Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Sister Mine

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Sister Mine

A Novel

by Tawni O'Dell

Sister Mine by Tawni O'Dell
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2007, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2008, 416 pages

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US Military Recruitment Facts & Stats

After several bad years, all branches of the military met their 2006 & 2007 recruitment targets (figures below are 2007 stats rounded to the nearest 1000):

  • Army: 80,000
  • Navy: 37,000
  • Marines: 36,000
  • Air Force: 28,000

This was a relief for the military, as the ongoing war in Iraq has made recruitment increasingly difficult. It is rare to try to fill wartime ranks purely with volunteers. The Spanish-American War, Mexican-American War and Gulf War are the only conflicts since 1775 that did not rely in part on conscripts.

Targets were met by improving incentives and loosening standards:

  • In 2006 enlistment bonuses were doubled to $40,000, and other financial incentives such as college scholarships were sweetened.
  • The maximum age for recruits was raised twice, from 35 to 40 and then to 42.
  • The Army doubled its percentage of recruits who score on the lower level of the aptitude table, from 2% to 4%.
  • In 2006 the Pentagon issued over 8,000 waivers to convicted criminals who joined up (up 65% year on year) - those convicted of crimes such as aggravated assault and robbery are eligible for a waiver, those convicted of sex crimes and drug trafficking are not. 12% of Army recruits in 2006 had criminal records.

The Pentagon now has 8,000 recruiters who are instructed to talk up the excitement and personal growth potential recruits will experience in the military, and downplay the 4,000+ Americans killed and 30,000+ wounded to date in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nationwide, counties with the highest recruiting rates have incomes about 30% lower than average for their respective states. About 44% of recruits are from the South.

Popular recruiting grounds include high schools, shopping malls and the NASCAR racing circuit where the Army's interactive game, that allows potential recruits to fire a simulated machine gun at virtual insurgents, is a popular recruitment tool.

A growing portion of the Pentagon's $665 million advertising budget for recruitment is spent targeting parents with the message that military service instills confidence and direction in children.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, high schools are required to provide military recruiters with their students' names and contact information, unless students sign an opt-out form. National organizations such as the PTA complain that recruiters have been contacting 16- and 17-year-olds without parents' knowledge, and that tactics such as sending free t-shirts, Frisbees and video games, exploit kids' naiveté.


Surrogacy & Adoption

Another set of issues explored in Sister Mine are those surrounding surrogacy and adoption. The first link below is an interesting article about the "baby business". The second is an upbeat site providing a virtual meeting ground for the surrogacy community.

This article was originally published in April 2007, and has been updated for the May 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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