Case of Autistic Marine Sheds Light on Recruitment Ethics

Struggling to fill quotas, recruiters' practices called into question
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jul 6, 2009 8:58 AM CDT
This Oct. 9, 2008 photo provided by the US Marines photos shows an Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle entering the water to execute test exercises off the coast of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.   (AP Photo/Pvt. Daniel Boothe, U.S. Marines)
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(Newser) – Operating in a war-weary America, military recruiters face a difficult task—and some are skirting ethics to fill their quotas, the Los Angeles Times reports. While substantiated cases against recruiters are relatively few—593 claims were verified in fiscal 2007, which saw 319,229 enlistees—the case of an autistic man who tried to leave the Marines has highlighted the problem.

At boot camp, Joshua Fry struggled with discipline, talking back to officers and stealing food. When he was barred in an attempt to leave, he told superiors he was autistic—but he wasn’t released. At infantry training weeks later, he was arrested for desertion and possession of child pornography; he's spent a year in the brig and is awaiting his next hearing. While autism doesn’t rule out a candidate for recruitment, had Navy doctors known about Fry’s condition—which, according to court documents, his recruiter knew about—he would probably have been rejected.