“My age worked for me,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Herwehe, 62, adding it gave him credibility among the Iraqis with whom he was working as a counterterrorism adviser.
Col. Herwehe, who first joined the service in 1966 and fought in Vietnam, said he planned to go back to Iraq as a contractor, rather than return to his work as a marketing manager.
“I know that I have options,” he said. “I enjoy the work, and it is a very positive experience.
“It seems like this is an excellent resource,” Col. Herwehe said of the men and women who had volunteered under the program. “The military is missing an opportunity to use a lot of talent out there.”
Col. Wright said the Army has recalled retired soldiers, usually officers, in every conflict in which the United States has been involved since the War of 1812.
Soldiers who had retired after 20 years’ active service, or the equivalent service in the reserves, and who met Army fitness and weight requirements, were eligible for the program.
It was set up in 2002 under special wartime powers that enable the defense secretary to recall retirees — although in this case, the process was voluntary.
Col. Wright said the Army began phasing out the program in March and would end it by October, sending home the 1,163 retirees now enrolled.
A few exceptions with special skills — 41 to date — could be approved to remain in service.
The House Armed Services Committee recently amended the draft-authorizing legislation that sets the Army’s end-strength, raising the limit on the total size of the force by 30,000 soldiers.
If the measure is approved by Congress, it would effectively eliminate the Army’s rationale for ending the retiree-recall program.
It is too soon to tell what effect any changes will have on the plan, Col. Wright said.