Exploring the variety of societal issues that affect a young person's psyche during times of war and economic turmoil, The Recruits takes an intimate look into the lives of families involved in The Young Marines program and shows how a military lifestyle affects the most impressionable time of a child's development.
The Young Marines is a seldom heard of, Department of Defense funded youth-oriented military program consisting of tens of thousands of children in more than 300 units across 46 states. Designed to train children on how to think and behave like soldiers as they go through a grueling nine-week recruit process modeled after Marine Corps Boot Camp Training, children as young as eight are taught close order drill, military rank structure, and firearm training with the end goal of training them to think and behave like soldiers. The funding for the program falls under "drug demand reduction" education which falls under the bigger umbrella of counter-narco terrorism.
Following four children, the film also explores the various motivations behind signing up for recruitment. In Temecula Valley, where the camp is located, the military is one of the only stable sources of employment or progression. While 8-year-old Brian Weaver would rather not join, his family is on the brink of homelessness. 10-year-old Joshua Oliver initially believes the program will help him get into NASA and the Young Marines is cheaper than space camp. A child who was bullied, 15-year-old Robbie Healey wants to protect those who cannot protect themselves and believes fighting "America's enemies" is what he was meant to do. 10-year-old Tommy Hernandez finds himself with a new guardian while his mother struggles with treatments for her terminal illness. Though Tommy's guardian is a career Marine, he questions how the program might affect the psyche of such a young child. With each of these boys, will the program teach them discipline or turn them into militarized children?
Confronted with the personal decision of whether or not to conform under the weight of a powerful institution, The Recruits raises questions around institutional indoctrination, education, and militarization.
FILMMAKERS' STATEMENT: "We wanted to tell the story of kids going through the training process of The Young Marines, and also explore the sociological connection between the military industrial complex, economics, and education. Temecula Valley in Southern California ended up being a perfect setting. The area harkens to an era of the American Dream that seems to be fading; tract homes and mini-malls dot the valley, yet the area was hit hard in The Great Recession, and for many, the only economic opportunity is to join the military, Camp Pendleton, one of the largest Marine Bases in the U.S., is also one of the area's largest employers.
Through our exploration of The Young Marines we not only filmed close order drill, firearms training, and kids learning the Marine way of life. We explored the rich tapestry of home life and familial motivations that shape these children's opinions and personalities for life. We learned, that like many issues, The Young Marines is a more complex story than meets the eye."