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Army releases 18-year-old with autism from enlistment contract

 
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User ID: 92046
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05/11/2006 08:30 AM
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Army releases 18-year-old with autism from enlistment contract
Army releases 18-year-old with autism from enlistment contract

By SARAH SKIDMORE

The Associated Press

PORTLAND — An 18-year-old Portland man with autism, whose recruitment renewed questions about Army practices, was released Tuesday from his enlistment contract.
The Olympian - Click Here

Jared Guinther signed up for one of the Army’s most dangerous jobs, cavalry scout, after being heavily recruited. He passed medical and other examinations. He was scheduled to leave for basic training in August.

The Army announced Tuesday that it decided he didn’t meet enrollment criteria, two days after The Oregonian newspaper reported his parents’ objections.

Gaylan Johnson, spokesman for the United States Military Entrance Processing Command, said Guinther’s disability was not disclosed in the medical exam and information regarding his condition was not available to the command until after the enrollment process was complete. The command oversees medical exams for the Army.

Guinther’s mother told The Oregonian she informed recruiters about her son’s disability by telephone as Jared was being tested, but that he was accepted for enlistment anyway.

An investigation is under way into whether recruiters improperly concealed Guinther’s condition.

Guinther started talking about joining the military after a recruiter stopped him and offered him a $4,000 signing bonus and $67,000 for college, his parents say. His parents said he didn’t know there was a war in Iraq until last fall, shortly after he spoke with a recruiter, and asked them about it.

The Army has been under intense pressure to recruit, and the number of recruiting abuses hit record levels in recent years.

In response to the Guinther case, Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon called on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to conduct a broad investigation into military recruitment practices and abuses.

In Guinther’s case, the Army had heavily recruited him even though his disability should have disqualified him from enlisting.

When Guinther’s parents found out he had enlisted, they contacted the Portland U.S. Army Recruiting Station where he signed up. His parents say the Army did not initially respond to their concerns.

With the Guinthers’ permission, The Oregonian faxed Guinther’s medical records to the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion commander, who ordered an investigation.

On Tuesday, the Army said it could not discuss the case further because the investigation is under way.

Gary Stauffer, spokesman for the Portland Army Recruiting Battalion, said the Army anticipates concluding the investigation this week.



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Anonymous Coward (OP)
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05/11/2006 08:33 AM
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Re: Army releases 18-year-old with autism from enlistment contract
Army Recruits and Signs AUTISTIC Man

An Army of one wrong recruit


Autism - The signing of a disabled Portland man despite warnings reflects problems nationally for military enlistment


Sunday, May 07, 2006
MICHELLE ROBERTS
The Oregonian

Jared Guinther is 18. Tall and lanky, he will graduate from Marshall High School in June. Girls think he's cute, until they try to talk to him and he stammers or just stands there -- silent.

Diagnosed with autism at age 3, Jared is polite but won't talk to people unless they address him first. It's hard for him to make friends. He lives in his own private world.

Jared didn't know there was a war raging in Iraq until his parents told him last fall -- shortly after a military recruiter stopped him outside a Southeast Portland strip mall and complimented him on his black Converse All Stars.

"When Jared first started talking about joining the Army, I thought, 'Well, that isn't going to happen,' " said Paul Guinther, Jared's father. "I told my wife not to worry about it. They're not going to take anybody in the service who's autistic."

But they did. Last month, Jared came home with papers showing that he not only had enlisted, but also had signed up for the Army's most dangerous job: cavalry scout. He is scheduled to leave for basic training Aug. 16.

Officials are now investigating whether recruiters at the U.S. Army Recruiting Station in Southeast Portland improperly concealed Jared's disability, which should have made him ineligible for service.

Jared's story illustrates a growing national problem as the military faces increasing pressure to hit recruiting targets during an unpopular war.

Tracking by the Pentagon shows that complaints about recruiting improprieties are on pace to approach record highs set in 2003 and 2004. The active Army and the Reserve missed recruiting targets last year, and reports of recruiting abuses continue from across the country.

A family in Ohio reported that its mentally ill son was signed up, despite rules banning such enlistments and the fact that records about his illness were readily available.

In Houston, a recruiter warned a potential enlistee that if he backed out of a meeting he would be arrested.

And in Colorado, a high school student working undercover told recruiters he had dropped out and had a drug problem. The recruiter told the boy to fake a diploma and buy a product to help him beat a drug test.

Violations such as these forced the Army to halt recruiting for a day last May so recruiters could be retrained and reminded of the job's ethical requirements.

The Portland Army Recruiting Battalion Headquarters opened its investigation into Jared's case last week after his parents called The Oregonian and the newspaper began asking questions about his enlistment.

Maj. Curt Steinagel, commander of the Military Entrance Processing Station in Portland, said the papers filled out by Jared's recruiters contained no indication of his disability. Steinagel acknowledged that the current climate is tough on recruiters here and elsewhere.

"I can't speak for the Army," he said, "but it's no secret that recruiters stretch and bend the rules because of all the pressure they're under. The problem exists, and we all know it exists."

Diagnosis and struggle

Jared lives in a tiny brown house in Southeast Portland that looks as worn out as his parents do when they get home from work.

Paul Guinther, 57, labors 50 to 60 hour weeks as a painter-sandblaster at Sundial Marine Tug & Barge Works in Troutdale. His wife, Brenda, 50, has the graveyard housekeeping shift at Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center in Clackamas.

The couple got together nearly 16 years ago when Jared was 3. Brenda, who had two young children of her own, immediately noticed that Jared was different and pushed Paul to have the boy tested.

"Jared would play with buttons for hours on end," she said. "He'd play with one toy for days. Loud noises bothered him. He was scared to death of the toilet flushing, the lawn mower."

Jared didn't speak until he was almost 4 and could not tolerate the feel of grass on his feet.

Doctors diagnosed him with moderate to severe autism, a developmental disorder that strikes when children are toddlers. It causes problems with social interaction, language and intelligence. No one knows its cause or cure.

School and medical records show that Jared, whose recent verbal IQ tested very low, spent years in special education classes. It was only when he was a high school senior that Brenda pushed for Jared to take regular classes because she wanted him to get a normal rather than a modified diploma.

Jared required extensive tutoring and accommodations to pass, but in June he will graduate alongside his younger stepbrother, Matthew Thorsen.

Last fall, Jared began talking about joining the military after a recruiter stopped him on his way home from school and offered a $4,000 signing bonus, $67,000 for college and more buddies than he could count.

Matthew told his mother that military recruiting at the school and surrounding neighborhoods was so intense that one recruiter had pulled him out of football practice.

Recruiters in Portland and nationwide spend several hours a day cold-calling high school students, whose phone numbers are provided by schools under the No Child Left Behind Law. They also prospect at malls, high school cafeterias, colleges and wherever else young people gather.

Brenda phoned her two brothers, both veterans. She said they laughed and told her not to worry. The military would never take Jared.

The Guinthers, meanwhile, tried to refocus their son.

"I told him, 'Jared, you get out of high school. I know you don't want to be a janitor all your life. You work this job, you go to community college, you find out what you want. You can live here as long as you want,' " Paul said.

They thought it had worked until five weeks ago. Brenda said she called Jared on his cell phone to check what time he'd be home.

"I said 'Jared, what are you doing?' 'I'm taking the test,' he said -- the entrance test. I go, 'Wait a minute.' I said, 'Who's giving you the test?' He said, 'Corporal.' I said, 'Well let me talk to him.' "

Brenda said she spoke to Cpl. Ronan Ansley and explained that Jared had a disability, autism, that could not be outgrown. She said Ansley told her he had been in special classes, too -- for dyslexia.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, there's a big difference between autism and your problem,' " Brenda said.

Military rules prohibit enlisting anyone with a mental disorder that interferes with school or employment, unless a recruit can show he or she hasn't required special academic or job accommodations for 12 months.

Jared has been in special education classes since preschool. Through a special program for disabled workers, he has a part-time job scrubbing toilets and dumping trash.

Jared scored 43 out of 99 on the Army's basic entrance exam -- 31 is the lowest grade the Army allows for enlistment, military officials said. ... end snip

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05/11/2006 01:01 PM
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Re: Army releases 18-year-old with autism from enlistment contract
Amazing what a little publicity will do.

"A chink in the armor of the Illuminati is exposure. They hate exposure." - Dark Warrior 2001





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