Contrary to popular stereotypes, the US Army doesn’t take “anybody,” and has rather stringent requirements for enlistment.
That, however, did not seem to be the case after a 19-year-old recruit with autism and deformed arms managed to report for Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, last month.
Garrison Horsley managed to slip past the Military Entrance Processing Station staff and make it onto the bus to Fort Jackson, allegedly in part due to an unscrupulous recruiter who was willing to lie in order to make numbers.
According to the Army Times, the Idaho native enlisted to be a Human Resources Specialist, despite having autism and a congenital arm disorder. He and his family claim the recruiter advised him to lie about his conditions.
“He knew all about it [the autism diagnosis] and he just said that ‘the Army only knows what you tell them,’ ” Horsley said.
That recruiter was Staff Sergeant Jeffrey Gunya, an Idaho Falls-based recruiter who insisted the two talk on the phone rather than text.
Not long after, Horsley’s father, Ryan Horsley, was surprised to hear his son was going into the Army.
“I said ‘you’re not going to clear medical because of the autism,’” he said. “‘Not only that, but your left arm doesn’t work. How are you going to get through push-ups and pull-ups.’ He can’t fully rotate his left arm?’”
The young Horsley admitted as such, but claimed he got a waiver for his arm.
“My left arm is 50 percent weaker than my right, but I got a waiver for that,” Horsley said. “I’ve never been able to do a pull-up in my life and I max out on push-ups at 15 or 10. I can’t turn my hand palm up.”
This, however, did not address his high-functioning autism or depressive disorder.
Horsley, who is now in hold and awaiting discharge for lying about his conditions, signed paperwork stating that there was nothing wrong with him during the enlistment process. However, he maintains that this is what his recruiter instructed him to do.
His recruiter quickly “ghosted” on him shortly before BCT.
“Three weeks before I left, my recruiter went on leave and didn’t tell me,” Horsley added. “He didn’t text or anything and then he unfriended me on Facebook.”
Horsley was outed during BCT’s “moment of truth” session, where recruits have one last chance to admit to potential omissions during the enlistment process.
“They were just yelling and I was panicking,” he said. “When we went to the moment of truth, I told them I have anxiety and they just kind of laughed in my face.”
In truth, Horsley had not been taking his daily SSRI, which can cause severe withdrawal symptoms.
The US Army is now looking into the matter, and it is unknown what will happen to the recruiter.
“US Army Recruiting Command has initiated an inquiry into this situation, and appropriate action will be taken when all facts are known,” said Lisa Ferguson, the chief spokeswoman for the Army’s recruiting division. “We have extensive screening requirements recruiters must follow throughout the applicant process. Recruiter impropriety is unacceptable.”
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