After the Pentagon killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani in a confirmed airstrike, many are worried about a draft being set in place over the potential for war in Iran.
Retired Army Maj. Thomas Groggett did not serve his country under the draft, however, while serving under the volunteer army he was able to develop an opinion on and learn the system behind the draft. Implemented in 1940, the draft was mainly for meeting manpower needs. Although, contrary to common knowledge, the legislation for the draft is still around.
“[The draft] is to have a readily available pool of manpower. In dire straights and need like World War Two, Korea, and Vietnam it went out because it was very heavily protested about it being in place. It’s a lottery, you go register and you have that [registration] number. Now we don’t need that number because we’d be talking millions or hundreds of hundreds of thousands,” Groggett said.
In the wake of recent events, many students are increasingly aware of the FAFSA’s requirement to register for Selective Service and worry about what it may mean for them in the future.
“You’re required on or before your 18th birthday to go register. Now it’s easier for you, because you just go online and be done in five minutes. The number you’re given stays with you. That’s why, for those who are seniors who are doing their FAFSA, there’s a little block for your Selective Service number, you go like ‘huh? What the heck’s that?’ Well, that number is yours and it stays with you for the rest of your life. For you to be eligible for federal assistance of any kind, you have to have been registered,” Groggett said.
However, to settle the question immediately, the draft is not coming back for a whole host of reasons. There’s no need to move to Canada or do anything rash. The draft would function as a lottery system comprised of those who are male and within acceptable years.
“When you register, they put your name into a lottery and they would do a drawing, just like a regular lottery, and they’d be like, ‘if your number is such and such to such and such, you need to come in for selective service.’ Now, some of those people were already going to join the service, or already signed up in the service. If they’ve done that, they just need to communicate that and then they’re exempt. Everyone else has to go though,” Groggett said.
In previous drafts, for the purpose of identifying those most suitable for service, MAMs (military aged males) were classified by their ability. Many people who were MAMs however, were not able to serve and were instead classified as 4-F (unfit for service).
“That was the big thing in World War II. Young men who were given 4-F, because of the stigma they felt, would commit suicide. Especially those from like a small closed town, that was kind of in their mind seen as a disgrace or a badge of dishonor and some couldn’t take it. In Vietnam, people were trying to find reasons to get 4-F. Now, there’s other exemptions you could get. If you’re in college you could get an exemption–a college deferment. Every now and then, you’ll hear old politicians jab at each other over who got a deferment so he did not have to serve if they were in that time of the draft,” Groggett said.
In 2018, the Army employed 69,972 into active duty, and 11,327 into the Army reserve, according to The U.S Army Recruiting Command. Another reason, however, that the draft is regarded as impractical is the contention that those who are enlisted under the draft have less of a motivation to serve and are generally more pessimistic of their service.
“Here’s the trade off, a recruiter comes to talk to you hypothetically, and you’re like ‘hey, you know what? I can go in, and I can learn a trade, I can get paid during school, I can use that on the outside to make more schooling, and go to college, hey not a bad deal! You join up, you made the choice to join; or somebody from the government comes up and said ‘hey guess what, you’re the lucky lottery winner!,’ You won the draft lottery, you’re going into service. And you say ‘but I was gonna do this, and I was gonna do that’. That’s somebody else dictating stuff to you, into your plan. In the first instance, you volunteered, so it was your life plan, versus somebody saying, ‘oops, you gotta change your life plan, because you’re getting drafted.’ Those two individuals come to train: one of them is excited, and and happy because they’re a new adventure, following their life plan they set for themselves, the other one got sidetracked from their plan, not necessarily going to be a happy camper, not necessarily gonna embrace the suck. Because part of the military sucks, it’s hard work,” Groggett said.
Usually when the topic of the draft comes up in the media, it can be quite polarizing for those who were most affected by it in the past. Likewise, the draft is often brought up to stir trouble and paranoia. Ultimately, Groggett sees low probability in a draft for Iran.
“Look at 9/11. A lot of folks started screaming about the draft. The services didn’t ask about the draft because they were getting more than enough man power. So the folks who yapping about the draft were only doing that to cause trouble. They were only bringing up that issue to get people worked up because in a lot of folks, the baby boomers, all those protests, and all the stuff that happened during Vietnam, is still going through their minds because they lived through it. You know, 9/11, we were under threat, under attack. There was a huge up-swell in folks that wanted to do something. Those that could went and joined the services. Those that couldn’t find other avenues that they could help out and do something. The draft was never needed. For that to come back, it would have to be shown that they we really need manpower,’” Groggett said.
The topic of the draft, even outside of the debate in Iran, can be sensitive to some.
“People get very uncomfortable, it is a divisive topic. Some people bring that topic up because it is divisive, they try and use it against other people. They’re like ‘oh, you’re for the draft,’” Groggett said
To talk about the draft, Groggett argues that one should have compassion behind their conviction and thought behind their words, to speak only in established fact.
“If you want to have an honest, down-to-heart discussion or if you wanna just bring it up and throw it out there. The folks in the congress, making the laws are the one who make it, we in the military just carry out those instructions,” Groggett said.