The Draft Age Requirements for the Military

by Marshall Moore

The military draft provides a way to call up soldiers quickly in a time of national emergency. Legally called the Selective Service System, the draft was instituted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. The draft was essential to the country's efforts during World War II, and the last call came in 1972 during the Vietnam War. Women are currently exempt, but registration is a requirement for all eligible males residing in the country who fall within certain age categories.

Age Range

The Selective Service System, backed by the Military Selective Service Act, requires that nearly all males citizens and immigrants in the United States between 18 and 25 years of age must register with the government and are eligible to be drafted. Males on student visas or men in the country because of trade or diplomatic missions need not register. However, legal and illegal immigrants and refugees must register. Those who fail to register can be denied certain privileges from the government, including federal student aid, federal employment or training or, in the case of resident aliens, citizenship. Note that this requirement is only applicable to men as of 2014. Women of any age are not currently required to register with the Selective Service.

Order of Call

Within the 18 to 25 year old age group, the Selective Service maintains a certain order in which eligible draftees will be called. This is based on age and, more specifically, birth date. In a draft, men 20 years of age will be drafted first, followed by the ages 21 to 25 and then 18 to 19. To specify the order, two capsules will be drawn from a barrel. The first will contain a birth date (i.e. Jan. 3) and the second a number ranging from 1 to 365 (or 366 in a leap year). The second number determines the order of which draftees born on the date drawn in the first capsule will be selected. For example, if January 3 is drawn along with the number 65, those born on that date will be drafted only after men whose birthdays drew 1 through 64.

Ineligible for Draft

Men aged 26 or older are no longer eligible to be drafted and, thus, need not be registered for the draft. However, provided that they were born after January 1, 1960, they should have been registered at some point. If they were not, they are in violation of the Military Selective Service Act. Although men are required to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday, the Selective Service does accept late registrations. It does not, however, accept registrations after age 26.

About the Author

Marshall Moore is a freelance sports writer with three years of experience in the daily newspaper industry and has won multiple awards from the Kansas Press Association for his writing and reporting. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2007 with a degree in journalism.

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