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July 21, 2004

Yes, the military personnel system is under some stress...

Here's an example... the Army is recalling a 67 year old retiree - who already served 41 years!

Charleston (SC) Post and Courier -July 19, 2004 Uncle Sam Issues Recall For Psychiatrist, 67 By Associated Press

COLUMBIA--Seven years ago, Lexington psychiatrist Charles Ham retired from the Army. Or at least he thought so.

He recently got a call telling him to report to Fort Jackson for a physical examination.

Ham, who wore a U.S. Army uniform for 41 years, knew that 5,600 veterans who recently had left the service were being called up. But he never thought he would be on the list.

"You know, I'm 67 years old. Why do you need me?" Ham asked.

The caller explained that the Army needed psychiatrists to counsel troops. A recent study found the suicide rate of soldiers serving in Iraq is higher than for other GIs. The suicide rate in Iraq was 17.3 per 100,000 soldiers compared with 12.8 for the Army overall.

To help remedy the problem, the study recommended the Army send more mental health specialists to combat zones. {snip}

After the call, Ham, who is enrolled in Medicare (emphasis mine), underwent his Army physical. Now, he is waiting for another call.

"I have two choices," said Ham, who is married and a grandfather. "I can either wait patiently or I can wait impatiently."

Ham, who retired as a colonel, is subject to being recalled because he's an officer, Army spokeswoman Andrea Wales said. There is no age limit for officers to serve, she said.

"In general, officers are considered to be management," Wales said. "The Army puts a lot of money and time into training officers and expects them to rise to the occasion and lead soldiers."

Yep. I keep waiting for my call, too. But, I'm just a vanilla artilleryman, simulations expert, and WMD response planner. Apparently we have enough of them. (We do have enough artillery officers!)

The rest is in the Flash Traffic.

Ham said he will have a choice of either serving three months in a combat zone or spending a year at a military hospital in the United States.

Just because Ham underwent a physical exam does not mean he will be called to active duty, Wales said. "I think the officer who called was just being proactive," she said.

I'll tell you right now - I'd take the three months in the combat zone. Why? Under my enlistment contract, my retired pay is calculated on my highest permanent pay grade, not averaged over some period of time, like most people now serving. COL Ham, here, is getting 75% of his active duty pay on the day he retired, seven years ago. Upon recall to active duty, he will get the full pay and allowances of a Colonel at today's pay scale. When he returns to retired status - his retired pay will be recalculated based on today's rates. Which will be a nice, tidy raise, for life, from what he's getting now. Note to Army: might be cheaper to hire him as a contractor...

The doctor's four decades of military service include two years during the Vietnam War and six months during Desert Storm. He is a former commander of the 3270th Army Hospital's augmentation unit at Fort Jackson. Ham attended the Army War College and served at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and at Fort Bragg, N.C.

He also is a former instructor at the University of South Carolina Medical School and works at the Lexington County Mental Health Center.
If the Army needs him, Ham said he will go. He has the backing of his wife of 45 years, Joyce.

"Of course, I don't want him to go," she said. "But I know him well enough to know that if he thinks he can help the troops in any way, he would not hesitate to go. I would feel bad complaining while sitting here in my air-conditioned house."

Charles Ham still is amazed that the Army tracked him down after seven years of retirement. "You'd think if they can find me in my office, they sure could find Osama bin Laden," he said.

I'm ready if you want me, Branch. I'm gonna have some trouble with the PT test, and the scale, too... but I'm still ready.

John | Permalink | Comments (2) | Global War on Terror (GWOT)
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