Sep 30, 2008 Ami Olson Uncategorized
Are you ready for a draft?
By Ami Olson
The last American compulsory draft may have ended in 1973, but throughout the country volunteers have remained active on local boards for more than 30 years in preparation for the next draft.
Selective Service System local boards, or draft boards, are five-member groups responsible for hearing claims of conscientious objectors (CO) and judging whether they are qualified for exemption from the draft.
The Selective Service lists qualifications to join a local board: one must be a U.S citizen, age 18, and may not have been convicted of a criminal offense, an active or retired member of the Armed Forces or an employee of any law enforcement agency. Men also must have registered with the Selective Service.
Current members said after applying for a spot on the board, the next step was a background check and interview process. Volunteers are required to attend annual training sessions, “refresher courses,” or complete a program at home if they cannot attend the training. The rest of the time, they wait.
Like other board members, Baldwinsville resident Robert Mossotti sees the need to keep local boards active and members current in training. Mossotti served in the Marine Corps and joined the board about four years ago. He believes his role on the board, as it should be for others, is to be unbiased and uninvolved with politics, but understanding and open-minded.
“I think from the military you are able to have some judgment on character,” Mossotti added. He noted that it is the job of board members to recognize whether or not a draftee who comes before them is genuinely qualified to be exempt from the draft.
If a draft is authorized by Congress and the President, a lottery system based on birthdays is instated. The first men to be drafted are those whose 20th birthday falls within that year; the next birthdays called up, if necessary, are 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25. According to the Selective Service System website, “18-year-olds and those turning 19 would probably not be drafted.” Registrants drafted by the lottery system would then be required to report for physical, mental and moral evaluation. If they are deemed fit for service, the draftees would have 10 days to file a claim for exemption, postponement, or deferment.
Local boards hear claims of CO classifications, of which there are two levels: one which would allow a CO to participate in non-combatant military, and another which requires a CO to abstain from all military training and service. The former, if approved by the board, could fulfill his military service in a noncombatant position; the latter could be assigned to work as a civilian alternative service worker.
‘If it comes, it comes’
For some, involvement with the board is a volunteer opportunity. Andrew Henty, of Liverpool, said he joined the board to fill a “void in his volunteering,” after an eight-year stint on the Liverpool school board.
“I was just looking for something else to contribute to the community,” Henty said. He heard there was an opening on the local board, and thought it would be a good fit.
For others, it’s a way to do their part for the country.
For Solvay resident Thomas Grandinetti, who has no military experience, volunteering on the board allows him to represent a part of the state as an average citizen.
“Just that alone makes you proud, just that they offered it to you,” he said of his spot on the board. He learned about the open slot on the board three of four years ago through an ad in the paper, and said his interest was piqued. He called the number, received the literature and applied, and was appointed a spot on the board.
But Grandinetti recognizes the weight of the task he has assumed by joining the draft board.
“It’s a big responsibility, I don’t take it very lightly,” Grandinetti said. “God forbid, they never come back – that’ll haunt you. It would me.”
William Masters, a former Onondaga resident who recently moved to Camillus, joined the draft board in 2003. Masters was 23 when he was drafted to the United States Army. It was 1951, and he said although his older brothers and other relatives had joined the military, he had never given it a thought.
“I can never complain about being drafted, it was a service,” Masters said. He served two years during the Korean Conflict in counterintelligence in Baltimore. “If it comes, it comes. I am a firm believer that everyone should be drafted, including females.”
‘You never know’
The draft may be inactive at this time, but board members are often well aware of the possibility of a reinstatement.
“With two boys in that age range, you think about it every day,” Henty said. “You just never know.”
But, he points out, that’s the United States of America. “I do understand that we live in the United States of America and that’s something that might happen.”
Grandinetti has similar awareness of the possibility of a reinstated draft: “I think about it a lot.”
He watches the news and sees everyday how many troops are killed overseas, and said it bothers him. With numbers of enlisted troops falling, and continued presence and fighting overseas, Grandinetti believes there could be a draft within the next 10 years.
“I don’t want to see anybody get drafted and go to war,” he said. “But reality has it that because of the world and what’s going on in it, we’re really not going to have much of a choice.”
Women and the draft
American women have never been required to register for the draft, though men are still required to register within 30 days before or after their 18th birthday.
According to the Selective Service, for women to be included in mandatory registration Congress would have to ammend Selective Service law, which currently states “male persons” must register.
In 1994, President Clinton requested the Department of Defense to review the law. Because women are excluded by policy from front-line combat positions in the military, and compulsory drafts had historically been activated to fill those positions, women remained excluded from the draft.
Local boards #57 and #99 currently have openings for new members. Below are listed the ZIP codes ecompassed by each board, if you reside within one of the ZIP code ares you may be eligible to volunteer. For more information regarding the Selective Service System, and how to register for the draft or apply for membership to a local draft board, visit sss.gov.
Local Board #57
Local Board #99