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White House Ceremony to Mark 30th Anniversary of All-Volunteer Force

By Casie Vinall
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2003 – For three decades, America's armed forces have served on a solely volunteer basis. The nation is about to mark the 30th anniversary of the All-Volunteer Force.

On July 1, President Bush will host a re-enlistment ceremony at the White House, recognizing the anniversary. Enlistment ceremonies will also be held at 65 military entrance-processing stations around the country.

Connecting a ceremony at the White House with ceremonies across the country on the same day is a unique way to salute the patriotism of our nation's volunteer service members and new recruits, according to Pentagon officials.

Up until the All-Volunteer Force was established in 1973, the nation depended upon an involuntary draft system. The draft was used during World Wars I and II, and the Korean and Vietnam wars.

In the late 1960s, defense officials said, the draft came under intense scrutiny and was viewed with growing dissatisfaction and a sense of inequity by the American public. As a result, Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird established the All-Volunteer Force, which Congress approved in 1973.

"In the draft era, we largely told you what was good for you," a senior defense official said at a January briefing on the All-Volunteer Force. "Now, we come to you and say, 'Which of these training opportunities would entice you to join and stay with us?'"

After the switch, the all-volunteer military served in conflicts in the Persian Gulf, Panama, Bosnia and Kosovo. Today, volunteer troops serve in operations Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraqi Freedom.

Yet, the controversy has remained, with a recent push to return to the draft system. The official said there is no need to reinstate the draft. Conscription arose out of "economic" and "historical reasons," he said, and today, the military leaders do not want to return to this system.

"They do not want to go back to a system where the people in the ranks are people who don't want to be there, who are there for short periods of time, which are not really focused on the job," he said. "Everyone likes being a part of a winning organization, and that's what's been created."

According to the military's top-ranking officer, the All-Volunteer Force has been a success.

The service chiefs and the Joint Chiefs of Staff "feel the All-Volunteer Force is working extremely well," Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a January briefing. "It's efficient, it's effective. It's given the United States of America, the citizens of this great country, a military that is second to none."

(Casie Vinall is an intern working in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.)

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