When Middle-Aged Men Join the Army

Apparently you can join the US Army up to age 42 (or maybe it’s 44), according to a blurb I read on usmilitary.about.com.

When someone that age joins the Army, do they go through Basic Training with all the rest of the recruits? Or are they segregated into an older recruits’ class? Do they leave Basic ranked E1 and work their way up, like everyone else? Or do they get some sort-of age-based rank?

I never heard about any age based rank - you start at the bottom like everyone else.

You can go in at a higher rank based on special skills - for example a doctor normally starts out as a captain, but that is not based on their age. You can go in as an officer if you meet the qualifications but again that is not based on age.

Older people who enlist aren’t treated any differently from any other recruit. They’re not segregated by age and are still expected to perform like their fellow recruits. Any increase in rank isn’t due to their age, but they may come in as an E-3 if they have a college degree.

Unless things have changed, in the Air Force there are 3 ways to go in as an officer:

Be an Air Force Academy grad
Be an AF ROTC grad
Be a college grad + go to AF OTS

In all 3 cases you start out as a 2nd LT.

They are assigned to lawn-guarding duty.

To confirm what everyone else has said I knew about half a dozen people who enlisted after 35 in the 4 years I was in the Army. They were all treated like any other soldier.

There are a few things that are easier for them though.

  1. PT tests are graded based on age, so the older you are the lower the standard is.

  2. If you have a college degree and enlist you do get an automatic promotion to E-4.

Even 35 is pretty old to be just joining the Army. If you join at 18 you will be eligible for retirement at 38, most enlisted types actually retire around 42-45 though. So they definitely catch hell for being old.

From my experience in a Veterans Service Office, most older men (or women) who went into the service were certain professionals (doctors, lawyers, clergy) and right after basic training they were assigned to the appropriate duties and promoted to an appropriate rank.

And just to nitpick, doctors, judge advocates and chaplains do not go through basic training that other Soldiers/sailors/airmen/marines go through. With the exception of marine judge advocates, who go through the exact same training in addition to legal training that all other marine officers go through. For doctors, chaplains and judge advocates who do not have any prior military service, they are direct commissioned as officers (so no officer candidate school or ROTC is required). They start as First Lieutenants and go through their own specialized officer basic courses. These certainly have a physical component to them, but they are not nearly as physically rigorous as basic training and are instead designed both as an introduction to the military and an academic course on what role they will have in the military. Shortly after completing these courses, they are promoted to Captain.