The Army is instituting a new procedure for checking the backgrounds of enlistees who claim to have a military record after a report that a reservist apparently faked a background as a Marine to enter the service.
Recruiters can no longer simply accept discharge papers as proof of service, Douglas Smith, public information officer for the Army recruiting command, told The Associated Press on Thursday. They now must also seek to verify the documents through a military database, he said.
The directive follows an AP story last Friday detailing how a Texas man apparently tricked the Army into allowing him to enter a reserve unit as a noncommissioned officer earlier this year.
Records show that Jesse Bernard Johnston III, 26, was given the rank of sergeant even though he didn't have a military background other than spending six weeks in a 12-week Marine officer candidate program for college students. Because Johnston didn't complete the course, he never became a Marine.
Smith said the change in enlistment procedure, which went into effect Tuesday, means recruiters can't accept an enlistee's discharge paperwork, known in the military as a DD-214, as proof of military service without cross-checking it through the Defense Manpower Data Center.
Previously, he said, a "valid-looking" DD-214 would have been accepted without checking the database.
Smith declined to give a reason for the change or discuss the Johnston matter, which currently is under investigation by the Army.
Johnston joined the Army's Corps Support Airplane Company based at the Fort Worth Naval Air Station in February. Since March, he has been stationed at Fort Rucker in Alabama, the primary training base for Army aviation. He has not responded to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.