An Open Letter to JAMRS

About a month ago I received a large envelope in the mail from an organization called JAMRS.  It looked a little spammy, but I tend to be a bit on the curious side, so I opened it anyways.  Inside I found a scantron survey, which whisked me back in all of its bubbly glory to my high school days; a letter that explained the purpose of the survey; an envelope that I could use to send the completed survey back to JAMRS and a two dollar bill, neatly glued onto the letter.

The letter read as follows (I cut off the header because my address was on it and cropping is faster than blurring):

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Now, I don’t know about all y’all, but I am a little bit disappointed with the education system in Ye Olde US of A.  Each grade level claims to be merely a preparatory course for the next, instead of working to shape the students as people in their age group, college has become the new (debt-laden) high school in that it is a prerequisite for most (non-minimum wage) jobs, and most people seem to graduate with a burden of financial obligations that will follow them for years, if not decades.

Consequently, this letter struck me as a breath of fresh air.  The government wants to know how to help its young citizens ACHIEVE THEIR (the young citizens’) GOALS.  And in order to do it they are reaching out specifically to those people.  How novel.  How intelligent.  How, dare I say, good.

I started the survey.  The beginning of the survey asked pretty standard questions.  Age, employment status, how difficult is it for someone your age to get a full-time job, education level, GPA, did you take AP classes in high school, etc. 

And then on the 17th question, the survey derailed.  It started asking about the military and did not stop.  All the way until the end, five pages and fifty-nine questions later, the survey, which introduced ITSELF as being about “education and career plans” essentially became a very poorly disguised enlistment questionnaire.

I didn’t make it past question 22.  I read the whole thing, but I took my $2, put it in a good will offering when I went to my niece’s baptism a few days later, and wrote the following open letter to JAMRS on my flight home a few days after that.

I have been meaning to post it since then, because I found the survey profoundly disturbing on many, many levels and thought that a good old fashioned rant on the internet might make me feel better.  So, JAMRS, here’s to you:

Dear JAMRS,

I received your survey and was excited to participate because the enclosed letter made it sound like JAMRS  was interested in taking a survey about education, which I believe the US desperately needs to reform.

However, after just over 15 questions it became obvious that JAMRS was more interested in gauging my interest in the military than how my education had shaped my pursuit of any career that was not the military.  Despite this I may have continued to fill out the survey if it were not for the fact that none of the questions included space to express that joining the military is not something that I want to do. Rather, I was asked simply which branch I preferred to serve in (because serving is evidently inevitable) and what I would like about the experience (travel, self-esteem reasons, or to escape my local gangs, perhaps?), whether or not certain people in my life would approve of “my choice” to join the military, and how much I valued each of their opinions.
ImageAs a female, I recognize that the military can be a dangerous place for me and that many of those dangers are internal to the system.  As a decently well-educated person, I recognize that even those who go into the service with the best of intentions can only do as much (or as little) as they are told. I know that sometimes soldiers are persuaded into doing things that they would never have imagined themselves capable. As a moral person, how could I join an organization that has been routinely shown to throw its soldiers into brawls over resources, rather than fights to achieve equal human rights?

I want to make it clear that I have the utmost respect for people who join the military.  I strongly believe that most people do so because they want to make a positive impact on the world, because they want to fight to defend their country and because they want to fight for people in other countries who do not have the ability to do so for themselves.  I am not blaming individuals, but our military is very broken, as noted above, in a lot of ways.  I shouldn’t have to worry that if I joined I might be raped by a superior officer, I shouldn’t have to worry that my morals would be compromised, I shouldn’t have to worry whether the institution that is supposed to defend and protect is defending and protecting people or financial interests.

In a survey about the military, because that is what you sent me, those are the questions I would like you to ask, not my height, weight and my ability to do push-ups.

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The letter enclosed with my survey said that “by understanding young adults’ plans and aspirations, public officials can do a better job providing services and allocating resources”. If that is genuinely what you want to do, why did you not ask more about my education, my debt and alternative futures? Why do you instead focus on my tattoos and asthma? How does my opinion of “the current situation with the War on Terrorism” influence any job other than the ones you are clearly looking to fill?

As has hopefully become clear by now, I don’t think you sent me a survey about my “education or career goals”.  You sent me an application to the military.

Luckily I turn 25 in about a month [it’s about a month later and I’m 25 now, suckas], and, since it sounds like you stop being interested in my future once I’m a quarter of a century old, I probably won’t hear from you again. But I sincerely hope that you stop prowling for young people to turn into bodies. I sincerely hope that you, or, I don’t know, the Department of Education, sends out a survey asking what they can do to create an intelligent, inspired work force.  Because for a moment, you fooled me into thinking that that was the country I was living in. 

And that was a beautiful fucking moment.

Sincerely,

Holly

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20 Responses to An Open Letter to JAMRS

  1. Eneyra says:

    Thanks for writing this, my daughter just received a letter like that and I was wondering……This will help us, thank you again.

    • tertiaryhep says:

      Glad my blog was helpful! 🙂

    • Taryn says:

      well it is almost 2017 and my son who is 21 received the same letter sans the 2 bucks in the mail. I too was suspicious,I did a bit of internet research and found your blog! I was very happy that I interceded this letter and follow up post card since he did not fill out the survey. Can’t believe they are still doing this. And yes, I agree with you it is an application to join the military. Not my son’s career path as he completes a four year course of study at college.

  2. Ken says:

    I got a letter a while back informing me I would get the survey in the mail. As you did, I thought it seemed “spammy”. I also thought it strange that nowhere on the letter did they tell you what the letters “JAMRS” stood for. After one Google search, I was thoroughly displeased with them as an entity, what with the lawsuit the New York Civil Liberties Union had filed and all the ugly rest. When my survey came I pocketed the cash and tossed it in the trash without looking past the first page. I appreciate your letter especially because it reaffirmed that JAMRS is shady organization. So thanks.

  3. JP says:

    Hella save me from wasting my time filing it out. c:Thank you sis!!

  4. jeeny says:

    I got one too. I took the two dollar bill, chucked the survey and ignored it. A month later they sent me another and this time they told me id get five dollars as a token of appreciation if I turned it in. I thought, “eh what the hell?” And began filling it out. But I also became dismayed as it started talkin about the military. So I filled out the whole damned things with hilarious sarcastic written answers and doodles. Including “do I get my fiver yet?” And when they asked, “are you a us citizen?” I answered, “you bet your damn commie boots I am!” Accompanied with the doodle of the american flag waving off of my middle finger. Needless to say they did not send me five dollars but they also did not send me another survey. as

  5. Chris says:

    Fuck yeah Holly! Just recieved this in the mail and pretty much went through a similar discovery process as you [skeptical, then curious, thennn turned off]. Is this the best the Military can do to stay under the radar and secretly collect info? Lmao, nice try.

  6. Will says:

    Yup, and there’s more to those questions about your health than you realize, especially if problems arise later in the military.

    My daughter won’t be filling out this misleading survey, she’s looking at college and they prey on those that can’t afford it and try and entice them to join for the college money. I served in two branches, but come on yall, kinda sneaky here.

    Thanks for the heads up

  7. Kyle says:

    Considering that JAMRS is part of the DOD, it makes sense that they are gauging interest in the military. The military is always looking for the best and brightest to serve their country (speaking from experience, they’re not always successful). This survey serves the purpose of helping the military better advertise for recruiting purposes. They understand that not everyone is interested in this, which is why it is voluntary.

    So, back to the original point, it isn’t about education reform ( which was an assumption on your part) it’s about the military. Make sense?

    • tertiaryhep says:

      If the survey hadn’t described itself as being about education and lifestyles I might agree with you. But, as expressed in this entry and as is echoed in many of the comments on this blog, that was not at all how the accompanying letter advertised itself. I think that is what turns people off more than anything. Personal feelings about the military aside, I just don’t like the bait and switch.

      • Kyle says:

        It’s not a bait and switch though. It’s not their fault you don’t what their organization is.

        • tertiaryhep says:

          Did you read the letter they send? They don’t mention the military. They talk about education and futures and careers. They purposely make it sound like their organization and the survey are more generalist than they actually are.

      • Jessica says:

        I agree with Kyle. A quick Google search and you would have seen that JAMRS is a DOD program developed to improve marketing strategies for the military. This helps keep volunteer recruitment numbers up and AVOID MILITARY DRAFTS. It’s the opposite of a military application. That’s why I’m going to fill out the survey and turn it in, so that you and I don’t have to drafted involuntarily in the future.

  8. joeyclaw says:

    Holly,

    Such a wonderful article. I was a bit skeptical when I first received a letter from JAMRS, so I did what any other person of the 21st century would do and Googled it. You made some brilliant comments and it really made an impact on me. After composing some angry tweets, I decided to make a wordpress to comment here.

    It’s one thing to recognize a problem, but to actually be proactive and write the Department of Defense (Dod) a letter is fantastic. Not many people take the time to do that. I’m interested on whether or not they responded to your letter. One thing you should know about the DoD is that they obtain a lot of information through other marketing resources outside of JAMRS. The Government spends millions of dollars to obtain information on young adults through channels like “the Department of Motor Vehicle, the Selective Service System, the College Board, the Armed Services Vocational Aptite Battery (ASVAB test), among other places.” The companies listed above, as well as getting info from private data brokers, is information listed directly from the New York Civil Liberties website.

    I would encourage anyone reading this to check out the cases filed against the DoD. In the trail of the New York Civil Liberties vs. DoD (not actual case name) the NYCL won. It is now law that the DoD cannot collect social securitiy numbers and can only hold student information for 3 years.

    There is a huge gap between the Governemnt’s interest in our educaiton system and the Government’s interest in war. I am going to research further before I beginning rambling on about topics that I’m unsure of. All I know for certain is that receiving this letter has sparked an anger towards certain aspects of the Governemnt that I never knew existed and this article has helped me understand it better.

    Thank you again.

    Warm regards,

    Joseph C.

  9. Shelby C. says:

    Don’t all of you intelligent people want intelligent people, like yourselves, in our military? I agree with everything you say, Holly, except with the connotation used. I think this is a great survey. It has sparked my interest in the military, again. They care about what I’m doing, and they want to use me, yes, use me. Doesn’t everyone need a purpose? I have a purpose already, without the military, I know! But, they have given me another option in this crazy world, and who doesn’t like their options to be open? Isn’t that what life is all about?

  10. Terry says:

    im 25 and still get these letters….

  11. Thanks for your assessment. Nowhere did it say what JAMRS was and that was suspicious in itself.

  12. William says:

    I just got a small letter from JAMRS letting me know I will soon be getting my nice giant government envelope and nice incentive.

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