Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Oops! Army Recruiter 'Goofed,' Disciplined for Enlisting Autistic Teen

In a follow-up:
A U.S. Army recruiter who signed up an autistic Portland teenager has been relieved of his recruiting duties and will be reassigned.

S. Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Ky., said an investigation found that Cpl. Ronan Ansley concealed the recruit's disability, which would have made him ineligible for service.

Military officials also admonished Sgt. Alejandro Velasco, who worked with Ansley at a Portland recruiting station, The Oregonian newspaper reported in its Thursday editions.

The investigation started after Jared Guinther's parents contacted the newspaper, which subsequently asked questions about his enlistment.

Guinther's father, Paul, said Wednesday he is pleased with the military's action.

"We didn't want to have the recruiters' lives ruined over this," he said. "We just wanted them to admit what they'd done and get our son out of his enlistment obligation."

The Army released Guinther from his enlistment contract in May after he had signed up to be a cavalry scout. If Guinther had not been released from the contract, he would have started basic training next week.

Guinther, 19, has been diagnosed with moderate to severe autism, a developmental disorder that causes problems with social interaction, language and intelligence.

Maj. Curt Steinagel, commander of the Military Entrance Processing Station in Portland, said in May that the papers filled out by Guinther's recruiters contained no indication of his disability.

Military policies forbid enlisting anyone with a mental disorder that interferes with school or employment, unless a recruit can show he or she hasn't required special academic or job accommodations for a year.

Guinther, who graduated from high school this spring, had been in special education classes since preschool. He scored 43 out of 99 on the Army's basic entrance exam. A score of 31 is the lowest the Army allows for enlistment, military officials said.

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