Wednesday, May 10, 2006

:: Army Recinds Enlistment of Autistic Teen ::


Army rescinds enlistment of autistic teen
Military officials announced today that they will release an 18-year-old autistic man from his enlistment obligation.

Last month, Jared Guinther, diagnosed with autism at age 3, came home with papers showing that he not only had enlisted in the U.S. Army, but also had signed up for its most dangerous job: cavalry scout.

Guinther was scheduled to leave for basic training Aug. 16, but Army officials launched an investigation into potential recruiting violations after The Oregonian began reporting on his story last week.

Officials are examining whether recruiters at the U.S. Army Recruiting Station in Southeast Portland improperly concealed Jared's disability, which should have made him ineligible for service.

The investigation will continue, but Guinther will be released from his enlistment, said Gary Stauffer, a civilian spokesman for the Army recruiting battalion in Portland.

Jared's parents, Paul and Brenda Guinther, told the newspaper last week that they asked recruiting officials to review Jared's medical records before making a final decision on his enlistment.

The Guinthers said their offer was declined. They were not immediately available for comment today.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., wrote today to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld calling for "a full investigation" into Jared's case "and into military recruitment practices that have led to a record number of reported abuses and improprieties in the recruitment process."

Recruiters nationwide are under pressure to hit ambitious enlistment targets this year. Tracking by the Pentagon shows that complaints about recruiting improprieties are on pace to approach record highs set in 2003 and 2004.

Last year, the active Army and the Army Reserve each missed enlistment targets for the first time since 1999. This year, they have a combined recruiting goal of 105,500 soldiers.

The Portland recruiters under scrutiny, Sgt. Alejandro Velasco and Cpl. Ronan Ansley, will continue to work during the Army's investigation, which could take until the end of May to complete, Stauffer said.

-- Michelle Roberts