- The Washington Times - Monday, November 5, 2001

The surge of patriotism that triggered a flood of inquiries about military service after September 11 produced no spike in enlistments, but thousands of young men who had failed to register for a potential draft seized the chance to sign up late.
"On September 11, that particular Tuesday, we had 6,400 men register via the Internet where, over the previous 52 weeks, we were averaging 1,600 online registrations per day," said Lew Brodsky, director of public and congressional affairs for Selective Service.
"For the next two or three weeks we had 2,500 to 3,500 online registrations per day and it's tapered off now," Mr. Brodsky said. In addition, the mailed-in registrations sent by teen-agers getting cards at the post offices or when getting driver's licenses "at least doubled for a time."
While Selective Service declares that draft registration is "what every man's gotta do," military recruiters seek volunteers one at a time through "Uncle Sam Wants You" ads like the Air Force television ad campaign that premiered yesterday during National Football League timeouts on CBS and Fox.
"The new ads are not overtly patriotic and don't seek to take advantage of any sentiments heightened by the attacks," ad executive Eric Webber, of the GSD&M; Agency in Austin, Texas, said of the first recruitment campaign begun since Muslim terrorists attacked the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
Mr. Webber said the TV spots seek to market long-term Air Force careers, not the battle of the moment.
"You don't want to get people who come to the military on the four-week plan just because they're angry and seek revenge," he said.
Other young men apparently seek only to avoid legal trouble for failure to obey draft-registration laws.
The draft was put on standby 28 years ago, but since 1980 all U.S. men including illegal immigrants must register on the ready list within 30 days before or after their 18th birthday and remain registered until they turn 26. That roll provides more than 13 million names should Congress order a draft.
Almost two decades have passed since the last man was prosecuted for failure to comply with that registration law.
Gillam Kerley, now a civil rights lawyer in Madison, Wis., was indicted in 1982 for failing to register after President Carter ordered the present system in 1980 when world tensions came to a boil over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Mr. Kerley, then 19, fought through the courts for six years and eventually served four months in prison.
"I had made my point," Mr. Kerley said. "Selective Service wants [registration] to be seen as a rite of manhood. They don't want people to think about it."
"Our philosophy here is registration, not prosecution," Mr. Brodsky said.
For the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, since 1973 the philosophy of an all-volunteer military has required inducements including signing bonuses of $3,000 to $20,000, guaranteed job training and up to $20,000 more for college later. The military also is paying out $350 million a year in re-enlistment bonuses.
Local school-board policies still bar Pentagon recruiters from some 2,000 public high schools, but military leaders hope that task will be eased by the education bill expected to pass Congress soon, which ensures military recruiters the same access to schools as colleges and private employers.
Pentagon figures show all four services topped recruiting goals in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, with the Air Force signing up 102.3 percent of its goal, the Navy drawing 100.3 percent, and the Marine Corps and Army each receiving 100.1 percent.
"The Army achieved its recruiting mission in September prior to the September 11 attacks, so there was no direct effect," said Douglas Smith, spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Ky.
He said recruiters were swamped with visits and calls, but most came from teen-agers too young or veterans too old to enlist, and from medically ineligible people who thought the rules would change in a crisis.
"If there's been any uptick, it's been minimal," Mr. Smith said.
Air Force recruiters got plenty of visits, "but we haven't had an actual increase in recruits," said Senior Airman Marti Ribeiro, of the recruiting headquarters at Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio.
"There's an awful lot of patriotism going on right now and some people think they might run off and join the Air Force," she said. "It's really too early too tell."
Lt. Ingrid Mueller, of the Navy Recruiting Command in Millington, Tenn., said increased interest may pay dividends later, and the Navy is confident it would absorb all qualified people who apply even if goals were exceeded.
"Sure we could, but that's not a problem that we have right now," Lt. Mueller said.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide