July 11, 2004: Headlines: COS - PNG: Draft: The Olypmian: Papua New Guinea RPCV James Foley sits on local draft board

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Papua New Guinea: Peace Corps Papua New Guinea : The Peace Corps in Papua New Guinea: July 11, 2004: Headlines: COS - PNG: Draft: The Olypmian: Papua New Guinea RPCV James Foley sits on local draft board

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-22-73.balt.east.verizon.net - on Monday, July 12, 2004 - 7:12 pm: Edit Post

Papua New Guinea RPCV James Foley sits on local draft board

Papua New Guinea RPCV James Foley sits on local draft board

Papua New Guinea RPCV James Foley sits on local draft board

5-member draft board waits on shelf for now


The mayor of Lacey. A maritime lawyer. Three state workers.

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Few know that an act of Congress could put these five South Sound people in the position of deciding whether a son, brother or husband is sent to war.

"Ninety-nine percent of the people in our three counties don't even know a draft board exists anymore," Lacey Mayor Virgil Clarkson said.

Members of Local Board 26, which serves Lewis, Mason and Thurston counties, acknowledge they didn't give their dormant role much thought until about three years ago. But those thoughts have become more persistent in the face of media reports about a war on terror that could stretch decades, an overstretched military and continued instability in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"It's more of a reality than it was a year ago. Way more of a reality than it was two years ago," said James Foley, a 48-year-old maritime lawyer. "Before 9/11, I thought I could have served the whole 20 years without sitting in on a draft board meeting."

Many federal officials say Foley and his colleagues on the board are no closer to active draft board duty now than in the past.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Selective Service System officials have said repeatedly that there is no move afoot to reinstate the draft. Polls show a vast majority of Americans strongly oppose a draft. And top military leaders say they prefer an army of volunteers rather than a corps of conscripts.

But the national anxiety, fed by Internet rumors and government mistrust, continues, and some are convinced Congress will reinstate the draft after the November election when the presidency isn't on the line.

"Some people feel like it's covertly being pushed through. I don't believe that personally," said Pamela Newman, 47, of Olympia, who has examined the issue after learning about draft legislation from friends. "But people are scared for their children."

Two bills introduced in the U.S. House and Senate in 2003 would require men and women ages 18 to 26 to perform two years of national service, unless exempted, either as a member of the armed forces or in a civilian capacity. But neither piece of legislation -- House Bill 163 and Senate Bill 89 -- has moved from the committees they were referred to in 2003.

Board duties

If a draft were reinstated, the five local board members would decide who receives deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service based on their situations and beliefs.

The local board members, who can serve no more than 20 years, said it wasn't a duty they were looking for. Clarkson joined after he was prodded by a colleague whom he persuaded to join Kiwanis. Judy Kittle, a 53-year-old state consultant, learned about an opening while borrowing furnishings from a Selective Service office.

Clarkson was drafted during the Korean War. Two other board members held lottery numbers during the Vietnam conflict. Foley later joined the Peace Corps and worked on water systems in New Guinea.

All said they volunteered to sit on the local draft board because they have the training and ability to make objective decisions.

"I thought I could be fair, and I could tell who is sincere and who wasn't," Foley said. "You're either part of the process or out of the loop. I'd rather be part of the process. It's a huge thing."

Possible sacrifice

All of the local board members said they're committed to the process despite the time it could take away from their jobs and families. Clarkson wonders whether he could continue as mayor. Michael Watkins ponders whether the duty would interrupt his schooling at The Evergreen State College, where he's taking management courses.

"I don't worry about it for myself, but as how it would impact my family," said Watkins, 53, a health care administrator at the Shelton prison. "The thing that you think about is if people start making threats. ... Most of the time I feel if you do your job appropriately, in the frame of its design, you'll be OK. But that's an emotional button, and people can get irrational quickly."

Kittle added: "It would certainly add to my life of busyness."

The fifth local board member, Dennis Duffy, who works for the state Department of Transportation, couldn't be reached for comment.

At South Puget Sound Community College, Danny Ho, who's of draft age, said earlier this year that he largely forgot about his Selective Service registration soon after he completed the form on his 18th birthday.

"I've never really thought about it," said Ho, who's studying computer-aided design. "If I'm signed up, I'm signed up. If they call me, I guess I have no choice but to take it."

No inside information

The local board members said they aren't privy to information that other Americans don't have, and, like other residents, they're just as unsure whether the draft would ever be reinstated.

"Can I say that they will and if there is some conspiratorial delay in the process because of the election year?" Watkins asked. "Time will tell on that. Right now, I don't know whether we're any closer than we were six months ago. It's a possibility, but it could go either way."

Added Clarkson on the possibility of a draft: "Right now, I'd say it's slim to none. Ask me the same question on Dec. 31 or Nov. 5, I may give you a different answer."

Christian Hill covers the military for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5427 or at chhill@olympia.gannett.com.

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Story Source: The Olypmian

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