View Full Version : Put those ‘old soldiers’ to good use instead of putting them out to pasture

06-30-04, 12:31 PM
Issue Date: July 05, 2004

Put those ‘old soldiers’ to good use instead of putting them out to pasture

George Kulas

In his speech to a joint session of Congress on April 19, 1951, Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur echoed that unforgettable refrain from an old barracks ballad: “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”
But today, with the manpower shortages the U.S. military is facing because of extended deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, it could use some “old soldiers.”

While some in Congress talk about renewing a military draft, there are many qualified patriotic volunteers who are denied the opportunity to continue serving their country.

These volunteers are highly skilled, trained, motivated and proven service members who could contribute substantially to the military’s combat readiness as members of the ready reserves. These service members — U.S. military active-duty retirees — spent 20 or more years full time in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

They knew their jobs well. Most were in leadership positions. Many trained junior service members during their careers. Many are combat veterans.

There are more than 1.5 million active-duty military retirees; half are under age 60. This is more than the entire active-duty force. Most retirees are in their early 40s when they leave active service. Many are prepared and willing to continue serving in the military on a part-time basis as members of the ready reserve.

Ready reserve personnel attend paid weekend drills and at least two weeks of active duty for training each year. They are the most likely to be called to active duty during a war or national emergency.

Qualified members can serve until they are 60 years old.

But under Title X of the U.S. Code, retirees are not allowed to join a ready reserve unit unless the secretary of that service “makes a special finding that the member’s services in the ready reserve are indispensable.”

Additionally, under Title X, a service member cannot receive both retired pay and reserve pay concurrently. Should a retiree be allowed to participate in the ready reserve under the provisions of the statute, he must either decline reserve pay or forfeit retired pay for the number of duty days performed.

Ironically, the same Title X states in Chapter 39, Section 688, that a military retiree can be ordered back to active duty at any time. In fact, the Army’s “Policies and Procedures for Preassigning and Recalling Retired Army Personnel During a War or National Emergency” state that retirees under age 60 can be recalled to active duty within seven days of being notified, and they can be assigned to deploying units that will fight a war.

A retiree who fails to comply may be considered absent without authorization and is subject to disciplinary action by the military, including suspension of retired pay.

On one hand, retirees are told by the military that they are subject to being recalled to active duty and possibly being deployed. On the other, the law bars retirees from joining a ready reserve unit to continue training in order to maintain proficiency.

If called back, these retirees may be required to lead or manage in areas that have undergone major technological changes since they retired. If they are unfamiliar with current methods or doctrine, it could cause more harm than good. This is a major reason more retirees aren’t called back.

It makes sense to keep otherwise qualified retirees who could be called back trained to current standards.

The law needs to be changed to allow qualified volunteers the opportunity to join units where the military stipulates they are needed.

If Congress is serious about having the best quality military with limited manpower, it should give the military flexibility in tapping personnel resources.

There are a lot of retirees who are willing and able to continue serving in the military. But until the law of the land is changed, these old soldiers will continue to just fade away.

The writer served three years in the 3rd Marine Division in Vietnam and 17 years in the Army until he retired in 1990 as a sergeant major. His e-mail address is geokulas @charter.net.



06-30-04, 01:09 PM
I have to totally agree with the above article. When I went on Terminal Leave I was still 36 years old. Having been retired for 3 years I am about to turn 40. I would gladly offer my services if needed but the technilogical advances and more importantly doctrine for doing business is an ever evolving process and there are learning curves involved when you have been out of it for awhile. There should be some way that personnel in the FMCR can maintain an active and beneficial presence.
There is a very skilled and highly untapped resource available if the Congress and the Pentagon would make the required changes to tap into it.

06-30-04, 02:54 PM
A true story......

In the first Gulf War, I went to my local Marine recruiter to join up.
I was in my middle 40's and had been out of the Marines for 20+ years.
I figured they would not put me in the thick of things but that I could relieve some young Marine of desk duty so he could fight the battle.
I was brimming with pride while, at the same time, mourning the support we Vietnam Vets never experienced.
The 2 Marine Recruiters sitting in the office tried hard to hold back their smiles of disbelief.
But they acted appropriately suggesting that I try to join the Army National Guard where there might be a use for my services.
Well, I was not going to downgrade to being in the Army.
For me it was either Marine Corps or nothing.
Of course I supported our troops and when the first KIA from New Jersey came home, Susan & I along with a color guard from my VVA chapter (327) attended the funeral.
It was something.