Attrition: Geezers Put It All Into Perspective


July 9, 2010:  The U.S. military has undergone tremendous changes in the last decade, with the introduction of enormous quantities of new technology, tactics and well, just a lot of new stuff. Most troops really didn�t notice it, as the changes came on gradually, month after month, and not all at once, But there were several thousand very special troops who have noticed. These are soldiers, sailors and airmen who had retired, but volunteered to return to active duty for a year or more, to help out.

Many of these NCOs and officers had retired a decade or more earlier, and they could not help but notice how much the military had changed. While this amazement, and the anecdotes about the �old days�, were revealing and entertaining for the younger troops, the retiree retreads also made everyone aware that there were effective ways to get things done without all the technology. This often came in handy, as when some technologies failed (as in the Internet connection going dark for a while), or when American forces had to train Iraqi or Afghan units, which could not afford all the U.S. tech, and had to get things done old school. The insights of these old timers also got senior commanders thinking about new doctrine (methods of operating in combat), to reflect the dramatic changes.

Most of the old timers are leaving active duty for good now, but they made a lasting impression on the many younger troops they worked with. In the eight years it was used heavily, the "retiree recall program" (which let retired troops, under age 70 and in good health, return to active duty if they had a needed skill) brought back experienced soldiers who had needed skills, and experience.

Technical and staff specialists, linguists, and medical personnel were the most frequent retirees recalled. About 3,000 retirees have returned to at least one year of active duty. Nearly 800 served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and last year, about a thousand were still on duty. But their numbers are declining, as fewer have been accepted for the program in the last two years.

Career soldiers tend to retire after 20 years (at half pay) or 30 years (at 75 percent of their active duty pay.) When recalled to active duty, retirees go through a week of weapons and tactical training, to make sure they are familiar with the latest techniques, and can still handle an M-16. They continue to receive their retirement pay, just as they would if they took any other job, but are not allowed to be promoted.



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