So, you've graduated high school, and now you're ready to tackle the world! And what better way to do so than by doing a few years in the Army? The recruiter, who is totally trustworthy and would never mislead you, explained the whole thing to you. You ship out for Basic, get some cushy job in Intel or something, and you can get stationed in Hawaii or Germany, and you get all these great benefits!
Except that's not the case. You ship off to Basic, get chased around and screamed at by some wacky guywith a big hat, you got slotted into the Infantry, you've been assigned to a crappy base in some redneck part of the Deep South, your barracks are crappy, the food is worse, and you just found out you're being deployed to some burning hot desert on the other side of the world for the next year and a half. How could the recruiter let this happen to you!?
A sister trope to "Join the Army," They Said, which is about the recruitment pitches themselves, although the Stock Phrase itself is likely to be used in regard to this trope. It is worth noting that not all recruiters are like this, but amongst the military, they can have a reputation not entirely unlike that of Honest John's Dealership. See also Fence Painting.
The Ballad Of Halo Jones has a whole chapter dedicated to this trope, where Halo re-reads her recruitment pamphlet as ironic narration to a flashback montage of her training. When the montage ends, it's shown she's on a drop ship in a spacesuit, about to be deployed, right after she's found the spot in the pamphlet she remembered where it said 40% of recruits never see combat.
Sarge: "Don't worry, Jones. I'm sure your chute-suit will be one of the 60% that open before they hit the ground."
Heavy weapons specialist Roadblock enlisted after a recruiter, awed by his size, told the aspiring chef he could learn to cook in the army. Roadblock transferred to infantry very quickly, having found army kitchens substandard at best.
Crankcase was a stock car racer who felt bored by his work. That's when he was spotted by "a recruiting sergeant with a crooked smile" and promised "speed and glory". Crankcase does get to drive pretty fast in the A.W.E. Striker, but he's far from satisfied with the slow pace of everyday military life.
Judy Benjamin: I think they sent me to the wrong place.
Capt. Lewis: Uh-huh.
Judy Benjamin: See, I did join the army, but I joined a different army. I joined the one with the condos and the private rooms.
Discussed in We Were Soldiers: During a lull in the fighting, Sergeant Major Plumley half-jokingly asks Lieutenant Colonel Moore: "Kinda makes you wish you'd signed up for Submarines, don't it?"
Averted in Winter's Bone: The recruiter (played by an actual army recruiter) realizes quickly that Ree is simply desperate for money and has no idea what she's getting into. He calmly lists all the reasons why signing her up would be a really bad idea and rejects her.
Starship Troopers: Inverted, where the man working at the front desk of the recruiting center is missing both legs and has a prosthetic hand (which he shakes Rico's hand with to intentionally induce squick). Rico runs into him later walking down the street after leaving work, and the recruiter explains that him working without his prosthetic legs on is just one more thing they do to try and scare people off who don't really want to join.
Not quite as odd as it looks: completing a tour of duty is the only way to become a full citizen of that society, so there's a law that says the military has to accept every single recruit who volunteers, irrespective of any possible suitability for the job. The trick is to minimize the number of less than ideal recruits.
In the movie, while performing said handshake, the recruiter even says "Mobile Infantry made me the man I am today". One of the few things from the book to make it into the movie unchanged.
Subverted in the Farsala Trilogy. Despite Kavi's best attempts to find any lies in Patrius' claims, Patrius is completely open about every single aspect of being a spy and what will happen to Farsala if the Hrum win the war.
In the StarCraftnovelI, Mengsk, the protagonist Arcturus Mengsk joins the marines, after the recruiter, a gorgeous captain, told him recruits have a 25% chance of seeing combat. She later mentioned, after he becomes a lieutenant and is about to see combat for the first time, that most recruits never pass basic training. The chances of a successful recruit seeing combat is nearly 100%.
In the Time Wars novels, Temporal Corps recruiting presentations involve the more attractive soldiers, many of whom have never seen actual combat, dressing up in pretty historical costumes. The series regulars bitterly note how this bears almost no resemblance to their actual duties, which frequently involve being on freezing, muddy battlefields, disguised as peasants in lice-ridden clothing.
In the Sharpe series, new recruits are promised a reward of 7 pounds, a considerable sum in the early nineteenth century, only to be either tricked or coerced into signing a document which declares them to have spent it on uniform and supplies.
There is a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch about a soldier who is shocked to find out that people might be shooting at him in the army. He joined for the water-skiing.
In the Blackadder Goes Forth episode "Private Plane", Blackadder tries to join the Royal Flying Corps after being told their nickname 'The Twenty Minuters' refers to the average amount of time they spend in combat. It actually refers to the average life expectancy of a new pilot.
He also originally joined the army when England was mainly fighting colonial wars against greatly outmatched opponents. The idea of an enemy actually having a gun had never come up prior to World War I.
The 5.50 mark of this clip from Sharpe's Regiment.
One of the earlier episodes of NCIS involving the murder of a recruiter brings this trope up (telling one recruit that joining the Marines would help him become a paramedic when the Marine Corps medics are actually Naval personnel, or telling another who had no chance of entering the commissioning program otherwise). Ultimately turns out to be a Red Herring with the real murderer taking revenge for having been denied entry in the first place.
In JAG (season 5 "Promises") a young female sailor is court-martialed for going AWOL after she simply had enough of swabbing the deck of a destroyer. When she signed up at the recruiter she was almost promised education as an air traffic controller, but she didn't Read The Fine Print of the contract which stated "subject upon availability and to the needs of the Navy".
The Billy Connolly song "Sergeant Where's Mine" that provides the page quote. Inspiration struck when he walked past a recruiting station and noticed that nowhere in the photos of soldiers partying and having fun were there any of dead bodies. It's about a poor private who is now lying in a grimy hospital bed, and lamenting that despite what the sergeant said all he has is no medals, and a lot of bad memories from being shot at or having to do questionable things.
Many traditional folksongs have shades of this.
Marching Through Rochester:
"Not I," said the baker, "Nor I," said the tailor, And most of the crowd with them did all agree ''To be paid with the powder and rattle of the cannonball Wages for soldiers like Marlborough and thee."
The 18th-century Twa Recruiting Sergeants overemphasizes the hardships of a Scottish farmer's life — he won't have to plow, have his horse go lame or listen to his baby's screaming.
The WWI-era Recruiting Sergeant follows a dialogue between an Irish civilian and an English recruiter. Many Irish songs of this period contrast the high causes of the war with the treatment the Irish received at the time.
T'was Britannia bade our Wild Geese go, that small nations might be free But their lonely graves stand by Suvla's waves, or the fringes of the great North Sea.
Averted in FoxTrot. Peter tells how a Marine recruiter addressed his class and told them all about the early morning starts, the gruelling physical training, etc. Paige asks how that was supposed to entice people to enlist. Peter responds that the recruiter had then held up a college algebra text for comparison.
Peter: He couldn't hand out the applications fast enough!
Dragon Age: Origins: Duncan doesn't lie per se about the dangers of being a Grey Warden, but he does leave out critical details about it. Namely, the initiation rite has a good chance of killing you, and if you pass, Your Days Are Numbered. It's pretty standard practice among the Grey Wardens, who view it as an unfortunate necessity for their order. In some cases, recruits are forcibly conscripted.
The Canadian War Museum's older Choose Your Own Adventure game Armoured Arrior (about a troop corporal of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers in the Falaise Gap), after one of your tanks becomes bogged down and C Squadron is diverted to help the Polish detachment, your tank's gunner says, "First we lose a tank, and now we lose an entire squadron. I say we join the Navy!"
Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles: Rico and Dizzy end up on Pluto under-equiped, undermanned and under duress from swarms of killer bugs. Flash to a recruitment campaign with the idealised setting and the impression that killing bugs on Pluto would be a walk in the park.
Also discussed in the pilot episode. The troopers joke about how they should sue their recruiter.
Military Commandant: Meet the Eliminator. That's a 150-foot hand-over-hand crawl across a sixty-gauge hemp-jute line with a blister factor of twelve. The rope is suspended a full forty feet over a solid British acre of old-growth Connecticut Valley thorn bushes. Gentlemen, welcome to flavor country.
When Sergeant Extreme and Major Awesome of the military visit Chris's school in Family Guy, they show a video of hot chicks and a soldier diving into a pile of money. A disclaimer quickly notes your experience may differ but it works on a good chunk of the school anyway.
One episode of Beavis and Butt-Head involved them talking to an army recruiter for the entire episode. He showed them a recruitment video that played more like a music video, with the tagline: "We're looking for a few good headbangers."