Age Limit To Join The Military

Age Limit To Join The Military – Airman 1st Class Yoko Holdren, 40, is one of 750 enlisted in the active Air Force between the ages of 35 and 39, with the age limit rising to 39 in 2014. (Courtesy of A1C Yoko Holdren)

He tried to find work for more than a decade, but hit the road at every turn. At first it was often on the move with her husband, Master Sgt. Child care expenses for Donovan Holdren and his three children.

Age Limit To Join The Military

Then it was work and German citizenship rules at Ramstein Air Base, where the family was stationed. His green card is about to expire. And when his youngest son started school, just as he was looking for a job, the coronavirus pandemic hit.

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“I thought if I joined the Air Force, they could train me from scratch,” he told Air Force Times. “I’ll take any job I can get.”

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Holdren, an Airman currently in the first class at the Defense Force Technical School, is one of hundreds of people in their late 30s who have joined the Air Force since the service raised the age limit for new recruits nearly a decade ago. Career change has presented new challenges and second opportunities, while providing other ways to strengthen and diversify services.

In 2014, the service raised the active duty enlistment age from 27 to 39 for people with no prior military service. The Air Force Reserve also changed its age limit from 34 to 39.

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Since then, active-duty enlisted forces have carried 574 active and supporting Airmen between the ages of 35 and 39, according to Air Force Recruiting Service data. Interest in joining the Air Force has increased almost every year, rising from one in that age group in 2014 to 137 in 2021.

The Air Force prohibits anyone over 39 from becoming an officer in most fields, although health and service personnel can serve until their 49th birthday.

Operations and support officers include 172 active duty Airmen age 35 or older who enlisted from fiscal years 2014 through 2021. Only 3% of officers entered those fields over the eight-year period.

The recruitment of senior officers is more volatile than the enlisted side, moving from a high of 61 in 2019 to a low of two in 2021.

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Airman 1st Class Erin Zimper, 445th Airlift Wing public affairs photojournalist, spends time with her children. Zimpher started a new chapter in his life for himself and his children when he joined the Air Force before the age of 39. (Photo courtesy)

Americans approaching middle age are often drawn to the Air Force for a variety of reasons. Some parents are looking for something new after starting a family, or those whose dreams of joining the military have been put on hold. Others find several options in life with or without a college degree; And some are reconsidering their futures after major life changes.

Jimfer – the sixth born of seven children – became the first in her family to graduate from high school, then married and raised her four children as a stay-at-home mom for 14 years. That trajectory changed in 2017 when she got divorced and struggled to make ends meet.

Long inspired by his sister’s success in the Air Force after high school, Zimmer jumped into his own military career. He took his enlistment pledge in February 2018, a month before his 39th birthday.

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“It’s the fastest way to get from where I am to where I want to be, and I want to get a degree and take advantage of the benefits of education,” he said. “Everything just fell into place.”

Although most recruits join the Air Force before their 30s, older airmen have had more time to fully develop their emotional intelligence, work ethic and decision-making skills. That maturity helps them handle the ups and downs of military life better than some of their younger counterparts.

“If you’re in your 30s, you have life experience, you’re there for a reason,” said Air Force civilian and former pilot Hugo Escobar in a 2016 video on his YouTube channel, “Your Military Money.” “Better to show up at the Air Force side late than never.”

Escobar and others online who offer events and advice about joining the Air Force later in life warn that being in shape and protecting against injury is important.

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Keeping up with the physical demands has worried Holdren, who began to prepare a year before going to basic military training.

However, he said the Defense Forces would be a better fit for a non-native English speaker like him as it focuses more on physical strength than academics.

“They say the test [to become an Air Force veteran] is easy,” Holdren, a Japanese-born American, said in November. “It’s good for me … because if I have to take a test in English, I can have a hard time.”

Experienced airmen also recommend being mentally flexible, as the military can improve on established procedures and impose more rules on daily life than in the civilian world – where younger officers are in charge.

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“When I have a house and bills, and I’m responsible, I don’t really like being restricted like an 18-year-old,” Zimpfer said of technical school. “Having that [10 p.m.] curfew or not being able to leave the site … is something you have to accept.”

Her decision to leave her four children, aged 11 to 15, and her ex-husband for seven months of training tested her resolve above all else. But he faces his fears and sends them out, a move that the older kids make easier.

“I don’t have to worry too much about my kids because they’re in school [at Rammstein],” said Holdren, who has three children, ages 7 to 13. “I can concentrate on my work.”

Once they make it through boot camp and technical training, veteran airmen believe the gamble will pay off.

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Joining the Reserves offers opportunities that Zimpfer would not have without a college degree or relevant work history. He worked in public affairs and finance at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, first as a civilian employee in the service and now as a contractor.

When he was laid off from his civilian job as a trade compliance specialist for an Ohio manufacturer, Zimpfer called Lt. Col. Cynthia Harris, the reserve commander for public affairs of the 445th Airlift Wing. Harris immediately placed him on active order, which led to a job offer at Apogee Engineering.

Down the road, Zimpfer wants to get a bachelor’s degree and move into the field of human intelligence with a top secret clearance.

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In addition to providing a path to higher education, military medical benefits and job stability are especially helpful for older airmen who must support their families. Some jobs that can be done anywhere, like basic security, can help dual military couples like the Holdens together.

Today, he plans to return to Ramstein as a security guard after technical school at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. He is working on a degree in cyber security and is also interested in pursuing criminal justice with the goal of one day obtaining a master’s degree.

He doesn’t have firm long-term plans, but says he’ll work beyond the four-year contract if he likes the job and is healthy.

“I’m not sure it’s right for everyone’s situation, but I’m so glad I did it and it worked for me,” she says.

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Rachel Cohen joined Air Force Times as a senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, The Frederick News-Post (MD), The Washington Post, and more.

Tags: Air Force Usaf Airman Active Duty List Enlisted Airman Air Force Reserve Yoko Holden Erin Zimpfer Millennial Millennial Xennial Career Xennial Change Job Change Air Force Age

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