Why aren’t women required to register for the draft?

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Sometimes my thought process runs like a pinball machine. A sight, a sound, a smell, triggers a thought. In an instant the thought takes off like a 1-1/16 inch, 2.8 ounce, case hardened carbon steel pinball, ricocheting around my brain, looking for stored information to help me make sense of that first thought.

That happened the other day while waiting in line at the post office. For a split second, a blue pamphlet with the word “MEN” in bold white letters on a red background, caught my eye. Looking closer I could see this was a US Selective Service System pamphlet. The cover, in full, was a caution to certain men: “Do The Right Thing. MEN 18 through 25 REGISTER. It’s Quick – It’s Easy – It’s The Law.”

My carbon steel pinball thought, having knocked into a few more bits of archived information, slowed a bit. I am so used to seeing, hearing, gender neutral US Federal Government policies that this singling out of MEN seemed out-of-date, behind the times. Finally, my mental pinball stops at this question:

In 2018, why is the nation not mandating women, ages 18-25, register with the US Selective Service? In plain words, why aren’t women required to register for the Draft?

Most of my adult life I have not favored America sending women into combat. First, it seems ungentlemanly, a bit barbaric. Second, a 1970s Wide World of Sports segment influenced my thinking on women in combat.

The world female karate champion challenged the male world kickboxing champion to a fight. The female champion did so, she said, because if she could not defeat this male champion, there was no point to her continuing karate.

The kickboxing champ was twice the karate champ’s height and weight, and he defeated her quickly. That male/female fighter mismatch stuck with me.

Years ago, I asked a friend of mine who grew up in Lewiston, Claude Berube, about women in combat. He had served overseas in the Navy and since 2005 has taught at the Naval Academy. He told me that the midshipmen he taught, both men and women, weren’t any different. Female midshipmen are every bit as tough as their male counterparts.

That reality, Claude said, changed his thinking on women in combat.

On different occasions, retired Navy SEALs Andy Stumpf, and Rob O’Neill, answered a variation of that question: What did they think about women fighting in Special Forces? Andy Stumpf answered in an episode of his podcast “Cleared Hot.” Rob O’Neill answered on Twitter.

Both SEALs said they were fine with women in Special Forces as long as the standards men must meet or surpass remained.

Then, a few days later, I listened to a “Team Never Quit” podcast co-hosted by former SEALs Marcus Luttrell and David Rutherford. Their guest was Kirstie Ennis, a former US Marine Helicopter Door Gunner, who suffered traumatic injuries to her brain, spine, face, shoulders, and left leg — which was ultimately amputated – after her helicopter crashed in Afghanistan.

Kirstie’s story, from becoming a Marine, fighting back through 44 surgeries, rehabilitation, to becoming a Paralympian, was inspiring. Ms. Ennis told the “Team Never Quit” hosts, “The six inches between your ears and what’s behind your rib cage: That’s where the fight comes from.”

In 2013 Defense Secretary Panetta announced “the end of the direct ground combat exclusion for female service members.” Then in 2015, Defense Secretary Carter said all gender based restrictions on military service would be lifted starting January 2016.

According to the 2018 US Selective Service website, “No decision has been made to require females be subject to the Draft.”

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.

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