The premise was simple: McSwane would try to join the Army as a high school dropout with an insatiable fondness for marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms. No matter how stoned and stupid McSwane acted, a pair of recruiters wouldn’t wouldn’t let him go.
McSwane insisted to the recruiters that he couldn’t lick his drug habit, but one recruiter told him to take some “stuff” that would “clean you out.” It turned out to be a detoxification kit the recruiter said had worked with other applicants. McSwane said the recruiter even offered to pay half the cost of the kit.
McSwane’s claim of being a dropout didn’t discourage his recruiters either. He was encouraged to take a high school equivalency diploma exam, which McSwane deliberately failed. That’s when he said one recruiter introduced him to the “home-school option.”
McSwane was told to order a phony diploma and transcripts from an online diploma mill.
“It can be like Faith Hill Baptist School or something – whatever you choose,” one of the recruiters can be heard saying in a taped phone call.
Several days and $200 later, McSwane became a proud graduate of Faith Hill Baptist High School in Longmont.
“I ordered my four years of high school sweat with a few clicks,” he later wrote.
But McSwane knew that if his story was going to hold up, he would need proof. So he enlisted his sister, Victoria, to pretend that she was keeping a photo album of her big brother’s military accomplishments. She took pictures of McSwane shaking hands with his recruiters.
McSwane convinced a high school friend to operate a video camera across the street from a head shop while one of the recruiters drove him to the store to buy a drug detox kit. He even got his mother to covertly slip him some cash during the episode after the head shop refused to accept her credit card.
Since McSwane didn’t wear a wire on most of his visits to the recruiting office, he parlayed his natural forgetfulness as a supposed druggie into an opportunity to tape his recruiters’ during phone calls.
“I’m a drug addict, so I acted confused and asked him to explain things over again,” he said.
McSwane stopped reporting the story in March when one of the recruiters asked him to strip down for a weigh-in and sign several legally binding documents.
McSwane’s article ran in the March 17 issue of The Westwind.
McSwane’s next move was to make certain his story didn’t languish on an inside page of his school paper. He shopped it out to local and national media outlets. Only CBS 4 News called back.
The station broadcast its report, “How Far Will the Army Go?,” on April 28 and played parts of McSwane’s audio and videotapes.
The high school senior was soon up to his ears in media requests.
Ultimately, McSwane wants more than just media attention. He thinks recruiters, including the two he exposed, are overwhelmed by pressure to make monthly quotas.
“I feel bad they’re taking the fall. It’s their bosses who are telling them to do this. The job is impossible when you have a war going on,” he said.
I don’t know if a lot of people are aware of this, but high school and college newspapers actually are Pulitzer-eligible. This school or the boy’s family should download the entry forms.