Sunday, January 15, 2006

Army Raises Enlistment Age

Pacific Sunday News (Guam)
January 15, 2006

If you're under 40, Uncle Sam may just want you

By Mark-Alexander Pieper, Pacific Sunday News

On the heels of one of its worst recruiting years, the U.S. Army will increase the age limit for active duty enlistees from 34 to 39.

Sgt. 1st Class Eugene Pereira, the local Army Recruiting Station manager, said he received an e-mail from the U.S. Army Recruiting Office on Thursday informing him that the Army will now accept recruits up to age of 39.

Pereira said the e-mail letter to Army recruiters did not explain the reason behind the change, but he said he was happy to hear about it. Last fiscal year, the Army missed its nationwide recruitment goal by 7,000 enlistees -- its largest margin since 1979, according to the Department of Defense Web site.

The military has been looking at ways to attract recruits, including pay incentives and signing bonuses, in order to supply enough soldiers to support its overseas campaigns, including the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the overall enlistment numbers dropped last fiscal year, Guam has maintained its footing as an enlistment stronghold, meeting its monthly goals for 11 straight months, Pereira said.

More than 300 people on Guam enlisted in the active Army or reserve force last fiscal year, Pereira said, adding that with the new age limit, he expects recruitment numbers on Guam will grow.

"Here in our (Guam) office we get anywhere from 20 to 30 people on average each month who inquire about enlisting but don't qualify because of age," he said.

"This definitely is going to help in recruiting here because it's totally opened up a new market for us. Who knows, maybe we'll get some parents and kids enlisting at the same time."

Pereira said he doesn't know if the change applies to other branches of the military, but noted a similar nationwide shift went into effect last March for the Army Reserves.

Seventeen people have joined the Guam Army National Guard since the enlistment age limit was raised from 25 to 40 in March last year, Maj. Jesse Pendon said. Of the 17, all of them have completed training or are on their way to being successful, he said.

For some of the 35 or older who have enlisted, the realization to join the Army National Guard came later in life, so the raising of the age limit was a window of opportunity that opened for them, he added.

The window to enlist for those approaching 40 closes September 2008, which is the end of the pilot phase for the higher age limit.

"For some reason or other, some people were not able to (enlist earlier), so this may be their last shot," Pendon said.

Sgt. Bernard Lewis, also a high school teacher, joined the Guard for about a year. Although relatively new to the Guard, Lewis is no stranger to military life.

He had enlisted in the Army and in the Air Force before. He said he's happy to fill a position for a fellow Guard member who's being deployed overseas.

Army Master Sgt. Tom T.J. Paulino, with the 3rd Battalion 196 Infantry Brigade stationed on Guam, said the Army uniform caught his eye when he was just 8 years old.

"I was intrigued with a gentleman, my uncle who was an Airborne Ranger," Paulino said. "I was just impressed by their uniform and the toughness."

Paulino said after high school, he attended San Diego State University but left in 1982 to enlist in the Army.

Since then, he has been able to work his way up the ranks and earn a bachelor's degree in business administration.

"It's not so much specific criteria or a list of prerequisites that make a good candidate for the Army. It's what's in your heart, what you want to do," Paulino said. "The sky is the limit. Who am I to say a 40-year-old man can come in and not do better than a younger man or woman."

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