Is Generation Z military draft bait?

What’s it like to be drafted?

January 4, 2020 — With a growing interest in my web pages on the military draft during the Vietnam War, it felt like the appropriate time to blog about those details as they would apply to “Generation Z.” Hashtags like #NoWarinIran #TrumpsWar and #WorldWarIII have recently been trending on Twitter.

I’m all too familiar with the 1969 draft lottery — since it was the first step that landed me in Vietnam — less than a year later. There has been huge interest my two military draft web pages from the Vietnam War era:

1969 Draft Lottery during the Vietnam War

Vietnam War Era Draft Lotteries

Gotcha by the balls!   1969 Draft Lottery drawing
   ‘Gotcha by the balls!’
1969 Draft Lottery drawing

Generation Z, or Gen Z for short,  is the demographic cohort succeeding the Millennials (or Gen Y). Demographers and researchers typically use the mid- to late-1990s as starting birth years, while consensus has not been reached on the ending birth years. Source

While the Vietnam War era draft focused on 19-year-old men, a new military draft would focus on 20-year-old men — those born around Y2K (for a 2020 draft). Even though women are now authorized to fight in combat roles, the Selective Service System (SSS) information that I’ve found on a potential future draft only mentions men. That could always change of course.

According to the Selective Service System website — If the draft is reinstated — a young man could be headed for Basic Training (“bootcamp”) within 6 months:

Selective Service must deliver the first inductees to the military within 193 days from the onset of a crisis.

What about men older than 20? More SSS details on a future Lottery:

The first men drafted would be those turning age 20 during the calendar year of the lottery. For example, if a draft were held in 2012, those men born in 1992 would be considered first. If a young man turns 21 in the year of the draft, he would be in the second priority, in turning 22 he would be in the third priority, and so forth until the year in which he turns 26 at which time he is over the age of liability. Younger men would not be called in that year until men in the 20-25 age group are called.

The drawing would resemble a “ping-pong ball” Lottery drawing like you see on TV for Powerball:

The lottery process begins with two large air mix drums.  First, the air mix balls having date and month on them are loaded in one of the large drums.  Using this same method, number from 1 to 365 (366 for men born in a leap year) on the air mix balls are loaded in the second drum.

Following the 1969 draft lottery, men were called at a maximum rate of 30 birthdays per month, meaning that someone who drew number 125 was ‘called-up’ in May of 1970. First, you received the notice to report for a physical in the mail:


What would it take to initiate a new draft?

Congress and the President Authorize a Draft
A crisis occurs which requires more troops than the volunteer military can supply. Congress passes and the President signs legislation which starts a draft.

What would happen following the draft authorization and lottery drawing?

Registrants with low lottery numbers are ordered to report for a physical, mental, and moral evaluation at a Military Entrance Processing Station to determine whether they are fit for military service. Once he is notified of the results of the evaluation, a registrant will be given 10 days to file a claim for exemption, postponement, or deferment.

175mm heavy artillery firing in Vietnam
175mm heavy artillery firing in Vietnam

Who decides whether an exemption is valid?

A local Selective Service board (“draft board”) consisting of five citizen volunteers. Local and Appeal Boards will process registrant claims. Those who pass the military evaluation will receive induction orders. An inductee will have 10 days to report to a local Military Entrance Processing Station for induction.

There’s even an application to be a “draft board” member on the Selective Service System website here.
Some requirements to be a board member are that they be:
Must be 18 years old or older,
Must be a citizen of the United States,
Men must have registered with Selective Service, except those born from March 29, 1957 through December 31, 1959,
Must not be a member of law enforcement occupation as defined by Selective Service policy (example: police officer or judge),
Must not be an active or retired career member of the Armed Forces or Reserves or National Guard,
Must not have been convicted of any criminal offense.selective-service-system-map.jpgSELECTIVE SERVICE SYSTEM AGENCY STRUCTURE

“Selective Service has more than 2,000 local and appeal boards, comprised of approximately 11,000 volunteer civilian board members nationwide. In the event of a draft, local and appeal boards would be mobilized to form the “backbone” of Selective Service. Board members would decide draft deferments, postponements, and exemptions based upon claims filed by the young men who are selected for induction.” Source

Would attending college qualify a man for an exemption, like it did for most of the Vietnam War era?

It appears that being in high school or college would still accomplish that sort of deferment, at least judging by this sentence at the bottom of the SSS web page Selective Service classifications from 1948 – 1976:

Student Postponements – A college student may have his induction postponed until he finishes the current semester or, if a senior, the end of the academic year. A high school student may have his induction postponed until he graduates or until he reaches age 20.

Without any sort of deferment, he might get a letter that looks like this one, from 1970:

ORDER TO REPORT FOR INDUCTION   10 months later I was in Vietnam!

10 months later I was in Vietnam!

I hope you don’t “Win” the draft lottery — if and when it does takes place! Bob


Timeline around the 1969 Draft Lottery: 

19 Nov 69 – Congress gave the president the authority to institute the “draft lottery” system aimed at inducting 19-year-olds before older men. Nixon signed the bill into law 26 Nov 69. Under the new law the period of prime eligibility was reduced from 7 years to 1 year. Maximum eligibility would begin on a man’s 19th birthday and end on his 20th birthday.

1 Dec 69 – The first draft lottery in 27 years was held at Selective Service Headquarters in Washington, DC.

21 Feb 70 – A presidential commission recommends the institution of an all-volunteer Army and elimination of the draft.

23 Apr 70 – President Nixon calls for far-reaching draft reform. Nixon also issued an Executive Order that ended all occupational deferments and most paternity deferments, with “extreme hardship” as the only exception.

1 Apr 71 – Draft Bill – A 2-year extension of the draft passed the House (239-99) in a roll-call vote. The Senate also passed the bill 24 Jun 71 following a long debate, lasting from 6 May through 24 Jun 71.  48% of manpower for the Army were draftees or “draft motivated.”

28 Sep 71 – The 2-year draft extension was signed into law after lapsing from 30 Jun until 28 Sep.  Deferments were abolished for 1971 college freshmen, although upperclassmen retained draft deferments. Also in the bill was a non-binding provision putting Congress on record as backing an early end to the Vietnam War. Source

1969 Draft Lottery during the Vietnam War
Vietnam War Era Draft Lotteries
Vietnam War timeline
Vietnam War era legislation


Thousands of Pa. men fail to register with selective service

August 12, 2020 (WTAJ) – “The compliance rate nationally is roughly ninety-two to ninety-three percent. Coincidentally Pennsylvania is only at 83 percent, which isn’t bad but it is our second worst state in the country behind California,” said Wadi Yakhour, Chief of Staff for the Selective Service System.

If men do not register with selective service by their 26th birthday they could face prison time and be fined up to $250,000. The government hasn’t prosecuted anyone since the 1980’s, however there are other consequences for failing to register.

If someone is opposed to war for religious or ethical reasons the group suggests registering with selective service at the post office and writing you are a conscientious objector on the card.

“The selective service does not register anyone as a conscientious objector at this time but your claim will be documented and it will start a paper trail,” said Maria Santelli, Executive Director of the Center on Conscience and War.

According to Yakhour, the government is working on improving its Alternative Service Program. “It gives conscientious objectors the opportunity to serve their country without picking up a weapon and without participating in war,” said Yakhour.

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