed up to speak with them and had no interest in military enlistment.  The Marine recruiters even brought their chinning bar to a couple of school visits, and we responded by filing a complaint with district administrators.
     Equal access is still a “work in progress” and may never be truly equal.  Nonetheless, it allows us to monitor military recruiter activity and provide students with the balance of information and perspective that they deserve.  As students figure out who we are and what we have to offer, our effectiveness is bound to increase.
     Besides equal access visits, our volunteers also distributed basic counter-recruitment information to students from public sidewalks in front of the high schools, we gave a dozen panel presentations (with local veterans) in high school classrooms, and we purchased ads in high school newspapers throughout the Portland metro area.  With additional volunteers and increased funding, we could expand our counter-recruitment organizing to other schools and communities beyond Portland Public Schools.  Help us get there.                                             

Shooting Ranges in High Schools:

     There are now approximately 3,400 secondary schools in the U.S. with units of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), a military training and recruiting program open to students as young as age 14.  Founded in 1916, it is operated jointly by the host schools and individual military branches.  Instructors are retired military officers employed by the local school district.  Over half a million students are enrolled in the program and attend daily classes that teach them military customs and demeanor.  They are assigned ranks, are required to wear uniforms at least once a week, learn to march, and study history, civics and other subjects from Pentagon-supplied textbooks.
     Marksmanship training is an optional component of JROTC and is used as a magnet to boost student enrollment in the program.  The Civilian Marksmanship Program, which promotes youth involvement with guns and collaborates with JROTC, has stated that at least two-thirds of all JROTC units include marksmanship training.  If true, this means that marksmanship training exists in over 2,200 U.S. high schools.
     The issue became a major focus of debate in the San Diego Unified School District in 2007, when teachers and students discovered plans to install new JROTC shooting ranges at two high schools.  This plan would bring the total number of shooting ranges in San Diego schools to 11 out of its 13 schools.  These facts provoked an intense campaign of protest that is unusual for such a location as San Diego, which hosts one of the largest military complexes in the world.
     The coalition’s campaign lasted 14 months.  Despite the military’s dominant influence in the city and the NRA’s involvement, the campaign succeeded in all of its goals, including a 3 to 2 vote by the school board to ban marksmanship training throughout the school district.
[Excerpts from an article by Rick Jahnkow - Project YANO, San Diego, CA]
Note: There are 5 JROTC programs in Oregon, the closest being at Reynolds H.S. (in Troutdale), Oregon City H.S. and North Salem H.S.  We do not yet know if these programs include shooting ranges.

In response to our January fundraising letter, the Military & Draft Counseling Project raised a total of $965.00 for Equal Access and other counter-recruitment organizing.  Thank you!


6/8/2013 - Rose Festival anti-militarism protest

The 6/8/2013 protest of militarism at the Rose Festival was a success!  Thank you to everyone who showed up.  It was a beautiful day to be out and we got a lot of positive responses from Rose Festival attendees who supported our message.  Here are a few pictures from the event.


Photos by Gregory Sotir

Counter-Recruitment at the Rose Festival

Militarism at the Rose Festival?
There are military recruiting booths at CityFair and a few military ships docked at the seawall. (The U.S. Navy is busy elsewhere this year.)
Join us at the Salmon Street Springs Fountain - in Waterfront Park at Salmon St. and across from the Marines recruiting booth
Saturday, June 8th - 1:30 to 3:30pm

Dear Friends and Supporters

Dear Friends and Supporters,
Military recruiters are having no trouble these days signing up new recruits to meet their enlistment quotas. Because of the lousy economy and the shortage of decent jobs, some recruiting stations actually maintain waiting lists. It is especially important, in these times, to counter militarism and warmongering with a message of peace and viable alternatives to military enlistment.
The Military & Draft Counseling Project has been busy this year implementing Portland Public School’s new equal access policy. Recruiters from all branches of the Armed Forces are now limited to no more than three school visits per year and are, for the most part, meeting with students by appointment only. And counter-recruiting activists are being granted equal time to respond to the military’s sales pitch and to discuss the realities of war and combat. Of equal importance, we are presenting students with timely information about non-military careers and education / training opportunities, including “green jobs” and volunteer programs.
Equal Access is working for the benefit of students, and many school counselors seem to be genuinely relieved that pushy military recruiters now spend far less time on PPS school campuses. Our job is to take full advantage of the new policy by making sure that we have prepared volunteers available for equal access visits, along with printed materials that are accurate, convincing, and appealing to high school students.
If you wish to contribute to our success: (1) consider volunteering for equal access visits to local high schools, or (2) make a financial contribution to support this important work. This is the only funding appeal that you will receive from us in 2013, so please make it count.
Make your checks payable to the Military & Draft Counseling Project and send to 2000 NE 42nd Ave., Suite 224, Portland, Oregon 97213. $100____ $75____ $50_____ $25____ Other____.
We will do our best to put your contribution to good use—advocating for local students and spreading the message that militarism and war only lead us to a dead end.
In peace,
John Grueschow, Coordinator
“Get involved. The world is run by those of us who show up.”

Fall Opt-Out campaign report back from Roosevelt High School

The fall "Opt-Out" campaign is in full swing and we have a report-back from how it went at Roosevelt High School this past week.  For those who don't know about the opt-out campaign, here is some brief background.  The No Child Left Behind Act requires high schools to share student information with military recruiters. However, there is a provision where students and parents can opt-out of sharing this private information by filling out a form and submitting it to the school.  The opt-out campaign is an effort to educate students and their parents about this information sharing and to provide them with the necessary form.

DAY ONE, SHIFT ONE, OF OPT-OUT CAMPAIGN, 9/13/2012: Roosevelt High School. Two volunteers can usually be kept steadily busy, but not frantically so, engaging youth about Opt-Out at Roosevelt. Roosevelt is one of PPS' smaller high schools and still operates under the small school model with three academies. Roosevelt is a high school with a very diverse student population in the St. John's neighborhood. It is an at-risk high school.  Roosevelt students, for the most part, are very polite. Families and staff at Roosevelt tend to be supportive. There were a lot of "terrifics" and thumbs-up from adults who asked what we were doing. Because the student population is financially-stressed, this is a school whose students are very vulnerable to the "poverty draft."

Two stories that show how rewarding the work can be:

1. There was a group of six young men heading towards school (probably juniors and seniors). Forms in hand, I started to talk to them while walking alongside them and they were half-listening. (It's 7:30 in the morning.) One of the young men was more than half-listening, because when I got to the part of, "If you DON'T want your personal information released to the military," he interrupted, "I've been looking for that form!" His peers then stopped in their tracks and said, "What form? To do what?" All six youth took a form, which they will hopefully be completing and handing in to the school secretary by October 1. One youth, already familiar with Opt-Out forms from previous Recruiter Watch (and allies) campaigns, convinced his peers that the form was something they should be interested in.

2. There was a group of five young men chatting across the street from the high school. I approached them with forms in hand. One youth took the form. One said he did not care. One youth said he was enlisting. Volunteers also have on hand the AFSC's "Questions to Ask Military Recruiters -- and the Answers They Should Give You.' I told the youth that if he was considering enlisting, here are some questions he should probably think about to make an informed decision. He was willing to take the "Questions." Then he started to play 17-questions with his peers, using the questions to ask military recruiters. They were trying to see whether they already knew the answers and were somewhat dismayed to find out how many they were getting wrong! One youth, considering joining the military, wound up educating his peers about the fine-print of the military enlistment contract!

US Military: Stop recruiting minors for warfare

Please take a moment to sign this petition.

It is common practice for the US military to actively recruit minors for enlistment.

Military recruiters are a common sight in our high schools, and they often make unwanted contact with our young people via phone calls and social media, trying ultimately to woo these kids into a combat zone. Indeed, the recruitment services have a large marketing budget at their disposal, much of which is targeting our kids. This activity has been going on for years, but why on earth is it allowed?

It shouldn't be.

As a society, we have determined that minors aren't yet ready to drink, to smoke, to vote, to get married, and so on, but yet it is deemed to be okay to try to hard-sell them into an eight-year limited-rights binding contract where they could be killed or be forced to kill? This is simply and clearly wrong. It needs to stop.

We call upon our elected representatives and the US military to put an end to this unnecessary and shameful practice. We call upon them to ban all recruitment of and marketing to minors for military service.

A Victory for Peace Advocates And A Call For Funds

A victory for peace advocates and Portland students!   At its October 24th board meeting, the Portland School Board voted unanimously to allow “equal access” in Portland high schools for counter-recruitment activists and other advocates for peace.  The equal access resolution was placed on the board’s agenda and pushed forward by school board co-chair Martin Gonzalez.  This resolution is the result of at least five years of lobbying school board members at board meetings, election forums and coffee shops.

The Equal Access Committee is now working to implement the new policy at each of Portland’s nine high schools, giving particular attention to those schools in poor neighborhoods where disadvantaged students are targeted and hounded by military recruiters.  We need to order counter-recruitment pamphlets and brochures, buttons and stickers for school visits and career fairs.  We also must cover the costs of locally produced literature, information packets about non-military post-high school opportunities, and student newspaper ads.

We are currently submitting a grant request for $1,000 to cover some of these costs but expect to receive only about half that amount at best.  In recent years, we have had to count more heavily on the generosity of our friends and supporters since grant funding for grassroots political organizing has become increasingly difficult to obtain.

We ask for financial support only when we really need it to keep this important work going.  The Military & Draft Counseling Project is an all-volunteer organization, and some of our projects (speaking in high school classrooms and lobbying the school board for better policy) cost nothing beyond the time and energy of our volunteers.  We are confident that enough of you will lend your support and encouragement, as in past years, so that we can continue to advocate for students and educate them about the realities of military enlistment and the true costs of war.

Please do what you can:     $100____     $75____    $50____     Other____.

Make your checks payable to the Military & Draft Counseling Project and send to 2000 NE 42nd Ave., Suite 224, Portland, Oregon 97213.   Together we can make a real and substantial difference in the fight against militarism and corporate exploitation and inspire the next generation to carry our banner forward.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED! Talk to kids about the realities of the military

As you may know, the Portland school board passed a resolution earlier in the year to grant "equal access" to counter military recruiters in public schools.  This policy is due to take effect at the end of January 2012 and as such we are working on our strategy to put counter recruiters into schools.  We need people who are available during the day time hours who would be interested in talking to kids in schools about alternatives to military enlistment.  While everyone is welcome, we are particularly interested in hearing from veterans as their perspective is very powerful in countering the message of military recruiters.  If you would like to get involved, please contact us.

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