While in the United States, military recruiters for having a difficult time, according to this New York Times article which also appeared in the International Herald Tribune, recruiters are having a far easier time amongst the poor and patriotic in the Pacific Islands.
“It’s the benefits,” said Arnold Balisalisa, who took the aptitude test here in late June. Taking a break from his $3.25-an-hour job at a McDonald’s, he said: “It is better than staying on this island. There’s nothing going on here. I’m 19, and I have never even been to Guam.”
Apparently, in the Pacific islands, territories taken in the Spanish American War and in World War II, the minimum wage is only $3.05; the empire thus produces soldiers to fight to build more empire.
The per capita annual income is $8,000 in American Samoa, $12,500 in the Northern Marianas and $21,000 in Guam, all U.S. territories. In the Marshalls and Micronesia, former U.S. trust territories, per capita incomes are about $2,000. Per capita income in the United States in 2004 was almost $33,000.
The army’s minimum signing bonus is $5,000. Starting pay for a private first class is $17,472. Education benefits can be as much as $70,000.
These territories, though, have small populations.
While small in real terms, enlistments from Guam, Saipan and American Samoa are high per capita. Saipan, with a population of about 60,000 U.S. citizens and green card holders, has 245 soldiers in Iraq.
American Samoa, with a population of 67,000, has lost six soldiers in Iraq, most recently Staff Sergeant Frank Tiai of Pago Pago on July 17. Guam has lost three. Saipan has lost one.
“I see yellow ribbons everywhere,” Staff Sergeant Levi Suiaunoa said by telephone from the army recruiting station in Pago Pago, the capital of the territory. “‘Come home safely’ signs almost litter the streets.”
In March, the Christian Science Monitor reported on the use of soldiers from a larger but also poverty-stricken population–in Latin America, where they are hired by “private contracting companies, doing everything from the dishes and the driving to guarding oil installations, embassies, and senior personnel…. These recruits are joined by thousands of others – from the US and Britain, as well as from Fiji, the Philippines, India and beyond. Close to 20,000 armed personnel employed by private contractors are estimated to be operating in Iraq, making up the second largest foreign armed force in the country, after the US.”
One such company, Triple Canopy, hires “protective security specialists,” who must be “[a]ble to perform duties while wearing body armor, helmet, and equipment while carrying a rifle, for 12—14 hours per day in extreme heat.” It was 97 degrees at 8:50 tomorrow morning in Basrah, Iraq, and forecast to reach 120 degrees.