The message seems urgent: The “United States Official Army Draft” has repeatedly tried to reach the recipient via email. The unwitting recipient has been marked “eligible” and now must report to the nearest branch for “immediate departure to Iran.” Failure to respond could spell a six-year jail sentence.
The bizarre message is also entirely false, military officials reassure.
“U.S. Army Recruiting Command has received multiple calls and emails about these fake text messages and wants to ensure Americans understand these texts are false and were not initiated by this command or the U.S. Army,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday.
It’s unknown how many messages have been disseminated and to whom, but individuals from around the U.S. have been sending Army recruiters screenshots text messages saying they’ve been drafted or are eligible for the draft, U.S. Army Recruiting Command Spokeswoman Kelli Bland told The Washington Post.
“Some [messages] have included fake names claiming to be Army recruiters, and others have used real names of leaders within our command,” Bland wrote in an email Wednesday. “Army security personnel are looking into the origin of the messages.”
At least two versions of the hoax messages with slightly varied wording appear to target individuals in Florida and New Jersey.
The Selective Services, the federal agency tasked with maintaining a database of young men aged 18-26 who could be called up to serve should a crisis necessitate a military draft, hasn’t had a draft since 1973, notes the Tuesday statement from USAREC. “The military has been an all-volunteer force since that time. Registering for the Selective Service does not enlist a person into the military.”
But among young Americans — particularly young men born decades after the last draft and who fall into the age range for mandatory Selective Service registration — anxieties around conscription for service have grown in the days a U.S. airstrike killed one of Iran’s top military commanders, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad.
Google searches for terms such as “conscription,” “Selective Service” and “Iran” spiked since the Jan. 2 attack, according to Trends data. A day after the airstrike, people flooded the Selective Service website until it crashed.
Even as tensions escalate between the U.S. and Iran, Congress and the president would have to pass legislation in order to reactivate the draft; such a move would be unlikely given the historic opposition that ended the last draft. Anti-war sentiment around Vietnam propelled the end of the draft in 1973 and the requirement to register for the draft was dropped two years later.
Today, eligible individuals need only register with Selective Services within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Nearly all men in the eligible age range are required to register, including U.S. citizens, documented and undocumented immigrants, refugees and legal permanent residents. Women are not currently required to register, though a 2019 court decision about the matter has renewed debate over whether that should change.
Even if those hurdles were cleared, Patricia Sullivan, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor who studies military policy, said the current situation with Iran hardly compels a draft.
“With Iran, there’s almost no chance that we’re getting into the kind of ground-war scenario that large numbers of ground troops would be needed and we would implement the draft,” Sullivan previously told The Post.
She added that the military is now so professionalized, and the cost of training each soldier so high, that it would not necessarily make sense to add a surge of new recruits that may not be qualified. Escalating hostilities with Iran are more likely to affect military forces already in the Middle East region, Sullivan said, not civilians who might be conscripted in a hypothetical draft.