Age Limit To Enter Military – 2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Bravo Company commander likes to apply the experience, knowledge, and maturity of his senior enlisted men by giving them additional responsibilities and leadership opportunities. The frame includes, from left, Sgt. 1st Class Derrick Dodds, … (Photo credit: USA ) ORIGINAL VIEW
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. While tough economic times may help with recruiting, Pvt. Dale Langreh joins the group at the age of 41.
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And with that came opportunities, new skills, regular pay, good benefits and a sense of purpose.
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This long-time truck driver is now a mobile missile repairer after completing individual advanced training at the Firearms and Electronics Maintenance School. He is looking forward to using his new mechanical skills as a soldier stationed in Korea. He hopes to put that skill to work in the civilian world when he serves out his four-year enlistment.
“I was just tired of driving a truck. I wanted a challenge. So I joined,” Langreh said. “I was the oldest to walk through the door at the recruiting station in my hometown (in Northern California). They said I was the first to join at my age. It was a good challenge for me. I wanted something completely different. I wanted to see if I could do it. And I did.”
But before he was cleared to go to basic training at Fort Sill, Okla., Langreh had to undergo a thorough physical exam that included an EKG reading, which is not required of junior soldiers. To prepare for core training, Langrehr often ran and lifted weights.
His family wasn’t too sure about his decision to join the group at an age that left him just a year short of his enlistment deadline – and in most cases he was at least 22 years older than most other private companies.
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“They thought I was a little crazy. But I’m not married and I don’t have kids. So that made it easier,” Langreh said. “My sister thought it was pretty cool that I basically managed at my advanced age.”
While at Redstone, Langreh, now 42, won the physical conditioning award by scoring 90 or better in all three events — the push, sit-up and run. Although he is much older than the average private, he is in excellent physical shape.
And with his age comes experience and a greater sense of responsibility, which he hopes will be beneficial. He already has 17 years of work experience in a sheet metal shop, working in a logging camp and warehouse, and driving a cement truck.
“I know I’m not as young as the other guys. But I felt I had other things to offer,” he said. “I know I’m more responsible than some of the kids who like to drink and party. I’m not really into that anymore. I like the structure and discipline of the kids.”
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“I get a lot of old jokes. But I watch it because I’m an older person who wanted to join.”
After so many years as a civilian employee, Langreh said the expectations were a little overwhelming at first.
“There are a lot of rules. But I understand that because the chess sergeants work with a lot of young people,” he said.
The maximum age for new recruits is 42 years, which was increased from 35 in 2006. The limit for the Navy is 35, for the Marines 28 and for the Air Force 27.
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“There’s really no problem with senior recruiting,” said retired Master Sgt. John Towers, Marketing and Mission Analyst, 2nd Recruiting Brigade, Arsenal. “Everyone can serve. He always finds something to do for everyone.”
“There’s a level of maturity in older recruits that we don’t often see in 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds and even college graduates.”
But even in a collapsing economy, most recruits are between the ages of 18 and 25. The number of recruits over the age of 25 is only a small percentage of all recruits, Towers said.
“The economy is pushing older workers, but it’s not having as much of an impact as you might think,” he said. “Older people don’t gravitate to the military as much because they’re more stable and have other options. Often, older recruits are ex-military and want to come back.”
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There are those older recruits who, regardless of career, join the military because it’s something they’ve always wanted to do.
“For these older recruits, the military is more of a challenge. They felt they should have done it. Maybe they feel that way because they want to serve their country patriotically. Or they see it as community service.” The towers said.
“Senior recruits usually have a wife or husband and children,” Towers said. “When we discuss benefits, we have to include the family. Taking care of the family is their top priority.”
According to Towers, they can afford to be selective about older recruits, especially in the south central US (Texas, Arizona and New Mexico) and the US Southeast, where recruitment numbers are both consistently the highest.
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Each year, the military recruits approximately 300,000 new personnel to maintain a force of 2.26 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. In 2008, more than 80,000 new employees were hired. Although the funding goal was 65,000 in 2009, 70,045 people actually signed up, according to the Pentagon report.
“The entire recruitment order is doing well at the moment,” he said. “In mid-August, we may have to lower our monthly mission because we’re so close to reaching year-end strength. End strength is limited by Congress and measured on October 1st so we can get closer to that date. We’ll be more selective with our recruits this year.”
In Bravo Company, platoon sergeants see how senior privates are doing in their platoon. But they don’t have to be in Langrehr at 42 to be among the unit’s mature soldiers.
“If they come in and they’re in their early to mid-30s, we consider them older,” said Sgt. Chris Patterson from 1st grade said. “This is because we (the core of the company) are of this age and we already have a career behind us. Soldiers in their 30s who have just started military service have earlier life experience.”
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While older enlisted men are identified and considered potential leaders among younger soldiers, they still have to contend with rules and guidelines that may seem different from their current experience and knowledge.
“The training they get is pretty one-sided and focuses on the 18- and 20-year-olds who have just come in,” Patterson said. “When a senior soldier comes in, we don’t know what kind of person we’re going to get. They bring experience that we haven’t had. And we have to consider their strengths and physical abilities as well.”
If a senior private comes in with positive experiences and a good attitude, he can quickly rise to the top of the class, said Sgt. 1st Class Sonya Porter.
“They can use their good life experiences to help connect with younger soldiers and talk to them about their future,” he said. “They can be good mentors and younger soldiers can see their maturity in their actions.”
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“But if they never mature, they can become very harmful and have the attitude that they don’t have to listen to their sergeants.”
Platoon sergeants are responsible for preparing Soldiers for the experience, which often includes counseling young Soldiers on personal, financial, and emotional issues that may arise during training. For the older soldier, this work often involves learning about the soldier’s personal and professional history to better orient him to the experience.
“You have to get to the root of where they come from and understand their demographics,” said Sgt. said Derrick Dodds, 1st grade.
“They may have been a previous small business owner, or they may have climbed the corporate ladder and something happened to take it all away. They see the military as a worthwhile opportunity to maintain family cohesion.”
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Platoon sergeants often pair older privates with younger privates, hoping that a mentoring situation will develop naturally. Private parents often have more motivation and energy and need to feel that they are contributing and making a difference in their unit.
“We want to give them responsibility. They’ve already had responsibility at their age, so we want to give them someone they can mentor,” Dodds said.
“They can handle things better when they feel like they’re helping younger soldiers. We don’t want to discount their age and experience.
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