May 21, 2012
The efforts of Rep. Paul Broun Jr., who fought on behalf of a marathon runner who was rejected by the Army to enlist because of being just shy of the enlistment age cap, failed Friday with a house vote of 256 to 164.
Broun also represented an obstetrician when he too was denied a volunteer job as a military doctor stating that Paul Gingrey, who will turn 70 in July, was too old.
Current law bars anyone older than 42 from enlisting without a waiver, but the services generally restrict enlistments to those 35 and younger. Broun, a 66-year-old Navy Reserve doctor, said the legal limit blocking enlistment for anyone older than 42 “seems to be an arbitrary policy” in an era when many older people are in excellent physical condition.
“There are people who want to serve and are physically fit,” he said. “There are some 20-year-olds who cannot run a mile.”
The DoD opposed Broun’s amendment and so did the Republican chairman and Democratic ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel panel.
Military service is a “difficult and challenging profession,” said Rep. Susan Davis of California, the personnel panel’s top Democrat, who added that the services have not been enlisting people up to age 42 because they discovered “risks outnumbered gains.” For example, they saw a greater risk of injury, and recovery takes longer for older recruits, she said.
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., the personnel panel chairman who spent 31 years in the National Guard, said waivers are available for exceptional circumstances but in general he “fully appreciates the need for age limitation.”