DMN - Young Men Starting To Feel A Draft. Some anxious about registering; Pentagon denies plans for return
Dallas Morning News
June 25, 2005
Young Men Starting To Feel A Draft
Some anxious about registering; Pentagon denies plans for return
By Andrew Becker, The Dallas Morning News
Brandon Carter feels like a wanted man. He says military recruiters have pestered him so much that he's nervous about registering with the Selective Service.
Young Mr. Carter needs to get a grip.
Mr. Carter, a 17-year-old DeSoto High School graduate from Red Oak, said recruiters have called him for months – up to four times a day recently – trying to lure him into service with promises of college tuition. But anxious about fighting in a war he doesn't believe in, he wonders whether a draft could be next if the U.S. cannot keep up its volunteer troop strength.
A "war he doesn't believe in"? I suppose I should bear in mind that young Mr. Carter was probably 13 on 9/11, and progressively younger as you travel back in time through the embassy bombings in Dar-Es-Salaam and Nairobi &tc.
"I come from a family where all the men have been to war," said Mr. Carter, who plans this fall to attend Dillard University in New Orleans on a full academic scholarship. "That really made me start thinking about 'What if I have to go?' "
At last, a comment demonstrating some sense. What if, indeed.
That question – Will there be a draft? – emerged repeatedly in interviews with young men facing the Selective Service sign-up rules. Their parents said registration conjures images of draft boards, the Vietnam War and the false promises that the war would soon be over while raising fears that their sons could be forced to go to war.
Like young Mr. Carter, the parents cited also need to get a grip. There's absolutely no congressional concensus on the need for a draft, the secretary of defense doesn't want a draft, none of the top-ranking officers of the armed forces wants a draft, and the president doesn't want one either!
"How quickly can we get out of this war before my son has to go?" asked Jeff Balthrop, a DeSoto West Junior High School teacher. His son, Josh, who registered last September, said he did so with pride.
"If I had to go to war for my country, I would gladly do it," he said. But "it's not something I would enjoy."
Despite hysteria on the part of his father, young Mr. Balthrop seems to have a head on his shoulders.
Pentagon officials and the Selective Service System acknowledge that worries persist about a draft, but they say it's not coming back.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has vowed it won't happen, and the military has sought to bolster its ranks by making it easier to join, increasing bonuses for new recruits and extending tours of duty. "There isn't a chance in the world that the draft will be brought back," Mr. Rumsfeld told a House hearing Thursday.
Go to the Web site for the Selective Service System, www.sss.gov, and the disclaimer is right out front. The site explains that the House, in a 402-2 vote last October, defeated a bill to make military service mandatory. Congressional opposition to a draft is "nearly total," it says.
Still, by law, the Selective Service must stay prepared for it. The agency collects registration forms from young men 18-25. Women are not required to register. It also helps states find ways to increase compliance, such as tying driver's license applications and federally and state-funded student aid requirements to registration.
At the same time, the agency is trying to quell fears that conscription could be next.
"We're not getting ready to draft anybody," said Selective Service spokesman Dan Amon said. Comparing the Selective Service to a fire company, he said, Congress sees us as an "insurance policy, a hedge against a national emergency."
And it would take quite a national emergency, one requiring a lot of manpower for an extended period, to get congress to reinstate conscription. If 9/11 didn't manage it, you can get an idea of the magnitude of the disaster which would be required.
"Even if there hasn't been a fire in a number of years, you want to keep them prepared and trained...That's our mandate, and that's our mission."
Compliance rate Last year, the Selective Service registered 15.6 million young men 18 to 25 years old, a national average compliance rate of 94 percent. Texas has historically ranked below the national average of registered young men. Last year, its rate was 89 percent for that age group.
Retired Army Col. Claude Hempel, the Texas state director of the Selective Service System, said the state's rate is down in part because of lower registration in the Rio Grande Valley and along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"If we had mandatory registration with the driver's license application [like Florida] we'd have higher compliance rates," he said.
The other part of the Selective Service's mission is keeping the nation's nearly 11,000 volunteer draft board members trained if the draft is reinstated. During an annual four-hour training session, members watch a training video on how to separate conscientious objectors from people who just don't want to fight, Mr. Hempel said.
David Galipp of Duncanville would not be one of those people. He views Selective Service registration as a coming-of-age American ritual, part of his patriotic duty. The 18-year-old Duncanville High School graduate said he'd be ready to serve his country if called, but he doesn't expect a draft.
It's rather sad that young Mr. Galipp is so deaf that he has not heard his country's call to service.
His father, Don, who never had to register during the Vietnam era, didn't give it much thought when his son received a registration notice. His mother, Alice, recognizes her son feels strongly about his patriotism, but she doesn't want him to join the military.
"I can't say I would try to deter him or try to talk him out of it [if he were drafted]," she said.
Draft not popular In a new national poll, Americans overwhelmingly oppose reinstatement of the military draft and most say they wouldn't encourage their children to enlist in the service either. About a quarter of those questioned in the The Associated Press-Ipsos survey say they favor reinstating the draft.
Joe Moss of Lancaster, an Army infantryman who was drafted for Vietnam and lost both his legs when he stepped on a land mine, believes the draft could be reinstated. He remembers not thinking much of it when he registered in 1967.
"We were young kids. We just thought it was a process," said Mr. Moss, who was not part of the AP poll. Mr. Moss, 57, volunteers at the Dallas VA Medical Center believes that military service should be mandatory for all Americans. "Every body kept telling us when we were in high school and we saw it on TV that the war was going to be over soon. I never had an idea that I was going to be drafted and go to Vietnam. I was just trying to grow up."
The American public has been against reviving the draft for the past couple of decades, polls have shown. And falling support for the Iraq war indicates that view probably won't change anytime soon.
"I don't think America would stand for it for five minutes...not just in the peace activist community, but in all of middle-class America," said Charlie Jackson, a founder of the Austin-based Texans for Peace.
Staff writer Eric Gentry contributed to this report.