For many Howard Community College students registering for classes Thursday, the possibility of getting the courses they needed seemed more unlikely than being drafted into the military.
But most of the students interviewed, all of whom were from Columbia, said they wouldsupport compulsory service if the war in the Persian Gulf dragged onand warranted the supplement of troops.
"A draft really doesn't bother me," Scott Rothstein, 20, said. "I'd rather not go, but if it happens, it happens."
For Craig Goins,20, registering for selective service when he turned 18 was "no big deal."
"When you're registering, you think to yourself, 'There's no way a draft could ever happen. We live in modern times.' With all that is happening now, the possibility doesn't seem so remote anymore.
"I hear people say that the real reason our troops are in the Middle East is to protect our oil interests," Goins said. "That's a bad excuse. We're there to free Kuwait from the clutches of Saddam Hussein."
Others wonder if a draft would ultimately detract from the wareffort.
"The military is not for everyone," Kenny Goss, 23, said."If you get people who do not want to be involved in war, it would make it rough for the others and would ruin their morale. You're expected to work together as a team."
Goss speaks from experience. He was in the Navy for two years, most recently as a signalman aboard a Jacksonville, Fla.-based aircraft carrier, the USS Saratoga, until being dispatched to the Middle East. The petty officer third class was honorably discharged in June for respiratory problems.
"I'm not in favor of a draft, but if the need for additional men arises, I guess I would go along with the decision," he said.
Jennifer Gilmore, 26, said that pulling people away from their families, jobs and schoolsand placing them in the middle of warfare is a scary thought.
"I watch as much of the TV coverage as possible. I really feel for the soldiers who are fighting and am proud of them, but eventually I just have to turn off the set. You get burned out and depressed after a while."
Even though women are excluded from selective service, Gilmore said, "There are numerous non-combat jobs that women can perform as equally or better than men."
Two 17-year-olds, Tracy Lieberman and Laura Elder, do not favor a draft but agree that one should be used as a last resort.
"Just like Vietnam, conscientious objectors would flee the country," Lieberman said. "But if a draft is reinstated,I think women should be involved as well. The military is very sexist.
"If only the government would tell us the truth and give us better justification about our involvement," she said. "I back our soldiers being in the Middle East 100 percent. But I don't believe that the only reason we're over there is to liberate Kuwait. Basically, I think we're there to show our military power and to protect our oil interests."
"Personally, I don't think women should be drafted," Elder said. "The military should continue to operate on a voluntary basisfor both men and women."
Michael Gray, 21, dreads the return of the draft.
"It would change people's lives overnight. Students on specific career tracks would have to alter their plans. A draft would leave people in limbo, worrying when their number would come up."
"War is a sad and scary thing to think about," he said.
Should a draft be reinstated, men turning 20 the year the call-up starts would be the first to be inducted. A lottery would be held to determine draft priorities by birth date. Following the 20-year-olds, the same system would go into effect for men ages 21 through 25. Only after thosenumbers were exhausted, would the 18- and 19-year-olds be called up.
By current law, draftees cannot be sent overseas until 90 days after they are selected.
Laws passed at the end of the Vietnam War eliminated student and job-related deferments. Students could be deferred from training camps only until the end of their current semesters.