Women Should Burn Their Draft Cards

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Col. Matthew G. St. Clair, the commanding officer of the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, addresses Marines after an award ceremony, Aug. 19, 2014.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alicia R. Leaders

2016 promises to be a year of demographic revolution in the military on par with the racial desegregation of troops in 1948. But making a change as enormous as introducing women to combat jobs isn’t like flicking a switch. Even after President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981, integrating the armed forces on paper, it took decades to deal with issues like equal housing, promotions, and so on.


It’s going to be the same with women. Gender integration has been signed off on, but there will be an array of smaller issues to sort out going forward.

One of those issues is the question of whether or not women should have to register with the Selective Service System. It would seem logical that since all men of the appropriate age are required to, in the name of complete gender equality, women should have to also. Great arguments have been put forth in favor of women being held “equally responsible for shouldering the burden of their own security,” as Ellen Haring wrote for Task & Purpose. Two branch chiefs have even thrown their support behind forcing women to sign up for the draft.

And to an extent I agree — if young men are going to be forced to register in the Selective Service, then so should women. But I don’t think young men should be forced to register with Selective Service. It’s an antiquated system that no longer serves the needs of the Pentagon. I think it would be better to abolish the Selective Service System altogether.

Related: It’s time we require women to register for the draft »

To understand why we don’t need it, it’s probably important to understand what the Selective Service is and what it does. First of all, it’s an independent agency; it doesn’t fall under the purview of the Department of Defense. It’s also fairly small for an independent governmental organization, with only 124 full-time civilian employees and an annual budget of $23 million. Every man is required by law to register with the Selective Service within a month of turning 18, and then notify the organization of any change in contact information until they’re 25. Failing to register could result in losing student aid benefits, naturalization status, and being unable to be hired for federal jobs or get a driver’s license in some states.

After reading that, it might be obvious what the problems with the Selective Service might be, but let me connect the dots for you. Let’s assume that there’s an alien invasion and the government wants to very quickly institute a draft. How many 22-year-olds do you know are updating their contact information with the Selective Service as they move? I’m going to go out on a limb and say none. The only government audit of the system to ever be conducted found that 20%-40% of the contact information for the people who would theoretically be the first drafted was outdated, and that 75% of the men registered in their last years of eligibility would be invalid for the draft for one reason or another. It’s safe to say that any sort of draft instituted using the Selective Service would be slow, complex, and ineffective. There’s no reason to believe that it would work well during an emergency.

What the system does do well, however, is punish the young men who don’t register. A scathing article in The Washington Post wrote that “the price for failure to register is high and is largely born by the men who can ill afford to pay it: high school dropouts, disconnected inner city residents, ex-offenders and immigrants – legal and unauthorized – who do not know that the failure to register can jeopardize citizenship. In other words, those precisely in need of the type of job training, education, and citizenship opportunities that could help move them from the margins to the mainstream.”

The same article estimates that failure to register for Selective Service was responsible for the loss of $99 million in educational benefits and job training programs in California alone between 2007 and 2014. There’s not going to be a draft anytime soon, and most of these kids weren’t even aware of the registration requirement in the first place.

Besides it being an ineffective and arbitrarily cruel program, maybe the most compelling reason to do away with the Selective Service is that the Pentagon doesn’t want it. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter recently said to the Senate Armed Services Committee, “It stands to reason that you will reconsider the Selective Service System and its treatment of females in view of the Department of Defense policies and practices with respect to women. But the second thing I’d like to say about the Selective Service System and the draft generally is this: We want to pick our people. We don’t want people forced to serve us.”

Simply put, drafting large amounts of hastily trained civilians doesn’t fit the Pentagon’s vision of the future of the armed forces. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, either. For years both the president and the Pentagon have pushed a vision of the military that relies less on massive industrial bulk and more on intelligence and automation.

Reporting from the Future of Warfare Conference this year, Rosa Brooks wrote, “The future of war may involve no soldiers, weapons, or battlefields at all. Think of ‘cyber war’: If you want to wreak havoc on an enemy all you need is a skilled coder, a half-decent computer, and a working Internet connection. … Meanwhile, developments in robotics and artificial intelligence will render large groups of armed humans less and less important in warfare.”

It’s an unalloyed good thing that the Pentagon now has access to the best people for whatever job it needs them for. The battlefield of the future will certainly include women. But there’s simply no place on it for an antiquated, unwieldy, and punitive agency like the Selective Service. It’s time to abolish it.

(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

Three U.S. service members received non-life-threatening injuries after being fired on Monday by an Afghan police officer, a U.S. official confirmed.

The troops were part of a convoy in Kandahar province that came under attack by a member of the Afghan Civil Order Police, a spokesperson for Operation Resolute Support said on Monday.

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Marine Maj. Jose J. Anzaldua Jr. spent more than three years during the height of the Vietnam War. Now, more than 45 years after his release, Sig Sauer is paying tribute to his service with a special gift.

Sig Sauer on Friday unveiled a unique 1911 pistol engraved with Anzaldua's name, the details of his imprisonment in Vietnam, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" accompanied by the POW-MIA flag on the grip to commemorate POW-MIA Recognition Day.

The gunmaker also released a short documentary entitled "Once A Marine, Always A Marine" — a fitting title given Anzaldua's courageous actions in the line of duty

Marine Maj. Jose Anzaldua's commemorative 1911 pistol

(Sig Sauer)

Born in Texas in 1950, Anzaldua enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam as an intelligence scout assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

On Jan. 23, 1970, he was captured during a foot patrol and spent 1,160 days in captivity in various locations across North Vietnam — including he infamous Hỏa Lò Prison known among American POWs as the "Hanoi Hilton" — before he was freed during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973.

Anzaldua may have been a prisoner, but he never stopped fighting. After his release, he received two Bronze Stars with combat "V" valor devices and a Prisoner of War Medal for displaying "extraordinary leadership and devotion to his companions" during his time in captivity. From one of his Bronze Star citations:

Using his knowledge of the Vietnamese language, he was diligent, resourceful, and invaluable as a collector of intelligence information for the senior officer interned in the prison camp.

In addition, while performing as interpreter for other United States prisoners making known their needs to their captors, [Anzaldua] regularly, at the grave risk of sever retaliation to himself, delivered and received messages for the senior officer.

On one occasion, when detected, he refused to implicate any of his fellow prisoners, even though severe punitive action was expected.

Anzaldua also received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism in December 1969, when he entered the flaming wreckage of a U.S. helicopter that crashed nearr his battalion command post in the country's Quang Nam Province and rescued the crew chief and a Vietnamese civilian "although painfully burned himself," according to his citation.

After a brief stay at Camp Pendleton following his 1973 release, Anzaldua attended Officer Candidate School at MCB Quantico, Virginia, earning his commission in 1974. He retired from the Corps in 1992 after 24 years of service.

Sig Sauer presented the commemorative 1911 pistol to Anzaldua in a private ceremony at the gunmaker's headquarters in Newington, New Hampshire. The pistol's unique features include:

  • 1911 Pistol: the 1911 pistol was carried by U.S. forces throughout the Vietnam War, and by Major Anzaldua throughout his service. The commemorative 1911 POW pistol features a high-polish DLC finish on both the frame and slide, and is chambered in.45 AUTO with an SAO trigger. All pistol engravings are done in 24k gold;
  • Right Slide Engraving: the Prisoner of War ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor and "Major Jose Anzaldua" engravings;
  • Top Slide Engraving: engraved oak leaf insignia representing the Major's rank at the time of retirement and a pair of dog tags inscribed with the date, latitude and longitude of the location where Major Anzaldua was taken as a prisoner, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" taken from the POW-MIA flag;
  • Left Side Engraving: the Vietnam War service ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor engraving;
  • Pistol Grips: anodized aluminum grips with POW-MIA flag.

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(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released an alarming report Friday showing that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017, with little sign that the crisis is abating despite suicide prevention being the VA's top priority.

Although the total population of veterans declined by 18% during that span of years, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide annually, according to the VA's 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

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