Skip to main content

When I'm 64, I Might Still Be a Soldier


Last week I signed two documents that begin my request to stay in the Army another two years.  And since the enlistment will end 29 days after my 64th birthday, if I get the extension, the answer to the Beatles question, "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?" will be, "Yes!"  At least for a few more weeks.

Right now, my last drill will be in May of this year.  If I do get to stay in the Army, our summer camp will be sleeping in two-man tents on the ground in northern Michigan with my M16 rifle sharing my sleeping bag.  So if the Army says yes, I will have a real Army experience right away.

When I enlisted in 2007, the waiver I needed to get in was signed by the commander of the PA National Guard, Major General Jessica Wright.  In 2013 when I got the two-year extension to stay till age 62, the waiver was signed by the current Adjutant General Wesley Craig.  This waiver goes to the Pentagon.  Waivers like this are often turned down.  Rationally, I know that at the end of May this year, I will be a civilian again, but the optimism that got me to re-enlist at 54 won't allow me to think anything except that this time next year I will still be in the Army.

In case you were wondering, even with this two-year extension, I will only have 18 retirement years, and I will not be able to retire.  If I do get this extension, I will probably be the oldest sergeant in the US Military sometime in 2016.


Popular posts from this blog

Different Water for Sinks and Toilets--Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, and Amtrak

On the train to Philadelphia recently, the toilets had water, but the sinks did not in the last two cars. I walked three cars away from my seat to wash my hands. On the way back, I let the conductor know about the lack of water.  He said there are different water systems for the sinks and the toilets.  Then smiled and said the water is blue in the toilets.  
I told the conductor about a morning at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, in April 2009. We were there for training before we went to Camp Adder, Iraq.  During our two-week stay, we slept in 77-man tents.  Outside the tent were several sinks and mirrors just standing in the open on the sand. I wish I had a picture.  
About twenty yards away were Porta-Johns or Shit Ovens, which everyone called the plastic enclosures when the temperature approached 120 degrees.  One morning just after down I went out to the sinks, brushed my teeth, then walked toward the Porta-Johns.  One of the soldiers just stepped out of one and was walking toward me.  
H…

Ten Years Ago Today: Cold War Soldier Starts Re-enlistment Process

The Night Before Basic, Killing Brain and Lung Cells
On January 31, 1972, I flew to Texas to begin basic training. On April 2, 2007, ten years ago today, I called Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Askew, recruiting sergeant for the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade, and began the process of re-enlisting after 23+ years as a civilian.  I was 53 years old at the time, about to turn 54.

In the Spring of 2007, The Surge in Iraq was in full swing and recruitment for the Army was down a lot. The economy was good, Congress would not even consider re-starting the Draft, so in late 2006 Congress raised the maximum first-enlistment age for the Army from 35 to 42 years old.

The program was a failure and was rescinded three years later. But that failed program allowed me to re-enlist.  The maximum enlistment age for soldiers with prior service is the enlistment age plus the years of prior service plus a one-year waiver.  I needed all of that.

I called three recruiters before I called Kevin. He was the first one…

My Last Tanker Nickname: Oddball

Donald Sutherland as Oddball, a tank commander in the movie "Kelly's Heroes"
I got my last tanker nickname more than a decade after I earned the nickname Sgt. Bambi Killer.I got that nickname on a business trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2000.The company I worked for just bought a company in Brazil and I was part of a team that went to Brazil to introduce ourselves to the people who ran the business.
Sao Paulo has traffic that makes Los Angeles look like Omaha, so the local managers sent a limo for the four of us. This meant we could be more comfortable on the three-hour 20-mile trip from the airport to downtown. 
At the time I had a beard and still had a lot of brown hair.  Among the local staff people who were waiting to meet us was my now long-time friend Ivan Porccino. Ivan speaks five languages and was assigned as our interpreter.  When we got in the car, Ivan introduced us to the driver and said we would be in Sao Paulo for a few days. The driver said, “I love Americ…