William Hill of Germantown wanted a way to support the military, but as a civilian. He found it in September by joining the Montgomery County Draft Board.
Although the draft has been inactive since the Vietnam War, Hill is one of about 11,000 volunteers who make up local, district and national boards in case Congress calls for a draft.
Montgomery County board member Don Libes said the primary function of the draft board today is to visit post offices to ensure that they have proper materials and posters to help men fulfill their requirement of registering with the Selective Service System upon turning 18.
“It’s part of our defense structure,” said Matthew Tittmann, public affairs specialist with the Selective Service System. “To maintain this complex system and ensure equity, we need to register men. You can’t start the system on day one and expect it to be operational shortly after that.”
Hill saw an ad for the position and decided to apply. He has served as detachment commander for the Sons of the American Legion, and now is the organization’s National Sergeant-at-Arms.
Many members of Hill’s family have served in the military, including his father in World War II. Recently, Hill said, he also was appointed to the board of directors of the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training, a Baltimore-based organization that helps homeless veterans and other veterans with training and services.
Men ages 18 through 25 who are U.S. citizens or immigrants living in the United States are required to register with Selective Service, according to the agency’s website.
Maryland has 273,861 men who have registered for the draft, according to the Selective Service System 2012 report to Congress. Nationwide, that number is nearly 15.7 million men.
In the case of a draft, the board is charged with deciding who would be exempt. Part of the board’s work includes training sessions in which they practice various scenarios, Libes said.
Exemptions from military service include men who are hospitalized, incarcerated or disabled; those who have a dependency status; and those who are conscientious objectors.
Conscientious objectors must oppose all war, rather than have political opposition to particular military actions.
To qualify, draft board volunteers must be U.S. citizens, registered with the Selective Service (if male), 18 years or older, not be employed with any law enforcement occupation, not be an active or retired member of the armed forces and not have a criminal record.
Current and former members of the military cannot serve on the boards, said Dick Flahavan, associate director for public and intergovernmental affairs with the Selective Service System. In World War I, the military was responsible for the draft. After the conflict, the government sought a third party to organize the draft because “they wanted an honest broker between the civilians and the military.”
Margaret Stilke, a Selective Service program analyst, said that when recruiting new board volunteers, the Selective Service looks for “community-minded people, free of bias, with good leadership skills.”
Freelance writer Stacy Skiavo contributed to this report.