Women Registering for Selective Service Pushed After Combat Ban Lifted

Wednesday, 30 Jan 2013 11:09 AM

By Dale Eisinger

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With the ban on women in combat struck down, there is a growing push to require young women to sign up for the Selective Service, the federal pool of U.S. citizens from which military service members can be drafted.

The United States ended the draft in 1973, but maintains the Selective Service System in case a draft is needed in a crisis.

Now, many say women should be included on the list of names eligible for a draft. Currently, only men turning 18 are forced to register. If they are held to the same standard as men, women between 18 and 25 would also be required by law to register with Selective Service.

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted the longtime ban on women serving in front-line combat units last Thursday. The move marked a historic step toward gender equality after nearly a dozen years of wars in which women are increasingly on the battlefield.

The Service Women's Action Network, a group that represents women in the armed forces, said that forcing women to join the Selective Service would be a momentous step toward gender equality.

“Lifting the ban on women officially serving in combat is about giving qualified women the opportunity to serve and making our military stronger," Anu Bhagwati, executive SWAN director and former Marine Corps captain told NBC News, "And that would include having women register for Selective Service."

Panetta said he didn't know what implication lifting the combat ban would have on the Selective Service.

“I don’t know who the hell controls Selective Service, if you want to know the truth," Panetta said, according to ABC News. "But, you know. Whoever does, they’re going to have to exercise some judgment based on what we just did.”

A retired lieutenant colonel and senior fellow for national security at the Family Research Council says there are unintended consequences for the move.

"Well, if you go back to a draft," Bob Maginnis told OneNewsNow, "you are going to compel women to serve in the infantry whether they are able to or not."

Maginnis said he believes women joining combat units will disrupt cohesion among troops.

Some who faced combat were both wary and supportive of the draft-related push.

“It can be hard to adapt to new customs. There will be some feathers ruffled,” Courtney Witt, a former Air Force senior airman who served in Iraq, told NBC. "It is a little difficult, for some, to see our daughters, sisters and wives go off into war."

“I can’t explain the feeling you have when you have fought alongside brothers and sisters in arms. It’s a bond that can never be broken ... It’s an amazing patriotic feeling,” Witt said. “Shouldn’t any man or woman be a part of that?”

Others see the draft as a deterrent to war, including Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., who has written several bills to require U.S. citizens, both male and female, between the ages of 18 and 42 to serve some kind of military role.

“There's no question in my mind," Rangel told the New York Times in 2007, "that we wouldn't be in Iraq ... if indeed we had a draft, and members of Congress and the administration thought that kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way."

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