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Recruiters believe they have a special status because the Army treats them differently. The Army recruits them by boasting that only the best sergeants are considered for the job and by paying them an additional $375 a month for pulling long hours and giving up the conveniences of living on a military post. To keep the Army at its current level of 495,000 soldiers, its 5,000 recruiters must bring in 90,000 new recruits a year. More than 20% are female.

In Schaper's case, Army recruiters from the local station in St. Peters called to invite her for a visit in January 1996. "Ever since I went to Washington when I was 10, I wanted to be in the military," she says. Her parents were pleased. Schaper's father Arthur, a 43-year-old insurance manager, applauded his daughter's decision. "All the officers that I personally know are of the highest caliber," he says. "I only expected the best from the military."

But his daughter's contact with the Army exposed her to an environment that was not only sexually loaded but also filled with deceit. Schaper had been taking Prozac for depression, and would be barred from the Army if she acknowledged her condition. So recruiters advised her to lie, she claims. They kept her coming back to the station to do typing and other clerical tasks while telling her that her enlistment paperwork was being processed. She started a relationship with Belisle, and during its ups and downs, Schaper became suicidal, twice slashing her wrists.

Belisle, 27, a nine-year Army veteran who worked in recruiting for 18 months, was eventually kicked out of the Army. He says it was not for having sex with Schaper but because he committed adultery, a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. "I should never have been involved with her," he concedes. Before he was discharged on March 28, Belisle was posted away from recruits as a clerical worker in the St. Louis recruiting headquarters. That's when he learned just how common his transgression was. "There were five or six guys who came through there, out of 230 total recruiters, who had been suspended from recruiting duty because of sexual allegations," he says. "And there are a lot more who don't get caught."

When her parents found out about the affair and complained to Army authorities, Schaper says, the recruiting-station commander, Sergeant Michael Jackson, took her aside. "If you really love Paul," Jackson allegedly told her, "you will say that you were only friends and that nothing has happened." Jackson, through his attorney, denies the charge. When Schaper's older brother rounded up a posse of about a dozen friends and went banging on Belisle's door, the recruiter got help from his boss: Jackson issued Belisle a 12-gauge shotgun for his protection.

After a low-key investigation in the wake of the Schapers' complaint, the Army quietly punished four sergeants, although none were court-martialed. Three, including Belisle, were booted out of the Army, and Jackson received a reprimand. On April 17, three days after the Army declined to assume blame for the episode, Schaper sued the U.S. in St. Louis federal court, seeking $10 million for emotional trauma and for medical and psychiatric bills.

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