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Draft boards: Uncle Sam needs you in Western Pennsylvania

| Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, 11:25 a.m.
David Kubit is one of the members of Allegheny County’s Draft Board. Despite the fact that there hasn’t been a draft since the end of Vietnam, the Selective Service System maintains a network of volunteers like Kubit who stand by in case war or disaster leads the draft to be reinstated, in which case the boards would hear appeals and grant deferments. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Among David Kubit's volunteer jobs is one he hopes never to do.

Kubit, 52, of Lawrence­ville is vice chairman of Allegheny County Draft Board No. 15, one of many volunteer-staffed boards around the country that would be responsible for reviewing appeals and granting deferments if Congress ever reinstates a military draft.

“I'd prefer not to have to hear from anybody or rule on anybody,” said Kubit, a board member since the early 1980s.

Draft boards throughout Pennsylvania need a few good volunteers.

The military draft ended with the fighting in Vietnam, but men living in the United States must register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Despite the recent decision allowing women to be assigned combat roles, only men have to register.

In Western Pennsylvania, the 26 boards have 27 vacancies. And the Selective Service reserve forces officer for the region, who coordinates the system, is being replaced, said Lt. Col. Marc Schwarzkopf, reserve officer for the central region of Pennsylvania and an Army reservist.

Pennsylvania has 85 local draft boards and 59 vacancies among the 425 authorized board members, Schwarzkopf said. Each board has five members.

The positions are unpaid. In the event of a draft, board members likely would be compensated if their service took them from work, he said.

“I volunteered out of a sense of obligation ... a yearning to touch base with the military and all that they do,” said Kubit, the son of a World War II Navy veteran who also volunteers at Carnegie Science Center and Manchester Bidwell Corp. in the North Side.

Randall Forester, a pastor at St. Paul's Community Church in Chicora, said he joined the Armstrong County draft board two years ago because he wanted to be sure that if the draft is reinstated, he could serve as a fair and impartial judge.

“If there ever is another draft, I want to see that it's implemented in a fair and equitable way,” said Forester, 42, of Chicora. “People may look at us askance, like we're meeting for the sake of meeting or training for the sake of training, but it's so good people aren't left out of the loop when and if something happens.”

Lisa Guido, a recent appointee to the board serving the New Kensington area, said she volunteered because many of her friends in military service were called to multiple or extended tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. She heard many stories about Vietnam draftees going to war unprepared.

“(A draft) has to be done right in order for it to work; the further ahead people are trained, the better prepared they are,” said Guido, 41, of Lower Burrell, a business continuity manager for BNY Mellon who helps businesses prepare for disasters or disruptions.

The Selective Service maintains a database of registrations in case a war, disaster or other emergency leads Congress and the president to reinstate the draft.

“Our field structure is so small now,” said Midge Stilke, program manager for Selective Service. “But in the event we get mobilized, area offices would open up and hire more staff.”

The boards would hear appeals from draftees and decide whether to grant deferments based upon disabilities, religious or moral objections to military service, or factors such as adult children serving as family caretakers, Kubit said.

The number of draft boards in each county depends on its population. Some have one; rural counties may share a board, and urban counties can have several.

Potential board members must be age 18 or older and cannot be active-duty or retired from any branch of the military.

Board members get eight hours of training, with “refresher” training every few years. They convene once every two or three years to review duties as a group, Schwarzkopf said.

The Selective Service operates on a yearly budget of about $25 million, according to its annual report to Congress.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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