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42-year-olds now
in Pentagon's sights

As part of a package of “urgent wartime support initiatives,” the Defense Department has requested that Congress raise the maximum age for military recruits to 42 for all branches of the service.

According to a report in the Army Times, the move would raise considerably the age of potential service members. Under current law, the maximum age to enlist in the active components is 35, while people up to age 39 may enlist in the reserves. By practice, the accepted age for recruits is 27 for the Air Force, 28 for the Marine Corps and 34 for the Navy and Army, although the Army Reserve and Navy Reserve sometimes take people up to age 39 in some specialties, the report stated.

At a hearing of the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee last month, David S.C. Chu, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said he felt the military’s recent problems with recruiting were improving, but that additional incentives would help.

The Times reported Chu did not elaborate on the request to raise the recruitment age and did not mention whether any of the services were seriously considering recruiting 42-year-olds.

Most of the initiatives in the package were previously requested by the Bush administration as part of the 2006 defense budget, which is pending before Congress, and include raises in certain pay bonuses in incentives to help bolster recruiting.

“Recruitment is a challenge right now,” said Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., at the hearing. “Both the military and Congress are working on solutions, but I expect these challenges will be with us for some time. Military service is honorable and can be a real growing opportunity for a young man or woman.”

Recruitment goals for most of the months this year have not been met, and military leaders have begun instituting various creative incentives to try to boost the numbers.