Skip to comments.41-year-old does 2nd Army stint
Posted on 08/21/2006 6:15:19 PM PDT by SandRat
FORT HUACHUCA Suzanne Despy is finally getting a chance to complete something she started when she was 17.
The soon-to-be 41-year-old is back in the Army after the military increased the maximum enlistment age to 42. In 1983, her parents had to sign for her to join.
But not this time, said Despy, a specialist currently assigned to Company F, 309th Military Intelligence Battalion where she is waiting to start a 20-week course to become a human intelligence collector an interrogator.
It is good her parents did not have to sign again because she joked that they probably wouldnt have as they question her sanity.
I know they are worried about my decision, she said.
Her husband, Al, a U.S. Marshal working in Texas, also is wondering if his wife did the right thing. Formerly on active duty, he is now an Army reservist who served tour in Iraq.
He encouraged me to look into it, Despy said.
He didnt think she would go through with it.
When she told him she was going back in the Army, he said, What? what? she said. He supports her decision.
The only one who did not question her was son Nathan, a 19-year-old sophomore in a California college. He told her, Mom, if thats what you want to do, do it, be happy and safe.
Hes a mature young man, Despy said.
She was a single mother and he was 6 months old when she decided to leave the Army at the end of her initial enlistment.
I had to make a decision if I wanted to be a good soldier or a good mother, Despy said. I chose to be a good mother and he turned out well.
In the 1980s the Army wasnt as family friendly as it is now, she said. If she had remained, she would have had to go to South Korea and couldnt take her infant son.
But not completing her first goal of being a career soldier was always with her.
Now that hole is being filled.
Im older and more mature. Im in better shape at 40 than I was at 30, Despy said.
Unlike some enlisting in the Army who are beyond the originally 35-year-old plateau, she isnt second-guessing her decision.
And, unlike older people who are enlisting, some who are parents are enlisting to be with their children, Despy did not have to go through full basic training.
Instead, she and others, including sailors and airmen, took advantage of the switch over from the Navy and Air Force to the Army through the Blue to Gold Program. They went through a shorten training. She described it as a tough four-week course.
Its nine weeks of basic training condensed into 28 days, she said.
She went through the special training in New Mexico, half in Santa Fe and the other half at White Sands Missile Range, which was controlled by the New Mexico Army National Guard.
During her first enlistment from 1983 to 1987, she reached the grade of specialist and was an electronic warfare signal intelligence analyst. When she came back in, she was allowed to keep her time in grade for eventual promotion to sergeant.
However, even though she was on the promotion list to sergeant when she got out in 1987, she isnt listed now. She hopes to make it during her current three-year Army contract.
Got to earn it again, Despy said.
Then if she continues, she hopes to be promoted to staff sergeant and then try to become a warrant officer, a goal she had in the 1980s.
Another advantage she also has is not having to live in the open bay barracks with new recruits. Despy and others with prior service live in Riley Barracks, where there are three to a room.
While waiting for her class to start, Despy assists the company drill sergeants and helps mentor the younger GIs.
No one has called me mom, she said, adding most of them dont believe Im 40.
And from the tough play acting look on her face, no one better call her mom.
Im not their mother, Despy said as a stern look changed into a soft smile.
Knowing what basic training is like and how young soldiers or those without any previous military service have to live in close quarters, she said older recruits are going to experience having no real personal space in communal living.
It could be difficult for some, Despy said.
This can be especially true when older recruits have been in charge of their lives and suddenly find themselves having to do what a 24-year-old corporal tells them, Despy added.
Its not that she doesnt have a regime to follow.
Theres physical training and other details. Having been in before, Despy said she understands she has to be part of the team and do what all soldiers are expected to do.
And she doesnt now have time for gardening or cooking, her two hobbies.
But she has a little more freedom, which includes having time off in which she can leave the post.
She will be heading to Texas this week to close on the house she and Al, her husband since 1997, have sold. He works in a federal office in Corpus Christi.
And she will bring back a car.
Despy has a bachelors degree in history. She was an operations manager for an import company in San Antonio, Texas, prior to returning to the Army.
There is some commonality between her goals and those of many young recruits enlisting in todays Army.
Despy is looking forward to being able to go on with her education to earn master and doctoral degrees, with the Army picking up most of the costs.
As for becoming a human intelligence collector, she said her age will be a help. Older people, especially mothers, know how to get information out of people, they may not want to divulge, Despy said.
Just ask any kid, she said as she smiled again, this time larger than any other during the Thursday interview.
Its not often a person can pick up what they dropped years ago and return to what was their first goal.
I have a chance to continue my career and again serve my country, something I stopped in 1987, she said.
Herald/Review senior reporter Bill Hess can be reached at 515-4615 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Gramma Wears Combat Boots is not a Joke any more.
Doing more to defend our freedom than any ten thousand rabid ACLU lawyers!
Right after 9/11, I contacted the armed forces to learn if I could enlist (I gave it a bit to weigh all the ramifications -- I have a family). I soon learned at 39 I was "too old" (yeah, even though I was a rock).
Now -- NOW -- they up it to 42, and wouldn't you know, I'm 43. I'd lie about my age, but I never get away with stuff like that.
An old HS flame just returned from Kuwait, last month.
She served with her son, who has returned, as well.
She's pushing 51.
....and all the Carter and Clinton appointed judges combined.
I think I could pass for 42. How closely do they inspect birth certificates?
Well, you know, as my saintly Mother used to say, 'ol Ace's Dad was 51 in Desert Storm, and we had not a few sailors with big ship skill sets pushing 60. But good for her.
That kinda says something about IRR's and combat deployment, don't it?
PT sucks after 40 though.
They gave me a year on the age limit for every year of active duty that I had. I still can't go active duty, or would have, but reserves is almost as good. I've been on orders of one kind or another for 29 of the last 34 months. (Lots of backfill and special deployment stuff)
The reserves or guard may waiver you in. I had to have a waiver for hearing loss. (H3).
If she wasn't so old, they'd probably make her an officer. A degree in history is a pretty good basis for becoming an intelligence officer. Add in her experience as a collector, and she'd be a very good choice for butter bar. Still becoming a warrant officer should be well within her reach.
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