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Conscientious Objectors Unite At Fort Jackson

An organization which is the first of its kind, the Committee of Fort Jackson Conscientious Objectors, has been founded. At present the Committee consists of 43 objectors who are applying under Army Regulations for either classification as a noncombatant or for discharge.

Army Regulations provide thaat those who are "opposed to participation in combaatant training and service" will be placed on non-combaatant status. This usually means being sent to medic school at Fort Sam Houston. Those who are opposed to "participation in war in any form will be discharged."

A major provision in the regulations is that the objector's beliefs must have crystallized after his entry into the service. In making application, the objector answers questions pertaining to thee nature of his belief, how it came about, a statement as to the circumstances in which the objector believes in the use of force. He must go through interviews with a psychiatrist, a chaplain who will determine the sincerity of the objector, and an optional interview with an officer of the rank of captain or above "who is knowledgeable in the policies and procedures relating to conscientious objector matters." Criteria for classification or discharge is on the basis of "religious training and belief."

The Committee was founded when aa group of COs at Fort Jackson realized the advantages of uniting; there were a large number of COs, they had no means of communiacting experiences and pooling knowledge, the Army was committing gross errors in procedure, thereby disregarding their own procedures, and the group felt that through legal help these errors could be brought to light. One of thee maain aims of the Committee is to employ the services of a full time volunteer lawyer.

At present the Committee is filing applications with the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina. ACLU is funding the defense of Committee member, Private Laurence Svirchev, who will seek a writ of Habeus Corpus in Federal Court if his second application for discharge as aCO is turned down. The Committee is also preparing a Statement of Purpose and Direction which will be signed by all members and sent to the press, liberal Congressmen and Senators , and the Fort Jackson brass. The statement will document specific cases of harassment of cos by the military, point out the disparity between Army Regulations on Conscientious Objection and Selective Service regulations, and point out the reasons why selective objection, that is, objection to certain wwars, is valid objection and should bee considered as such by the militaary....

The Committee would especially like to point out that the refusal of orders for reassignment (Vietnam, etc.) is illegal and punishable under the UCMJ, but that a mass movement of indivduals applying for noncombatant status is not illegal, and would stall the war in Vietnam not only on a manpower but on a paperwork level.

GI Press Service, vol. 1, no. 7

 

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