Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Autistic Man Won't Have To Be In Army
The Army has decided, in it’s “wisdom,” that an 18 year-old autistic man will be released. I covered this the other day, with a remarkable amount of venon. I suggested the recruiters and their C.O. should be ashamed of themselves. I doubt they are—or could be, for that matter, but at least Jared Guinther won’t be sent to Iraq to get his tail shot off.
Autistic Army recruit won't serve
An Oregon congressman calls for full investigation into the Portland man's sign-up
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
U.S. Army officials announced Tuesday that they will release an 18-year-old autistic man from his enlistment obligation.
To the surprise of his parents, Jared Guinther came home with papers last month showing that he had signed up to be a cavalry scout, one of the Army's most dangerous jobs. He was diagnosed with autism at age 3.
Guinther was scheduled to leave for basic training Aug. 16, but Army officials launched an investigation into potential recruiting violations after The Oregonian began reporting on his story last week.
"I'm super relieved," said Paul Guinther, 57, Jared's father. "We were so worried that they were going to send him to Iraq, and he wouldn't be able to defend himself."
Officials are examining 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.
Though Jared is being released from duty, the investigation into how he was signed up will continue, said Gary Stauffer, a civilian spokesman for the Army Recruiting Battalion in Portland.
The announcement came as local Army officials confronted mounting pressure to resolve the case, which made national headlines.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., wrote to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Tuesday calling for "a full investigation" into Jared's case "and into military recruitment practices that have led to a record number of reported abuses and improprieties in the recruitment process."
Blumenauer said he leaned on the Army to speed up the investigation, which officials initially said might take until the end of the month. Stauffer said Tuesday that the timeline had been shortened to a week.
Attempts to reach the Army Recruiting Battalion commander in Portland, Lt. Col. David Carlton, were unsuccessful. Stauffer said his boss wouldn't be speaking to the media until "this is all over." A Pentagon spokesman said Rumsfeld's office "doesn't comment on legislative letters."
Paul Guinther and his wife, Brenda, told the newspaper last week that they had appealed to recruiting officials to review Jared's medical and school records before making a final decision on his enlistment. The records detailed his long history with autism, a developmental disability that can interfere with a person's ability to communicate and process emotions.
The Guinthers said their appeal was declined.
The Army began its investigation after the Guinthers called The Oregonian and the newspaper started looking into why recruiters pursued Jared. Military policies forbid 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 a year.
As part of the Army's investigation, a captain interviewed the Guinthers on Monday. But Paul Guinther said the experience left him feeling "very scared" rather than reassured.
"After talking to that captain, he was saying they'd have to take Jared to a psychiatrist before they could release him," Paul Guinther said. The captain "basically minimized everything we said."
Blumenauer said his first contact with the local battalion on Monday left him questioning whether a sufficient investigation would be conducted.
"They were backtracking," he said. "At first, they told me they couldn't say anything because they needed more information. Within 24 hours, they tell me (Jared's) going to be out, and this kind of thing is wrong and shouldn't happen."
"Who knows what other things have happened like this," Blumenauer said. "This can't be tolerated."
In his letter to Rumsfeld, Blumenauer asked that the Army inspector general also investigate Jared's case.
The Portland recruiters under scrutiny, Sgt. Alejandro Velasco and Cpl. Ronan Ansley, will continue to work during the Army's investigation, Stauffer said. Their office in Southeast Portland is within a mile from Marshall High, where Jared requires special tutoring to pass his classes.
Blumenauer said he wants Rumsfeld to demand that the recruiters be placed on administrative leave until the investigation is finished.
Recruiters nationwide are under pressure to hit ambitious enlistment targets this year. Pentagon statistics show that complaints about recruiting improprieties are on pace to approach record highs set in 2003 and 2004.
Last year, the Army and the Army Reserve each missed enlistment targets for the first time since 1999. This year, they have a combined recruiting goal of 105,500 soldiers.
Jared, meanwhile, said he was disappointed by the Army. He said he feels manipulated by the recruiters, whom he "doesn't want to talk to ever again," and humiliated by all the media attention his story received.
He is now considering pursuing a career in music or the martial arts. "I'm sorry it turned out this way," he said, "but I will find an alternative."
Michelle Roberts: 503-294-5041; firstname.lastname@example.org
©2006 The Oregonian