Sunday, October 16, 2011

Is the Army Mandatory Retirement Age the Best Option for Our Military Situation Today?

The October 15-16 Wall Street Journal article by Michael M. Phillips titled “The Old Soldier Who Didn’t Fade Away: A 59-year-old sergeant in Afghanistan is determined to serve any way he can. His real fear? Retirement” is a fascinating story about current Staff Sergeant Don Nicholas.

Nicholas enlisted in the Marines in 1971 (after dropping out of high school) and eventually ended up on the second-to-last helicopter off the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon that fateful day of April 30, 1975.

Without going into the details of the following years when he was sometimes on active duty and sometimes not, I’m going to skip ahead to his joining the Army Reserve’s psychological branch in 2004 because “there he had a good chance of going to war.”

He first went to Afghanistan in 2005. Next tour he spent 11 months in Baghdad. This March he arrived in Kunar Province, along the Pakistan border, to serve for a year.

Now here is the part of the article that really got my attention:
On missions, the sergeant is particularly adept at chatting up the locals. In a culture in which age implies wisdom, he has an edge over a fresh-faced lieutenant. As a psy-ops soldier, he tries to persuade the Afghan elders that their interests lie with the Kabul government and the coalition forces, not the Taliban.
And this is good – this is the Army optimizing its resources to fit the mission to the most qualified personnel.

Can you understand why I was then upset when I got to this following paragraph?:
Next July, Sgt. Nicholas turns 60, and the Army will tell him that he can’t go to war anymore, one of the few things he finds truly frightening. He’s trying to get a quick commission as an officer; that would allow him to join the medical corps, which has a higher retirement age.
Now I ask: Why would the Army be willing to lose such a valuable asset – one who wants to remain in the field and use his psy-ops experience?

If the medical corps can extend its retirement age, shouldn’t the Army have the ability to extend that age for special cases – special cases of men or women whose experience and wisdom could be very valuable?

What do you think about the mandatory retirement of a soldier whose specialty is particularly valuable in Afghanistan?


Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of the novel MRS. LIEUTENANT and the eBook novel LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS. Phyllis is the co-founder of the marketing consulting company Miller Mosaic LLC, which works with clients to attract more business. Read her posts at the company's social media marketing blog.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's absurd. But that's par for the course. There needs to be a mechanism to allow a case by case extension at the very least.