Army witnesses told a House investigations subcommittee today that pressures were so great that they put fictitious names and data into a computer to fill weekly recruiting quotas.
"It was a collective agreement," M. Sgt. Kenny Treece testified. He said that "phantom recruiting" was needed to bolster morale in a recruiting district unable to meet its quotas.
According to witnesses, the phantom recruiting occurred between November and February and involved 20 fictitious names. This was the same period, according to Lt. Col. Mel R. Jones, that the Albany district won an award for meeting its quotas. He said that without the phantom names, another district would have won.
Jones, chief of public affairs of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command at Ft. Sheridan, III., said in a telephone interview that the Albany district recruiting center has a quota of 1,560 for the current year.
Today's first witness before the House Armed Services Investigations Subcommittee was Sgt. Leah Wainwright, who first brought the issue to the attention of Chariman Samuel S. Stratton (D-N.Y.) in an anonymous letter. She testified that the fictitious names were those of bona fide recruits with single letters changed and one digit changed in their Social Security numbers.
This information was placed in a computer, that services the Army's Albany recruiting district, encompassing a portion of upstate New York and northern Vermont where 61 recruiters work out of 17 locations.
"If Army recruiting statistics can readily be padded with phantom recruits and can go unobserved and undetected for months - as apparently has been the case in ALbany - then that same practice could be employed, and may in fact have been employed, in other recruiting districts across the nation," Stratton told the hearing.
He said, without comment before the hearing, preliminary investigations into other recruiting districts have been started by his subcommittee.
Lt. Col. John D. Herren, head of recruiting in the Baltimore-Washington district, said earlier this week that security has ben tightened around the Maryland computer terminal.
Today's hearing lasted more than four hours and was held in a courtroom here. Witnesses were placed under oath.
Rep. Lucien N. Nedzi (D-Mich.) asked each witness why he had not gone to a superior and complained that the recruiting quotas were unreasonably high.
"When you're given a mission, you don't question the mission," Capt. Andrew N. Allen, Albany district operations officer, testified. "I love the Army and I love that attitude," Allen added.
He said that his immediate superior, Maj. Joseph Parker, "explained to me that this practice was condoned at higher levels."
Disparties between recruiting data the computer displayed and written data were first noticed earlier this year by Wainwright, a guidance counselor at the Albany district headquarters.
Asked today why she was relieved of the responsibility of checking recruiting data after two weeks, she testified: "I was asking too many questions as to what happened to so-and-so . . .
"They were bragging that they had gotten away with it and the NERC [Northeastern Recruiting Command] had covered it up for them [Albany]. It made me indignant, so I decided to stand up and tell someone about it."
Later in the hearing, Allen, the Albany district operations officer, testified that "the practice had started and I was advised that it was going on . . . I go along with it and I accept responsibility for it."
Parker, second-in-command in the district, was called to testify after Allen and acknowledged that "there was impropriety here" and that he, Treece and Allen had entered into a "collective agreement," but said. "I didn't push the buttons."
The subcommittee asked Parker if the recruiting district's commanding officer, Lt. Col. George Nelson. "was a party to the arrangement.?"
"Yes, sir," Parker replied.
Nelson, the last scheduled witness, testified that "I knew something was going on . . ." He said later that "I did not crate the charade."
An investigation ordered by Gen. Eugene P. Forrester, Army recruiting commander, has been suspended after four months for the subcommittee hearings.
One Albany district recruiter who did not testify and who requested anonymity, said quota pressures were very strong.
"If you don't make mission [quota], you're done. It's all based on numbers. If you make the numbers, you're a hero; if not, your career is down the tube," he said.
"Anyone who says recruiters don't pressure on them is lying."