Lawmakers predict defeat for mandatory military service bill

Maggie Hessel-Mial

Del Hansen always knew college was where he wanted to spend his post-high school years.

Military service was something he contemplated but never fully considered because getting an education ranked higher on his priority list.

Hansen, along with other males between the ages of 18 and 22, would not be given this choice if one U.S. representative has his way.

Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich., introduced a bill Dec. 20 that, if put into law, would mandate every male between 18 and 22 have six months of military training, preferably directly following high school graduation.

Women, though not included in the bill, could volunteer for the six-month training.

“In a state of emergency, how ready are our armed services to respond?” said Joshua Sabin, Smith’s spokesman. “This bill would certainly address getting more people involved, particularly young people.”

Sabin said the bill’s purpose is to encourage a level of volunteerism and pride in the country.

After completing the training, he said, participants would come away “with experience and more knowledge of future endeavors.”

Fellow members of Congress said the legislation will probably never leave the House Armed Services Committee. Some policy-makers don’t think the bill is necessary.

“This is not going to pass,” said Rep. Martin Sabo, D-Minn. “This draft would overload the military and provide more people than it needs. There is no capacity for this kind of training.”

Sabo said he didn’t think a draft was necessary in the war on terrorism and said the draft would be necessary only for an extended ground war.

Adam Peterman, spokesman for Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., agreed it wasn’t likely the bill would ever see the House floor.

“This is a free country. You choose if you want to participate in military functions,” Peterman said. “There isn’t support in Congress for legislation like this.”

Many University students, who could be greatly affected by this proposed legislation, have said the training would interfere with their education.

Hansen said if he were forced to train, it would turn him off from the military.

“It would force me to take six months out of my life,” Hansen said.

The gender differences in the bill have also turned some students against the idea of military training.

Jennifer Kolenda, a civil engineering senior, said she didn’t think the training draft was necessary, but if it were she said it should mandate training for both males and females.

“I don’t think it’s fair. There are many women in the military today,” Kolenda said. “If they do it for men they should do it for women too.”

However, some students say a life in the armed forces is a good way to learn about life and pay for college.

Jason Murphy, a cadet in the Army ROTC program at the University, said the military has taught him a lot about himself and about other people.

“It means a lot to me,” Murphy said.

But he said he thinks the volunteer military is a good system because the people involved want to be there.

“The soldiers that I relate with are all there because we signed up for it,” Murphy said. “There is a level of professionalism and commitment there.”

Despite students’ concerns, duty to one’s country does have an impact on students’ views on the draft.

Kolenda said it might be a good learning experience to be in the military.

“I think it’s good to get a sense as to what’s going on,” she said. “The training would be good to see how serious war really is.”

Hansen said if his country called him to participate in defense he would do so.

“It’s the last thing I would want to do,” Hansen said. “But if I were drafted I would stand up and do my duty.”