Skip to comments.For Sailors or Pilots or Former Grunts, There's a New and Kinder Route Back to Military Life
Posted on 09/27/2004 12:32:45 AM PDT by Jet Jaguar
FORT KNOX, Ky. (AP) - The loss of Christopher Crawford's landscaping business and a divorce brought him back to the military after a 14-year break. Brandon Beaver's Navy career wasn't progressing, but the prospect of getting out and attending a civilian police academy seemed dull.
Beaver and Crawford are both in the Army now.
They among 26 in the first batch of recruits with prior military service going through the Army's new warfighter refresher course, taught at Fort Knox, 40 miles south of Louisville. After four weeks here, and for some, additional training in their specialty, half will likely join Army units in Afghanistan or Iraq.
"It is actually my duty since I came in, to go to combat, and I like that challenge, to go over and defend our freedom," said Spc. Michael Bonnett, 25, who never fired a weapon during his four years in the Navy and spent the last three years in retail.
Their backgrounds are diverse, and they come from each military branch. They vary in age from 25 to 39. Two are women. Four came straight from the Air Force or Navy; Others like Crawford have been out of the military for more than 13 years.
The four straight from the Air Force or Navy are participants in a special program called "Operation Blue to Green," which went into effect last month to allow the qualifying 8,000 sailors and 16,000 air men downsized from those branches to smoothly transfer to the Army if they so choose without losing rank.
With wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military is looking for more soldiers to sign up. Before this course, those from the Air Force and Navy, or those out of the Marine or Army more than three years, all had to attend full basic training if they joined the Army.
The course will be taught to about 3,200 soldiers with prior service in the next year - including all those participating in "Operation Blue to Green." The course has training in Army doctrine, weapons handling and combat skills such as thwarting convoy attacks.
For those without Army experience, there are differences. Most of them are small, such as Army soldiers saying "Hoo-ah" for "yes" rather than the Navy's "Uh-ah." Others are bigger, such as learning how to handle Army weapons. Half had never spent a night sleeping in the backwoods during an exercise - a mainstay in Army life - before coming to Fort Knox.
Capt. Tom Oakley, 26, said he's reminded of another difference each time he says, "At Ease" to the soldiers.
"In the Army it means relax, but listen," Oakley said. "In the Navy, it means go do what you were doing. So, you say, 'At ease,' and half the people walk away."
Many of the participants from the Air Force and Navy say the Army's daily physical fitness requirements are tougher than what they were used to. But that doesn't mean those without Army experience are not up to par: Two former air men had the highest scores after the second day the new recruits were out on the range.
Although this class is taught by the same drill sergeants at Fort Knox who instruct traditional new recruits in Army basic training, these participants are treated as accepted professionals and get privileges such as Sundays off.
"There's no in-the-face drill sergeant yelling at the soldiers," said Lt. Col. Jim Larsen, 42, commander of the 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment, which oversees the training.
Many of the soldiers said the hardest part was convincing their families that enlisting was a good idea.
"When I first let them know I was going to do this, they were like, 'Why are you doing this? Don't you know there's a war going on?' Of course, I'm aware of it," said Pfc. Tracy Gates, 33, a police officer in Mississippi who left the Navy in 1992.
Beaver, 25, who came straight from the Navy, said he spent seven months in Iraq attached to a Marine unit. He considered getting out to attend a police academy until he heard of "Operation Blue to Green" after he was told he would have to either switch specialties or get out.
He's next headed to Fort Drum's 10th Mountain Division in New York - one of the Army's most deployed divisions.
"I don't mind going back. At the times we're at right now, that's my kind of thing," Beaver said. "That's why I did this. I couldn't swing it in the civilian world. I'm like a go, go, go kind of person."
On the Net:
Operation Blue to Green: http://www.goarmy.com/btg/index.jsp
Is 52 too old?
Give the local recruiter a call.
52 may be too old. But, if you really press the issue, it might happen.
Thanks for your service and willingness to serve again!
Uh, I don't think so. Maybe the army needs an old bosun's mate chief to splain some things to some folks.
The reporterette has no clue.
Try your local National Guard Recruiter - they have more leeway
PT Test - Two miles in 17.25 minutes or less, 40 situps in 2 minutes (min) 40 pushups in 2 minutes (min)
No outstanding medical conditions
Stress willingness to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan