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More about Peace Corps - Military connection

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  • Richard Sitler
    Fellow Cirpca members, The following is more about the law that Evan Bayh and John McCaine authored connecting military recruiting with Peace Corps. I am
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 15, 2005
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      Fellow Cirpca members,
      The following is more about the law that Evan Bayh and John McCaine
      authored connecting military recruiting with Peace Corps. I am
      sending this because I feel that as returned volunteers we should be
      informed. I do not think that as an organization we should get into
      politics because obviously not everyone in our organization would
      share the same views and it political activism is not a part of our
      mission as an organization. However I think we should be informed of
      policies that affect Peace Corps and members can take action
      individually. I have already sent a message to Evan Bayh and I
      encourage others to do the same if they feel as strongly as I do
      that this legislation is not in keeping with the goals of Peace
      Corps.
      Here is more information on this issue. (This was sent to me from
      John Coyne who is a RPCV and one of the people responsible for Peace
      Corps writers.org):
      Greetings,

      In case you haven't been privy to recent news of a "new" law
      connecting
      military and Peace Corps service, I'm forwarding you some
      information
      that
      should be of interest to every peace (and Peace Corps) loving
      individual in our
      nation. Unfortunately a few years ago a law was passed (unbeknownst
      to
      many,
      otherwise action would've/should've been taken prior) to promote a
      new
      military
      recruitment and service campaign. Although the law has been on the
      books for a
      few years, the new recruitment campaign is just now being launched
      by
      the
      military. The new law allows for new recruits to opt for different
      options to
      complete their military service, once their active duty and reserve
      committments have been completed. These options include AmeriCorps
      and
      Peace
      Corps. While it is commendable that alternate options for service
      are
      being
      considered, in the case of Peace Corps it is dangerous for the
      institution and
      for Peace Corps Volunteers.

      When Peace Corps was created in 1961, the Peace Corps Act very
      specifically
      outlined the organization's independent nature in relation to other
      government
      agencies. This independence has been recognized and supported
      through
      subsequent administrations over its 44 year history, and periodic
      memos
      are
      sent from the Secretary of State to embassies all over the world to
      emphasize
      the independent nature of Peace Corps. It is essentially this
      independence that
      allows Peace Corps Volunteers to enjoy the successes in the
      countries
      and the
      communities where they serve. Were the Peace Corps just another
      diplomatic tool
      under the umbrella the Embassies or USAID or another government
      agency,
      Peace
      Corps Volunteers (PCVs) couldn't enjoy the freedoms and safety net
      that
      this
      independence provides. By not being aligned with other diplomatic or
      military
      or strategic interests, PCVs go about their work promoting community
      development and peace and cross-cultural understanding (the three
      goals
      of the
      Peace Corps), empassioned by their altruistic desires to make a
      difference and
      be force of positive change in our world.

      Through out the history of the Peace Corps, these lines are often
      blurred due
      to people not understanding the true nature of the Peace Corps, and
      just
      lumping all Americans into one political agenda basket. This
      misunderstanding
      has been the cause of Peace Corps country departures, and it is
      something that
      still exists today (unfortunately) in our world with access to so
      much
      information and but so much mistrust about Americans. A recent
      example
      of this
      were protests in Bangladesh (see below article). For this reason,
      the
      independent nature of Peace Corps must be maintained. It is a
      matter
      of
      integrity, philosophy and the safety and security of all currently
      serving
      Volunteers.

      While many former military servicemen and women have served in the
      Peace Corps,
      it has only been after they've fully completed their military
      obligations and
      are not on active duty status. The independent nature of Peace Corps
      must be
      maintained. As a former Volunteer, obviously this issue is very
      close
      to my
      heart. I implore all of you to take a few minutes to educate
      yourself
      on this
      issue, and send a letter to your state representatives so that this
      law
      can be
      changed to NOT include the Peace Corps as a viable option for
      completing
      military service.

      For more detailed information, including example letters that you
      can
      write to
      your local papers and state representatives (more eloquantly written
      than by
      your's truly), see the National Peace Corps Association's advocacy
      pages:

      A fact sheet: http://www.rpcvorg/pages/sitepage.cfm?id=1172
      Taking action: http://www.rpcvorg/pages/sitepage.cfm?id=1235

      For additional information you can also see the peacecorpsonline
      website, which
      is an independent site for people interested in topics related to
      Peace
      Corps.
      Here you'll find links to similar articles as on the NPCA website,
      and
      transcripts of Chris Matthew's Hardball interview from last week.

      http://peacecorpsonline.org/messages/messages/2629/2034163.html

      Just because the military is having difficulty recruiting folks, it
      doesn't
      mean it has to destroy the Peace Corps in the process. The Peace
      Corps
      is one
      of our nation's finest programs that promotes peace, friendship and
      understanding across cultures, and does more for diplomacy and
      patriotism than
      people give it credit for. President Kennedy's dream can't die now.

      Thanks,
      Vikki
      (RPCV Honduras 94-96)

      P.S. Article on Bangladesh follows, and the article from Washington
      Post that
      has sparked the fire....

      Leftists in Bangladesh rally against US Peace Corps
      Saturday, July 30, 2005


      DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) - Students rallied Saturday at a university
      campus to
      protest against the presence of the U.S. Peace Corps in Bangladesh,
      accusing
      them of attempting to influence the country's national policies.





      About one hundred left-leaning activists of the Bangladesh Student
      Union
      marched across Dhaka University, chanting "Peace Corps...Peace
      Corps,
      Leave
      Leave Bangladesh", and "Down with Imperialism."





      "America is trying to influence our national policies through its
      different
      agencies, including Peace Corps," the group's general secretary
      Shamsul
      Alam
      told the rally. "This group (Peace Corps) must leave Bangladesh, it
      is

      misguiding us."





      There are currently 68 volunteers involved in English-language
      training,
      support for women and health programs for rural poor in Bangladesh,
      a

      Muslim-majority nation of 140 million people, Peace Corps director
      Gaddi H.
      Vasquez recently told reporters during a visit to Dhaka.





      He said another 60 volunteers will arrive in Bangladesh later this
      year
      as part
      of the group's expansion plan.





      "I am encouraged (by the) great hospitality and friendship of
      Bangladeshi
      people toward our volunteers," Vasquez said.





      On expansion plan, the protesters on Saturday criticized the
      government
      for
      allowing the U.S. volunteers to work in Bangladesh.





      "They work just to help sustain their imperialism, we don't need
      them
      in our
      soil," Alam told the rally. "If America needs to brighten its
      so-called
      good
      face before the world, it should change its foreign policy. Sending
      volunteers
      is not a solution."







      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.


      "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.


      "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.


      "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. 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."
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