Army Raises Maximum Enlistment Age

Dropped Back To Pre-911 War Standards

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Updated 2019. This is a historical article that demonstrates that age limits are not written in stone and given the circumstances of the military, they have the discretion to raise or lower the maximum age limit either allowing or not allowing older recruits to join the active duty, reserves, or National Guard. It really depends upon the needs of the military, but there are waivers for age that are handled on a case by case basis when outside the age range of the current recruit requirements. Currently, the age limits for all entrances into the Army are the following:






Post 9-11 Changes

However, in 2005, during the initial phases of the Global War On Terror (GWOT), the Army raised it's maximum age requirements to fill the needs of a highly deployed operational force. However, after six years, the need for more troops was decreased and in 2011 the age limit was dropped back to GWOT levels. Also the unemployment rate was higher after the Great Recession that led to a massive recruiting influx that further decreased the need to open the enlistment ranks for civilians in their forties. 

From Army News Service (2005)

The Army has raised the enlistment age to 42 (for Active Duty, Reserves, and Army National Guard), made possible under provisions of the Fiscal Year 2006 National Defense Authorization Act.

The Army raised the active-duty age limit to 40 in January as an interim step while it worked out the additional medical screening requirements for recruits ages 40 to 42. Before January, an applicant could not have reached his or her 35th birthday. The Army Reserve age limit was raised from 35 to 40 in March 2005.

Raising the maximum age for Army enlistment expands the recruiting pool, provides motivated individuals an opportunity to serve and strengthens the readiness of Army units. More than 1,000 men and women over age 35 have already enlisted since the Army and Army Reserve raised their age limits to age 40.

“Experience has shown that older recruits who can meet the physical demands of Army service generally make excellent Soldiers. They are mature, motivated, loyal and patriotic, and bring with them a wealth of skills and experience to our Army,” said Col. Donald Bartholomew, U.S. Army Recruiting Command Assistant Chief of Staff, G5.

“We certainly do not expect for this change to result in a large increase of recruits, however it will allow for those individuals who have the passion for service, but for whatever reason could not serve earlier in their lives, the opportunity to serve the nation now, when the time is right for them,” he added.

All applicants must meet eligibility standards, to include passing the physical standards and medical examinations; however those 40 to 42 will be given additional medical screening.

For Shannon D. Morris, 36, of Shreveport, La., enlisting in the U.S. Army was a dream-come-true. She said she had wanted to join since she was a teenager but she didn’t get the chance.

“My brother was in the Army and it was always something that I wanted to do,” she said. “My father encouraged me to do it, but I became a mother at a young age and that took the priority.”

Morris thought she had lost her chance, but learned that the Army had raised its age limit when her son, Robert McLain, began talking with an Army recruiter. She said the more her son talked about his decision, the more interested she became in doing something for herself.

“When Robert told me I might still be young enough, the wheels started turning and I thought this might just be my last opportunity to get the benefits for my education and see the world.”

Morris said her family was surprised she wanted to enlist and serve, but they are supportive of her plans. Her mother thought it was a great idea and her husband Rick, a district fire chief who will retire this summer, encouraged her as well.

“My brother thought I was crazy,” she joked. “But he also thought it was great that I was doing it, and I couldn’t believe how supportive everyone was of me. It made me proud to know that they were all behind me.”

Morris, who will be a petroleum lab specialist, left for basic combat training May 25 and McLain followed May 30 to Fort Benning, Ga., where he began training to become a Ranger.

Recruits of all ages are eligible for the same enlistment bonuses and other incentives based on their individual qualifications.

*This article is for historical purposes as the regulations for age limits have been raised and lowered back to previous standards during the 2005-2011 time period. However, history will always repeat itself and when in need, the military will need to reach out to older, qualified candidates to fill it's ranks.