NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Army is not drafting young Americans - and definitely not doing so by text message - military officials said following a spate of hoax messages that sparked panicked phone calls and emails to recruiters this week.
The U.S. Army Recruiting Command said in a statement on Tuesday that it had received inquiries throughout the country about the fraudulent messages and “wants to ensure Americans understand these texts are false and were not initiated by this command or the U.S. Army.”
The U.S. military has been an all-voluntary force since 1973 when a draft was last in effect.
The fake texts urge the recipients to contact the sender and report to the nearest branch for “immediate departure to Iran.” One also threatens recipients with a fine and prison sentence if they fail to report for duty.
They began arriving days after President Donald Trump ordered the drone killing of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, raising fears of fresh conflict in the Middle East. Iranian forces on Wednesday fired missiles at military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq in retaliation.
Concerns about the conflict led to a Friday surge in searches that briefly overwhelmed the website of Selective Service, the arm of the U.S. government that keeps track of draft-age men.
The United States deployed more than 3,000 fresh troops to the Middle East over the past week.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday found that 71% of U.S. adults believe the United States and Iran will be at war within the next few years.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the hoax recruiting campaign; Army Recruiting Command spokeswoman Lisa Ferguson told Army Times that security personnel were investigating. The command is based at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Reporting by Maria Caspani; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis