Skip to comments.Late 30s aren't too late to enlist
Posted on 03/03/2006 10:24:47 PM PST by neverdem
Jeff Lizotte, 36, intends to take advantage of the Army's new maximum age for enlistment, raised in January from 34 to 39. He sees it as a new opportunity, even though there's a good chance he'll be sent to Iraq.
Unless someone beats him to it, Jeff Lizotte is set to make a little history.
He plans to enlist in the Army, which isn't particularly noteworthy until you consider his age. Lizotte's goal is to head to boot camp next year, after he turns 37.
That would have been impossible two months ago. But in January, Congress raised the maximum age of Army enlistment from 34 to 39. Lizotte, local recruiters say, could be the first to take advantage of the new policy in the region that includes Washington, Alaska and parts of Idaho. His decision to sign up, possibly for a four-year tour, came after years of contemplation and career choices that didn't always measure up to his expectations.
That's pretty common for people in their 30s who are thinking about military service, said Staff Sgt. Brenda Milewski, who recruited Lizotte.
"They're tired of stumbling," Milewski said. "When I see someone soul-searching through the years, it's time to make a change."
Lifestyle change is one thing. Possibly dying in combat is another, but Milewski always makes clear to prospective enlistees: Chances are, you're going to Iraq.
Traditionally, most new recruits are 19 or 20 years old. Raising the enlistment age is part of a national strategy aimed at increasing the number of new soldiers, particularly after the Army fell short of its recruitment goals last year.
In December, the Army selected a new advertising firm in a deal potentially worth $1.35 billion. It also increased the number of recruiters around the country.
Ultimately, the decision to join the military is uniquely personal, and Lizotte's story illustrates the path that leads a 36-year-old to do something his parents call crazy.
"They say, 'So have you watched the news lately?' " said Lizotte. For the record, he has.
One pound over the limit
Lizotte is a stocky guy who needs to lose one pound to comply with the Army weight regulations of 189 pounds for a man 5 feet 10 inches. He lives in West Seattle and works at a furniture store for about $10 an hour. He doesn't have health insurance or a car.
Unmarried, he has three daughters; the two teenagers live in Vancouver, Wash., but he's not sure of the whereabouts of his 9-year-old after her mother moved without telling him.
An unresolved $425 fine for negligent driving in April 2001 is the only thing that stops him from enlisting right now, he said. The Army won't let you use a signing bonus to pay tickets or restitution.
After dropping out of Montesano High School, Lizotte earned a GED from Grays Harbor College. He attended a massage school in Fife and became a licensed therapist in 1999, offering his services at Lacey City Hall. But it was tough to get enough clients to run a business, so he quit and landed a job with a painting company.
He let his massage license lapse, but still pays student loans of about $68 a month.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he lost his painting job when the economy took a nosedive. Motivated by the attacks, he wanted to enlist then, but the traffic fine bedeviled him. "I don't think I'd call it revenge, but I was really pissed off. I knew so many people who lost their jobs."
The war in Afghanistan made a lot of sense at the time, he said. The war in Iraq, not so much.
"I don't think we're anywhere close to being able to pull out of there. It's a mess. It wasn't well thought out and we have to deal with it."
Still, when he saw on CNN that the Army had raised the age limit, he called Milewski, with whom he had talked about joining the reserves.
"When they raised the enlistment age, I thought: This has got to be telling me something."
"A body blow"
The Army has been a tough sell in recent years, particularly in the Northwest.
The Seattle Recruiting Battalion, which includes Alaska, Washington (except for Vancouver) and northern Idaho, missed its goal by more than 40 percent last year.
"That was a body blow," said William Pearce, spokesman for the Seattle Recruiting Battalion.
There are many reasons for the decline, but the biggest is the war in Iraq, he said. Traditional enticements such as training and educational opportunities get recalibrated when someone considers the reality of fighting.
While the Army has increased the number of recruiters by 25 percent in some areas of the country, the Seattle Recruiting Battalion won't receive any additional personnel, remaining at 216.
Nonetheless, Pearce remained optimistic that the number of enlistments will rise. And the Army's new age for enlistment expanded the recruiting pool, noted Lt. Col. Kenneth Swanson, commander of Seattle Recruiting Battalion. Of all the services, only the Army raised its age limit.
A tiny percentage of potential recruits, young and old, say they actually want to fight in Iraq, said Milewski. Most talk about needing a change and a chance to reinvent themselves.
"We bring [Iraq] straight up," she said. "Any job you do, we can't guarantee you won't go to Iraq. They know it exists, but they're at the point where they say, 'I'm going to do it.' They're tired of stumbling."
About that tattoo ...
If Lizotte follows his plan, he could be 20 years older than some of the other recruits in basic training. He's prepared for some "Hey, grandpa" ribbing about that, and about the peace tattoo on his arm.
But the lure of medical training or joining the military police is strong, despite the possibility of death or injury. For him, the Army retains its longtime appeal: money, structure, a new life. That, plus a signing bonus of at least $9,000.
The prospect of combat "makes you wonder if it's the right course," he said. "But you weigh the risks and benefits. There's a lot of opportunities in the military. I can try something different."
Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or firstname.lastname@example.org
so over the past 3 years we are averging 75,030 new recruits nationally.
They should raise the age limit even higher. I know a people in their 40`s who would put a 20 year old to shame, but I guess the military isn`t looking for people just in great shape.
The SEATTLE recruiting station had trouble meeting numbers after we actually went to war...
...why am I not surprised?
Maybe this could be fudged a bit also, boot camp will make them shed the pounds, and if they dont pass just recycle them.
I would rather choose my warriors from men in their thirties ,than women of any age.
i'm not gonna say a word.
Losing one pound is ridiculous, all he would need to do is literally take a dump or not eat for a day. Someone morbidly obese like Michael Moore though would have trouble.
I was a Recruiter before I came to Iraq.
The age limit of 39 is for folks with no prior service. We adjust it upwards for veterans who come back off the bench. It's possible for 46-year-olds to come home, depending on how long they were in before.
Hell, I almost brought back a 42yo fella, even using the regs before this change - he was prior USAF who wanted to go Army Guard.
I'll look for the applicable regs, if anyone asks.
I agree. It is funny, however, that he's wearing a Fatburger restaurant shirt in the article. If he just stays away from there, he should be fine :o).
whats with the weight restriction? does this hamper our recruiting?
Not especially. The weight limits are simply common sense - it's indicative of general health, combat fitness, personal discipline, etc.
The Army Weight Control program (AR 600-9) has all the guidelines.
Also, any troop over 40 also does a mandatory cardio screening annually.
Since I'm 40, with 20 years of prior active service. I wonder, could I get a commision this time, only as an Ensign instead of an E-1, and do 20 as an officer.
Oh, wait a minute. I'm a former Chief. I don't think I could stomach being an Ensign. I'd rather be a boot seaman and clean toilets for a few years (I'd be smiling all the way through it...this time)
Anyway, I think this guy is heading in the exact right direction. He may get a little weary after 10 years or so, but I've seen 60 yr old reservists doing just fine in the field. Good luck to him.
What i mean is do these weight restrictions hamper our overall
recruiting ability not just on old folks, since they have to go though boot they will lose weight and if after boot they then don't meet the requirement, maybe they could recycle them
1 time. What i'm saying is would it help if they raised the weight restriction "for enlistment" not for retension, up by about 10% like 5'10 205lbs can elist, but has to be 189 to pass boot. 16 pounds doesn't sound that that much to lose.
Give it time. By the end of WWII, they we're drafting 50 and 60 yr olds.
It sort of reminds me of that section of the Alice's Restaurant song when you think about it:
Came to talk about the draft.
They got a building down New York City, it's called Whitehall Street, where you walk in, you get injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected. I went down to get my physical examination one day, and I walked in, I sat down, got good and drunk the night before, so I looked and felt my best when I went in that morning. `Cause I wanted to look like the all-American kid from New York City, man I wanted, I wanted to feel like the all-, I wanted to be the all American kid from New York, and I walked in, sat down, I was hung down, brung down, hung up, and all kinds o' mean nasty ugly things. And I waked in and sat down and they gave me a piece of paper, said, "Kid, see the phsychiatrist, room 604."
And I went up there, I said, "Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL." And I started jumpin up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL," and he started jumpin up and down with me and we was both jumping up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL." And the sergeant came over, pinned a medal on me, sent me down the hall, said, "You're our boy."
My hat is off to this proud and patriotic man. He looks fairly buff as it is, so I don't think there is going to be a problem losing that single pound. He could consult some friends who wrestled in high school to learn some quick weight-loss tricks if it's really necessary. Too bad he can't use the signing bonus to eliminate those pesky fines. Godspeed Jeff Lizotte, we're rooting for you!
~ Blue Jays ~
I beat "the system" in Oct 2001 after
the Navy AND National Guard
told me I was "too old" at 53 to serve again.
The only difference is I don't make a dime,
and have to buy my own uniforms.
If someone is REALLY serious about serving again
they can find a way, if they are up to the challenge.
Who are you writing about, the Volkstrum?
Are you kidding? I didn`t know that, I thought only the Germans were doing that. 60 years old, lol! Can you imagine some 20 year old Sargeant giving orders to a 60 year old?
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