NEW YORK, SEPT. 4 -- Although it is a far cry from the height of the Vietnam War when hundreds of GIs marched in antiwar protests and publicly threw away their medals, a small but significant number of military personnel is resisting the call to duty in the Middle East.

The little-known network of civilian counselors and attorneys serving as trouble-shooter for members of the military has been swamped with calls from enlisted people, reservists and their families seeking advice on how to avoid the mobilization.

"I don't know that you would call this resistance, but it's certainly concern and a lot of misgiving," said Harold Jordan of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Philadelphia, adding that his program on youth and militarism has received about 300 calls a week.

Like other counselors, he said most callers have asked to remain anonymous, expressing concern about military discipline and aware that they are opposing what appears to be a popular buildup. Among them are reservists who, Jordan said, "work regular jobs and assumed their reserve duty won't amount to much, except extra money."

Recent interviews with enlisted people and their counselors and attorneys reveal that reasons for such reluctance vary from the political to the religious, the practical and the very personal:

Marine Cpl. Jeffrey Paterson in Hawaii who said he will not "fight for American profits and cheap oil" and is in a military prison for refusing deployment. His claim as a conscientious objector is being considered.

An Army enlisted reservist in Arlington, Va., who identified himself only as "Mike," said he realized as he held a rifle on his first day of training that he could not kill another human being.

Marine Lance Cpl. Erik Larsen, a California reservist who said he would seek sanctuary in a church rather than fight to defend an oil-dependent American life style.

A woman who requested anonymity and whose National Guard unit in North Carolina has been activated said she plans to seek a discharge because active duty will result in failure of the business that she owns and operates.

A Black Muslim at the Army's Fort Campbell, Ky., said he cannot fight fellow Muslims.

In these and other cases, the people involved were uneasy about military service long before the mobilization but decided to fulfill their commitment during what they assumed would be peacetime duty, according to interviews. The sudden prospect of a long overseas assignment and potential combat pushed many to act.

"For years, they've been recruiting people based on things like educational benefits and job training, and now that a war is looming on the horizon, the young people are just flabbergasted," said Ray Parrish, director of the Midwest Committee for Military Counseling in Chicago and a Vietnam veteran. "It's caught them completely off-guard. Certainly, it's something they should have known, but they chose to fool themselves into thinking it wouldn't happen to them."

As the woman in the National Guard put it, "Everybody's living in a dream world about being in the reserves. It's kind of fun, you have your buddies, there's the camaraderie. You go down there and run around, but mainly people live in this fantasy that we'll never be mobilized."

Military officials are hardly eager to discuss potential cases of desertion, conscientious objection or dissent, saying they are private matters "handled at an administrative level." An Army public affairs officer in the Pentagon, requesting anonymity, said, "We're having exactly the opposite problem. We've got all these people stepping forward."

However, Marine Chief Warrant Officer Randy Gaddo, a public affairs officer in Washington, said three Marines have applied for conscientious objector, or "CO," status since the mobilization. And officials at large bases where troops are being deployed report receiving hundreds of requests for reassignment within or separation from the military.

At the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors in San Francisco and Philadelphia and at the AFSC, counselors said a surprising number of calls are from military personnel expressing political or pacifist opinions.

Mike, 25, the reservist from Arlington, citing his Roman Catholic upbringing, said he wants "to serve in some capacity, but I couldn't kill another person. I have the ability to empathize with the soldier on the other side . . . even an Iraqi. They might have a family, kids, dreams, aspirations for the future. Everyone has a right to life."

Larsen, a radar mechanic stationed in Hayward, Calif., has applied for CO status. "I don't like the rhetoric that {President} Bush is talking about -- to protect our life style," he said. "I think our life style sucks. We're so dependent on oil and exploiting the world's resources. This is a prime opportunity to really get a sound energy policy, to look at alternative fuels. It doesn't seem like our environmental president wants to do anything like that."

Counselor Parrish said he received calls from an Air Force recruiter who objected to the Persian Gulf deployment and said he was having trouble doing his job. Another enlisted man called to ask whether he would be released from the military if he shot himself in the foot. Two women called separately asking whether, if they became pregnant, they would subsequently be dismissed from active duty in time to undergo abortions.

"For those who had no idea they would ever be in a combat situation, they're very desperate," Parrish said.

Those who might have assumed that there would be no resisters among today's all-volunteer armed forces are not looking carefully enough at history, said Kathy Gilberd, who is co-chair of the Military Law Task Force in San Diego and has counseled members of the armed forces since 1973.

"During the Vietnam War, the most vocal and committed antiwar GIs were the ones who went into it gung-ho, the volunteers, the working class guys who wanted to fight for their country," Gilberd said. "They were often more militantly against the war than the guys who were drafted against their will."

One contemporary case involves Paterson, apparently the most outspoken active duty resister. A field artilleryman based at the Marine Corps Air Station in Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii, he enlisted at age 18, partially to get away from small-town life in Hollister, Calif.

"The other part of it was actually a desire to defend my country and do something respectable," Paterson said in a telephone interview before being confined last week. "I wanted to be a Marine, just like on TV. If it was good for America, I'd be out there with my gun."

Paterson, 22, said his tours of duty at bases in the Philippines, Okinawa and Korea are what "opened my eyes." He said he felt that he was part of an occupying force rather than a defensive unit serving those countries and that many residents did not want U.S. troops there.

On his return to Hawaii, Paterson said he attended lectures about U.S. foreign policy at the University of Hawaii. He joined Amnesty International and Greenpeace and worked evenings at a coffeehouse with other political activists.

Although he considered filing for CO status, Paterson said, he decided to wait out his enlistment, which ends next March. Then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein sent troops into Kuwait, and American forces were deployed to the Mideast.

"I've been leading two different lives that have come into conflict in the last few days," Paterson said. "I believe it's the U.S. who made Saddam Hussein what he is today. It was the U.S. who supported him while he invaded Iran, stood by while he used chemical weapons on the Kurds, protected his ships while they flew under Kuwaiti flags."

Paterson applied for CO status Aug. 17.

However, his commanders said they would still deploy him and give him a job that would not conflict with his beliefs. After a federal judge ruled that he could not prevent deployment, Paterson began a hunger strike Aug. 24.

When his unit was to board a plane last Wednesday night for deployment, he sat down in the hangar and refused to go, said Capt. Bill Taylor, a Kaneohe Bay spokesman. Paterson is in a military prison at Pearl Harbor awaiting a pretrial hearing on several charges, Taylor added.

"I could not go because I could not do that to the people around me who would be covering me in a firefight while I'd be shooting over the heads of the enemy," Paterson said. "I'd rather be in jail than face that."