WESTMINSTER — Clustered around a table in Carroll Community College's Great Hall, several students -- most of them county high school graduates -- talk about the Persian Gulf war and the possibility of a draft.
"If a draft is started, I'll enlist," says 19-year-old Bob Schroeder. "If they need me, I'll be there. This whole thing is over oil, but someonehas to stop Saddam Hussein."
The others nod in agreement, allowing the Keymar resident to finish his thoughts while they kill time between classes.
"I see it asmy duty," adds the sophomore business major.
Many students interviewed in the college's atrium, though skeptical that a draft could be reinstated, view conscription as a patriotic duty.
"I'm against the fact that we had to go to war," says 18-year-old Ron Church. "ButI can rationalize why we did it. Appeasing a tyrant didn't work withHitler. I can see why we had to go in and stop Hussein now."
Manystudents believe that if the war is prolonged, the nation may have to reinstate the draft. It's not something they'd like to see happen, though.
"I'm not for it, but I would go," says Church, a general education and engineering major. "I really don't feel we're going to have a draft. I think there will be some sort of logical conclusion tothe war before then. I think it will work itself out in the end."
Like others, the Manchester resident says he would enlist before he was drafted.
Although their patriotism is clearly evident, some students admit they were opposed to the war before the allied forces began the air assault in mid-January.
"I was opposed to the war before it got started," said Ken Zumbrun, a 22-year-old from Hampstead. "If they need the draft, I'll go because I don't like what Hussein is doing to his people, to the environment and everybody else. I don't really want to get drafted, though."
The war seems to have had a similar effect on members of the Whole Earth Society, a student group formed to raise concerns about several issues, ranging from the environment to animal rights.
Whole Earth Society members protested U.S.involvement in the Persian Gulf with a rally and a candlelight vigilin downtown Westminster earlier this year.
"I still would like toprotest, but most of the group doesn't want to," says member Tina Dayhoff. "We have no plans right now. Most of the group doesn't want tobe known as the anti-war club."
Dayhoff says she thinks students will protest if a draft is ever reinstated. She says the government should be more noncommittal about reinstating the draft, instead of insisting it won't.
"Most of the group doesn't think it will happen,but I think it will if the war lasts any longer," says Dayhoff, an English major from Westminster. "I think that if it does, there's going to be a lot of people protesting in the street."
The 20-year-old's opposition to the draft, though, is not shared by some of her female peers.
"It's a pretty scary thought," says Maya Keoseian, a nursing major from Reisterstown. "Thinking about having to help out overthere as a nursing assistant is scary. I would go, though."
The 20-year-old sophomore sees conscription as a possibility for both men and women.
"This is a liberal society," she says. "I have a lot ofgirlfriends who are over there now. My boyfriend and I have talked about this a lot. We both said we would definitely go, but it's still frightening."
Cherie Caple, a 26-year-old Westminster sophomore, doesn't think the draft will be reinstated.
"I don't think it's going to happen," says the business administration major. "I think the war will be over with before it ever comes to something like that."
Students may be thinking about the war, says Bill Dougherty, an instructor of business and economics at CCC, but they view the war like asporting event.
"From my point of view, they're looking at this like it's the Olympics," Dougherty says. "If we win the war, great. Ifwe don't, it doesn't affect us. And I don't think they're seriously worried about conscription."
Dougherty spoke at a recent college forum, "War in the Gulf," which he says was poorly attended by students.
Students, like the majority of their countrymen, have not sacrificed anything for the war, Dougherty says.
"The country as a whole hasn't given up anything," he adds. "No one has sacrificed anything-- no rations, no conservation. No one has sacrificed anything except for the families who have sons or daughters over there.
"If you truly support the war, you should encourage your congressman to support tax increases, you should conserve gas or enlist in the military,"says Dougherty, a Navy veteran.
Some students, like Chip Orem, have enlisted in the military, but for other reasons.
"I needed the money," says Orem, a Manchester engineering major. "The money will pay for my college education. I'm broke."
Orem's enlistment with theArmy won't begin until July. He doesn't expect to see combat becausehe will not be finished with basic training, and then six months of school, until next year.