Archibald Montgomery IV, an Ivy League graduate and a nominee for a Rhodes Scholarship, enlisted in the Army on Sept. 2, 1975, with a written guarantee that he would be trained in Russian and become a translator or interpreter.
Today he is manning an 81-mm, mortar at the base of the Chugash Mountain range in Alaska, and suing the Army for not living up to its word.
Montgomery is not alone.
The Army acknowledges that 1,455 men and women have claimed this year that the promises made to them when they enlisted were never fulfilled. Many others have never filed formal grievances, or have had their compalints disposed of, oe way or another, at low levels of the Army, an Army spokesman said.
The Army's top recruiters said the 1,455 allegations are insignificant when measured against the more than 220,000 enlistment contracts written within the same period.
Allegations of false promises are only one of several problems dogging the Army's recruiting command. By the Army's own figures, more than 1,200 men and women have entered the Army faudulently in the year ending June 30, many of them forging birth certificates, high school diplomats, or health records.
Another 10,000-plus concealed criminal records when the entered the Army between last October and March, ignoring the threat of a $10,000 fine and possible imprisonment. Of these, the Army has chosen to keep two out of three without prosecuting any of them.
The Army also has a problem keeping in rein on over-zealous recruiters bent upon making or execeeding their recruiters bent upon making or exceeding their recruitment quotas. Last year, the Army received 2,209 allegations of "recruiter malpractice," a term used to designate several forms of recruiter fraud and "connivance with prospective recruits."
Lt. Col. Victor Weber, who heads the malpractice branch of the recruiting command, said the figure was insignificant when compared with the total number of enlistments. "It's 9/10 of 1 per cent of the total number of enlistments," he said, pointing out that only 157 cases of malpractice were substantiated.
A recent congressional subcommittee investigation of an Albany, N.Y., recruiting district disclosed that Army recruiting personnel were feeding factitious names and data into a computer to meet their quotas.
The possibility that this "phantom recruiting" could be going on elsewhere has spurred Gen. EUgene P. Forrester, head of the Army's recruiting command, to investigate recruiting districts in all five regional commands.
Forrester said the problems the Army is experiencing are to be expected in any enterprise involving 4,682 recruiters working out of 1,500 offices nationwide.
"We don't have to lie, so don't have to cheat, and we don't have to steal to meet the Army's needs and we're not going to," he said.
He conceded that recruiting for the volunteer Army "has been a tough scramble from day one." This year the Army is spending $33 million on advertising to help fill its ranks.
Forrester said he regards allegations of broken promises as the gravest threat to the recruiting effort, "Credibility and intergrity are our landmark," he said.
There are many who would challenge that remark.
The Army has substantiated 808 of the 1,455 allegations of unfulfilled recruiter promises, granting either an early discharge or reassignments at the complainant's option, an Army spokesman said.
Even those to who the Army has granted relief claim that the Army stalled and the relief was only partial.
Sp. 4 Randy L. Valentine, who enlisted at 17, petitioned the Army during more than half of his three-year hitch before he received any of te pay his recruiter and his contract assured him he would get.
"They kept telling me to worry about it. Finally I got tired of fighting with them. I wrote my congressman because I wasn't getting anywhere through my chain of command," Vallentine said.
Archibald Montgomery IV was one of those to whom the Army denied relief. A 1975 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a Rhodes Scholarship nominee, Montgomery enlisted in the Army to be a linguist and translator.
Montgomery, 25, said his contracy clearly stated that he was guaranteed a position as an interpreter or translator.
"I was so enthusiastic about the Army, then the world caved in," he said. Montgomery claims the job he was promised never existed in the security branch he signed up for, that it was just a "come-on," and that as soon as he was in the service he was reclassified "without his knowledge or permission."
"I've seen a lot of recruiters. Most of them are honest and professional and the ones that are not, we get rid of. Integrity is a big thing," he said.
Montgomery said he was trained to be a sort of "stenographer" of Russian code transmissions, to mechanically take notes of Russian phonetics, and that he never learned to speak Russian or to read it.
"Russian was forbidden in class. We had to speak English," he said.
"In no way did I get anything I signed up for. I didn't get the education and the job didn't exist to start out with," he said.
Later he refused to sign a document waiving his right to leave the country without Army permission, and he was retrained as a mortarman, he said.
"If there had been a way to refuse being a mortarman in Alaska I would have, but it was either that or Leavenwoth (a federal penitentiary)," he said.
"The job I do up here is odious to me. It gives me lumps in my gut and I can't sleep at night," he said in a telephone interview.
Montgomery, who has served two of his four-year hitch, has been denied a discharge at every level and has brought suit in a federal court claiming breach of contract by the Army. He is joined by 25 other Army linguists as plaintiffs, who are calling it a class action brought in the name of 2,000 Army linguists.
There are six such cases of enlistees who have alleged that they were denied relief by the Army and now are suing the Army in federal courts. All the cases are pending.
Army spokesmen in the Judge Advocate General's office said they cannot discuss any issues involved in the Montgomery case before a court decision has been reached.
Col. W. K. Myers of that office said that "the government pretty well contracts on its own terms. There are many things the government contractor can do that do not appear in civil common law."
"They have contingencies built into the enlistment contract," he said. "It's largely boiler-plate. They have these hedges and things built into them."
"There's fine print," another officer acknowledged.
Capt. Louis Davis said Montgomery was trained to become a mortarman "because that was where the computer said he was most needed on that particular day."
The 1,455 allegations of unfulfilled promises are not the whole story. There are many Army recruits, some officers admitted, who are "afraid to upset the apple cart" and complain about their alleged unfulfilled promises.
"I feel confident that there are some we don't know about," Gen. Forrester said, but added that "The likelihood is slight that the vast majority of them would not find a way to question this system."
Forrester said many of the allegations of unfulfilled promises are the product of "selective listening," that young recruits, of ten hear only what they want to hear.
One recruiter said she used to keep a box of tissues on her desk for returning recruits who broke down in front of her, when they learned that they were not getting what they were promised.
There are verified cases of recruiter deceit, of changes in promised job classifications, and of clerical and administrative snafus.
More than 2,000 of those who have enlisted this year have claimed recruiter malpractice, though the Army investigators said they have substantiated only 157 cases of malpractice.
"The same command that does the recruiting does the investigation," said one Army officer. He said the Army's investigations into allegations of malpractice are thorough and objective.
Malpractice is defined as "any action willfully perpetrated by a member of the recruiting command in riolation of established laws . . . any willful misrepresentations, false promise, or false commitment made for the purpose of inducing an individual to enlist," according to Lt. Col. Mel Jones, of the Army's central recruiting command.
While some types of malpractice are criminal offenses punishable by fine or imprisonment, the vast majority of the allegations are dealt with administratively Jones said.
A recruiter judged guilty of malpractice will lose his job, be reassigned and receive a letter of censure to be placed in his personnel file, Jones said. In short, a determination of malpractice may well spell the end of a promising carcer.
Recruits however, have the burden of proving recruiter malpractice.
"If it comes to a swearing contest, a one-on-one, the recruiter won't lose of the enlistment documents are proper and there are no other witnesses. We won't find him guilty of malpractice," Weber said.
The Army carefully scrutinizes each complaint, according to an Army spokesman. "They (recruiters) live in a goldfish bowl," he said.
Another bruise to the Army recruiting command is the number of men and women who enlist fraudulently, sometimes with the help of their recruiters.
In the past seven months, there were 1,253 cases of fraudulent entry. Concealment of criminal records is a sore point with all recruiting personnel.
An Army recruiter is required to ask his prospects if they have ever been charged or convicted of a crime. In addition, he must ask them to read a passage on the contract which warns them to read a passage on the contract which warns them that withholding such information will subject them to a $10,000 fine and possible imprisonment for up to five years.
If the prospect answers in the negative, the inquiry ends. The recruiter is under no obligation to check for criminal records. And he does not, except in the rarest of cases, according to an Army spokesman.
At the Washington Army recruiting station at 11th and Pennsylvania Streets NW, nearly one-third of those who walk through the door disqualify themselves because they admit to a criminal record, according to Sgt. Thomas J. Poole. Recently a man who had served in the North Carolina penitentiary failed to disclose his criminal record and entered the Army, Poole said.
He was one of 22,700 men and women who entered the armed forces in a five-month period between last October and March, who did not disclose that they had an adult criminal record, according to Army Lt. Col. Peter L. Clifford.
Of the 22,700, more than half joined the Army, he said. Officially, the Army's position is that any fraudulent entry requires mandatory dismissal from the service, and subjects the perpetrator to punishment.
In fact, the Army holds on to nearly two out of three who failed to disclose their criminal records when they entered the service, and almost no one is fined or imprisoned, the spokesman said.
"Just because a guy's bad on the block doesn't mean he's going to make a bad soldier," one Army spokesman said.
Moreover, the Army's hands are tied when it comes to prosecuting those who enlisted fraudulently, the spokesman said.
"A person who enlists fraudulently in the Army is not legally in the Army. He is not violating the UCMJ (the Uniform Code of Military Justice). It makes it very difficult to prosecute him," the spokesman said.
How many are actually getting into the Army and other service branches concealing their criminal records is anybody's guess. The 22,700 cases in the five-month period are only for adult criminal records. The average age of recruits is between 17 and 21. The Army does not have access to their juvenile records.
Nonetheless, the Army contends that it is getting quality recruits and that their discipline problems are diminishing. The number of Army courts-martial and cases of AWOL (Absent without leave) have been declining yearly, according to Army statistics.
At least some Army spokesman said the decline reflects not so much an improvements in recruits as a change in military discipline, a loosening up in the service. And the temptation to bolt from the military in a time of peace is less, other Army officers admitted.
Critics of Army recruiting said many of the recruiters are under too much pressure to make their quotas.
"Anyone who says there isn't pressureis lying," said one Albany recruiter who testified before a congressional subcommittee investigating recruiting irregularities.
Gen. Forrester contended that the pressure is not great. "I can assure you that no pressure of such a nature as to promote illegality has been generated," he said.
The Army's recruiters volunteer for their positions, and of those who try out, only about one in four make the grade, according to Lt. Col. Brian Cundiff. The Army is looking for "supersalesmen," he said.
"It's easy for some people. Some people are natural salesmen, with a gift for gab and a silver tongue and the ability to sell. That kind of person will gravitate towards this kind of thing (recruiting)," said Weber, the head of the Army's Special Action Division, which supervises malpractice inquiries.
The supersalesman of all recruiters last year was Sgt. James J. Stokes Jr., a 30-year-old former sausage salesman who sold more people on the Army last year than anyone else to win the title of Recruiter of the Year.
Stokes, who recruited nearly 300 persons in the Active Army, Reserves, and National Guard, in the last year said recruiters "put themselves under pressure."
A veteran of five years of recruiting, he said he still has to "watch himself" and "be very careful" not to make promises he cannot keep.
Stokes said the key to his success was "honestly with the prospect."
He described those who abuse the system as "losers."