Approximately 80 former Army recruiters fired for giving answers on enlistments tests or admitting underage or unqualified applicants have filed suit against the Army, alleging that such practices are a natural consequence of the pressure put on them to meet enlistment quotas.

The suit, filed late last month in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville, N.C., states that recruiting officers in the Southeastern District of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command were told they must supply 23 to 28 percent of the nation's total enlisting although 16 percent of the country's qualified potential recruits lived in that district.

The recruiters were threatened with "ruinous" performance reports, leading to loss of benefits and promotions, or dismissal from their jobs and eventually from the service if quotas were not met, according to the suit.

The pleadings also allege recruiting officers informed the Army they could fill their quotas only by admitting unqualified candidates. The suit contends the Army ignored the warnings and launched an investigation leading to the firing of between 200 and 400 recruiters in the last year "to suppress and cover up" its own acceptance of unqualified recruits.

The civil suit grew out of the earlier acquittal of three Charlotte, N.C., recruiters court-martialed on charges of conspiring to coach applicants on enlistment exams and coerce subordinates who refused to cooperate.

The defense attorney in that case, Mark L. Waple of Fayetteville, represents the plaintiffs, in the current suit which seeks modification of Army regulations and the removal of unfavorable performance reports from Army personnel records.