With Women In Combat Roles, Generals Say They Should Be Eligible For Drafts Too

| by Nik Bonopartis
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey speaks with female drill sergeants at Parris Island, South Carolina.Gen. Martin E. Dempsey speaks with female drill sergeants at Parris Island, South Carolina.

In December, President Barack Obama's administration announced that the Pentagon would open all combat roles to women.

On Feb. 3, American military brass told the Senate Armed Services Committee that, under the new rules, women should be conscripted just as men are if circumstances ever necessitate the revival of a draft, the Washington Post reported.

That means women, like men, would have to register with the Selective Service upon legally becoming adults at 18 years old. The Selective Service is the agency that keeps track of all men between the ages of 18 and 26 who could be drafted. Men are required to register within 30 days of turning 18, and face prison time and hefty fines if they don't.

“Senator, I think that all eligible and qualified men and women should register for the draft,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army's chief of staff, told Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat.

Milley was supported by Gen. Robert B. Neller, the Marine Corps commandant.

“Now that the restrictions that exempted women from [combat jobs] don’t exist, then you’re a citizen of a United States,” Neller said, according to the Post. “It doesn’t mean you’re going to serve, but you go register.”

Not all of the military leaders who participated in the hearing were as adamant, and some said they'd like to see more studies conducted before forcing women to register.

"This needs to be looked at as part of a national debate, given the changed circumstances," Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said, per NPR.

Military conscription in the U.S. ended in 1973, after a study by the Department of Defense determined the military could maintain fighting strength without a draft. The change, which was also influenced by attitudes shaped during the Vietnam War, turned the U.S. military into the all-volunteer force it is today. At the time, U.S. leaders also added incentives for volunteers that built on perks already offered to service members under the G.I. Bill.

With the change allowing women to serve in direct combat roles, more than 200,000 new jobs were opened to female service members, according to the New York Times.

Despite some of the military's top generals pressing for women to be included in Selective Service registration, any change is unlikely to happen soon, NPR reported, as military brass said integrating women into combat units would take another three years.

Sources: Washington Post, New York Times, NPR / Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

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