Military registration gets a `B'

Alaska's Selective Service compliance called good, not great

Posted: Sunday, June 18, 2000

When it comes to registering its young men, Alaska is making the grade - kind of.

Federal law requires all 18-year-old men to register with the Selective Service System, which is run by a civilian agency. In case of a military emergency requiring a draft, registered men can be pulled from this pool to serve.

Recently, Selective Service released a list of ``grades,'' or percentages that rate each of the states on its ability to encourage men to complete this registration process. Alaska and 12 other states scored an 84 percent, or a ``B,'' whereas New Hampshire, the highest ranker, pulled in a 95 percent.

The numbers aren't thrilling, said Charles Smith, state director for selective service in Alaska. But they aren't cause for alarm either.

``I think we should be higher,'' he said. ``(But) it's a difficult place up here to get the word out. I think we're doing pretty good to get 84 percent to register in current years.''

Selective service, the answer to problems with the old-style draft, has been around since the 1970s. However, many Americans remain unaware that federal law requires registration and not doing so can have serious ramifications.

If men don't register by age 26, they cannot be eligible for federally funded programs or work for the federal government, including the Postal Service. Additionally, male immigrants will never attain citizenship.

There are criminal repercussions for failing to register as well. Though rarely prosecuted, the felony charge carries a punishment of up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

``Some people look at the laws as punitive, some look at them as protecting the rights of these state citizens,'' Smith said.

To make the registration process easier, 17-year-olds can now register, Smith added. Their information will be held until their 18th birthday, at which point they will be officially registered.

Registrations can be filled out online, by telephone and by mail. Information required includes name, address, social security information and signature.

Evan Twelker, 18, of Juneau found the process to be simple.

``It was all very easy,'' he said. ``I did it all online.''

The only surprise for Twelker was the positive nature of the card he was sent by mail.

``I expected it to be a little black and white card that had boxes to write (his information in.) I expected I had to go get it at the post office,'' Twelker said. ``They sent it to me in the mail right after my birthday and it's so cheery. It's got artwork and bright colors.''

Nineteen-year-old Rhys Smoker also completed his registration with ease.

``It didn't bother me,'' he said. ``It's our civic duty, I suppose.''

Smith and recruiting officer Major Dale Olin both feel the biggest obstacle to upping Alaska's registration percentage is a lack of information.

``We've only got three officers assigned up here to us and we just don't have the manpower to get out,'' Smith said. ``We have to do it by correspondence and by telephone. It's a difficult thing. It'd be a lot better to do it face to face.''

Olin, who has worked with Selective Service for 11 years, agreed.

``There's only three of us to cover 276 schools all over the state,'' he said. ``So it's just a matter of how much time we have.''

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