By Edwin Vega
For the Fort Bend Star
The United States military has been strictly all-volunteer since the draft ended in 1973; however, it still maintains the ability to initiate a draft.
The Selective Service System is the agency that manages the draft in case of a national emergency. Currently, all men ages 18-25 who are U.S. citizens or are immigrants living here are legally required to register with the Selective Service. Residents of American territories living in Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands must also register.
Non-citizens must register within 30 days of arriving in the United States. This includes all naturalized citizens, parolees, undocumented immigrants, legal permanent residents, asylum seekers, refugees and all men with visas of any kind that have expired more than 30 days.
If non-citizens take up residency in the country before their 26th birthday, they must also register. The few individuals who are exempt from this requirement are those on current non-immigrant visas. The Selective Service does not collect or share any information which indicates a registrant’s immigration status.
Under certain circumstances, exemptions, postponements and deferments may apply.
A Selective Service local board is a group of five citizen volunteers whose mission, upon a draft, will be to decide who among the registrants in their community will receive deferments, postponements, or exemption from military service based on the individual registrant’s circumstances and beliefs.
This may include: Conscientious objectors, surviving sons or brothers, members of reserve components, ministers, ministerial students, certain elected officials, veterans and individuals in hardship situations.
High school students may have their induction postponed until they graduate or reach age 20, whichever occurs first. College students may postpone until the end of the semester. If they are in their last academic year, they may postpone until the end of that academic year.
Once notified of the results of the evaluation, a registrant will be given 10 days to file a claim for exemption, postponement, or deferment. At that time, board members will begin reviewing and deciding the outcome of the individual registrant’s case.
They may personally interview the registrant and persons who know him to gain a better understanding of his situation. A registrant may appeal a local board’s decision to a Selective Service District Appeal Board.
“Registering for the Selective Service is beneficial for our country and defense,” said Mike Schofield, a member of the District Appeal Board 581 in Texas. “If you didn’t know who was out there, that deters your defense; this gives you a ready pool of men to call upon in case of conflict.”
“I believe it’s important because it shows the rest of the world that we are prepared to do— important things if we have to,” Schofield said.
Although registered, they will not automatically be forced to join the military and go to war. During a crisis requiring a draft, they would be randomly called upon via a sequence determined by a random lottery number and year of birth. They would then be evaluated for physical, mental and moral fitness by the military before determining induction or exemption of service.
Men who fail to register with the Selective Service may be ineligible for opportunities that may be important to their future. Registration is required to be eligible for federal student financial aid, state-funded student financial aid, federal employment and state employment, security clearance for contractors, job training and U.S. citizenship for immigrant men.
How to register
Men will receive a registration card by their 18th birthday. It must be filled out and returned. Registration can also be done at a U.S. Post Office or online at https://www.sss.gov/Home/Registration.