USA Today January 13, 2005 Pg. 5 Program Permits Army Retirees To Re-Enter Active Duty By Gregg Zoroya, USA Today WASHINGTON The Army, stretched thin by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, is dipping into one of its last resources for wartime duty: retirees on a military pension. The Army is expanding a little-known program to bring back retired officers and enlisted soldiers who expressed a willingness to join again, particularly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. At least 320 retirees signed up last year under this program. Probably more than 500 will go back on active duty this year, says Lt. Col. Karla Brischke, a personnel manager. They range in age from mid-40s to late 60s and possibly older, and each has at least 20 years of military service. It doesn't mean that we're scraping the bottom of the barrel, says Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, a spokesman for the Army personnel department. It means that we're doing a prudent thing with American resources. After 9/11, about 15,000 retired soldiers contacted the Army to offer their services. From that group, the Army last year assembled a list of 4,500 who completed the application process. In a separate program, Hilferty says, the Army compiled a list of 3,000 retired soldiers and began asking whether they would volunteer to be recruiters or civil affairs officers. The Army has found 616 retirees willing to fill 442 jobs as civil affairs officers in and around Iraq. They would help rebuild schools, hospitals and roads. At least 10 agreed to rejoin as recruiters. The Marines have a similar program and have rehired 66, 1st Lt. Darlan Harris says. Activating retired soldiers is the latest step by the Army to bolster troop levels. Other efforts include extending overseas tours from 12 to 15 months, tripling bonuses for new enlistees and National Guard members who re-enlist, and mobilizing about 4,000 soldiers from the Individual Ready Reserve. The IRR is an infrequently used pool of former troops who still have contractual obligations to the military. I'm no spring chicken, says James Barren, 54, of Detroit, who is rejoining the Army to train Iraqi police. I think training is something that I can have some impact on. If I can do something to save one person's life, that's my motivation. The Army told the retired Detroit policeman last month that his skills are valuable now in Iraq. If they have that much confidence in me, I thought I would give it a shot, Barren says. He could be in Iraq as early as February. I think it's just another signal that the Army is stretched very, very thin, if not overextended, says Bob Scales, a retired Army major general and former commandant of the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. It's amazing how creative everybody has been lately in trying to sort of patch this Army of ours together. The 4,500 retirees fall into three categories. The most valuable to the Army are 1,000 healthy retirees who have been out of service less than five years. A second group of 2,000 are in good health, out of the military no more than 10 years and 60 or younger. The third category of 1,500 retirees are older than 60 or have disabilities. Retired soldiers who rejoin would serve up to a year, although they could agree to more or volunteer for another assignment. Here I am, in the golden years of my life at 70, still hoping that I can help somehow, says Gerald Garcia of Spokane, Wash., a retired chief warrant officer in the National Guard. I want to be part of it, before it's too late for me. Garcia 5-foot-10 and 155 pounds, about the same as when he was a soldier volunteered last year and is on the Army's list but hasn't been called up. I still do my 25 push-ups every night. I do a lot of walking and get a lot of exercise, he says. Hopefully, I can get involved. Hmmm...wonder if they want a crusty old Command Sergeant Major??