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Change in Program of National Guard Requires Six Months of Active Duty

By Frederick W. Byron jr.

One of the most significant upshots of Defense Secretary Wilson's recent "draft dodging" accusations, leveled against the National Guard several months ago, will become effective five days hence, on April first.

Wilson's desire to strengthen the Guard in order to make it "a solid base" upon which to construct the country's military organization has resulted in a mandatory six-month, active-duty training period for all Guardsmen and Reservists who enlist after April first. This six-month period will be a minimum training requirement for all branches of the service, with one minor exception in the case of men under 18 1/2 years of age in the National Guard.

This means that several programs, which Wilson would probably cite as "draft-dodging" techniques, will go out of existence on the first of next month. These programs require no active duty, but merely from 6 to 11 years of ready reserve depending upon the program chosen. The ready reserve involves weekly two-hour drill sessions forty-eight times during the year (actually this can be lowered to a minimum of 42 times a year) and two weeks each summer at a training camp.

The most advantageous of these programs is open to Army Reservists and involves a total military obligation of six years in the active reserve. The other programs are available to National Guardsmen and involve a longer time duration than any other form of military obligation, from 9 1/2 to 11 years in ready reserve.

If one is a college freshman and plans on spending some years in graduate study, these programs involve little inconvenience and at the same time, pay from $2.75 to $4.25 per drill, depending on what rank is held.

The entire question of fulfilling one's military obligation has always been a relatively complex one for the college student, and with the advent of the new "six-month" programs it will become even more so. At first the six-month program, introduced by the Reserve Forces Act of August, 1955, was of relatively minor concern to the college student, since it was applicable only to men below the age of 18 1/2.

However, persons in this age group did not flock into the program as had been expected, in part because of the opportunity for no active duty which the National Guard and Army Reserve offered. In January, 1957, the Army announced that it would broaden the program by regulation to include the 18 1/2-25 age group, and also require active duty training of all National Guardsmen and Reservists.

This extension of the "six-month" program has called for a reexamination of the current selective service system and a consideration of what the draft situation will be over the next two or three years. Each year approximately 1.2 million men reach the draft age of 18 1/2. In the recent past, about 13 percent of this group has not been drafted and about 22 percent has been rejected as physically unfit. Of the former group, a small percent belonged to the National Guard, but the majority escaped all service.

The CRIMSON wishes to thank John A. Ballard of the Harvard Defense Studies Program for his kind assistance in compiling much of the necessary data for this article.

However, the new six-month program may change this situation radically. The draft call appears to be stabilizing at the rate of about 170,000 men per year--approximately 13,000 per month--and in all probability it will remain at this level until 1959 or 1960. However, the Army also intends to build up its reserve force over the next two years.

Draft May Take Younger Men

If the six-month program, primarily a reserve measure, draws off a large number of men who noramlly would enlist for three years or be drafted for two, a considerable reduction of men available for the draft could result. Such a reduction possibly could lead to a draft which called almost every physically fit male and even to a lowering of the age at which most men are being taken--currently 22 years.

The exact effect of the new six-month program is by no means yet definite. Since the raising of reserves is the primary aim of the Reserve Forces Act, it is entirely possible that once the authorized reserve strength is filled, the Act will be discontinued until it is needed again; and since all draftees and enlistees who finish their two years of active duty after August 1957 must spend two years in the ready reserves, reserve and National Guard units may be filled rather rapidly.

In Massachusetts, for example, the reserve stands presently at 4,000 men, but the combination of veterans returning at the rate of about 400 per month with those men enlisting under the six-month plan should push the reserve to its newly authorized strength of 15,000 men within two years. This could mean a discontinuance in 1959 of the six-month plan for men in the 18 1/2-25 age group.

At any rate, the draft situation will probably develop into a fairly serious thing for college students during the next two or three years. There are only about 18,000 eligible 1-A's left in the 23-25 age group at present, and therefore the burden of this year's expected 180,000-man draft call will fall on the 22-year olds.

There are currently 187,000 eligible 1-A's of age 22 who are not fathers. Nearly 25 percent of them will be rejected as unfit, leaving 140,000 draftable. This means that some 21-year olds will be taken, unless the 180,000 figure is lowered. Some of the available 22-year-olds will join some reserve plan, putting additional pressure on the 22-year age group and cutting further into the 21-year-old group. If conditions continue in roughly the same manner, the draft might be calling on 20-year-olds by 1959.

If the induction age should drop to this mark, the problem of deferment will assume importance at the college level once again. At present, most college counselors advise students not to take the draft deferment tests since by so doing one automatically extends his draft eligibility to the age of 35. However, in the next few years, a deferment test may become necessary if one is to complete his college education uninterrupted by the draft.

No Graduate Deferment

Once a man has finished college, there is no legal provision for deferment through graduate study. This matter is entirely in the hands of the local draft boards, which may or may not approve a student's request for4NROTC students satisfy part of their service obligation in regular Monday afternoon drill periods behind the football stadium.

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