Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it; those who do know history are doomed to have to watch the people who didn’t learn history drag us through the same things over and over again.
So hiding in the Conex is Specialist-5 Randall Young, a guy who was willing to go to great lengths to avoid going to the Vietnam war. What is interesting about this is how the Vietnam War changed American military structure in ways that are just recently starting to be felt.
It used to be that American had conscription, commonly called “the Draft” or “getting drafted”. All military aged men had a chance at getting drafted to serve a few years in the military. It was 100% universal; we had “lottery” type conscription.
All males, at the age of 18 did (and still do) have to sign up for Selective Service. This doesn’t mean every single one of them were drafted; it meant they all went into a lottery and maybe, or maybe not, their number would be called up.
This meant there was always a large military ready to do whatever needed to be done. Men who didn’t want to be drafted had a few ways to get out of it: they could run to Canada, they could go into college and get deferments, they could fake illnesses or mental instability… or they could voluntarily join the Army Reserve or National Guard, because those forces weren’t deployed.
Now, yes, a few Reserves and Guard personnel were sent, but they were few and far between. It was highly unlikely to happen– being a weekender meant you were pretty safe.
After the 1968 Tet Offensive, though, that changed, and Reserve and Guard personnel began being rotated to Vietnam. After the war, there was a huge change to American military structure, and we went to an all-volunteer, or “professional” army.
But what if there was a war and not enough Active Duty personnel were available? Easy: Reserves and Guard forces were more thoroughly integrated into the overall force structure, and told to expect being deployed in times of need just like any other Active Duty unit. The difference would be that these “part time” forces would have to spend an extra couple of months at an Active Duty base in the USA, getting “trained up to speed” before going over.
That was how I ended up going to Iraq myself, and a lot of National Guard and Reserve personnel across the country as well. For years this wasn’t a big deal– until we had a couple of big wars.
Iraq and Afghanistan went on for decades, and a lot of Reserve and Guard forces were sent away. Civilian professionals were taken out of the economy, educations were delayed, and skill sets removed from industries. For State Governors, valuable disaster-response personnel needed for hurricanes and wildfires were no longer available. As long as Reserve and Guard participation was kept at a minimum, this didn’t make a big dent. But for 20 years, this was an ongoing issue.
As we wind down from the “Global war on Terrorism” and switch back to older business as usual/Cold War thinking, it seems to me that this remains an important issue we may need to remember and rethink while we have time to do so, before… we don’t.