Age Limits?

Had thought of posing this question in the Officers or Infantry forum, but as it's not rank-exclusive, I feel that here is the place for it.

With the present commitment of British Forces, and manpower shortages, is there a case for extending the age limits for entry into the ranks and Sandhurst? I am not suggesting that 40 year olds or pensioners be allowed in, but would permitting 32 or 35 year olds to join - so long as they are up to the challenge physically - be something worth considering? Even an extension of a few years would throw the recruiting net wider. Extending the age limits might also be a means of compensating for the widely-held belief that today's youth aren't interested in serving in the Armed Forces, which seems to partly account for the current manpower shortages. I see that such armies as the Australians seem to have age limits considerably beyond those of Britain. At the risk of being accused of going back into the mists of history, there is a precedent for extending age limits, namely the Second World War, when I believe the call-up age limit was 41. More recently, I seem to recall that the age limit for admission to Sandhurst was extended from 25 to 29. I am sure there are good reasons for not doing this, but I would be interested to hear what people here have to say on this matter.
The range allowed for in the US military is 17-35. I wouldnt think that Britian would have difficulty recruiting. I would think military service would be attractive.

The very opposite view counts. Youth + experience(forced upon those in a reduced but overcommitted org) + severe competition = competence in violent and energy-dependent pursuits.

Plus, of course, anyone over the quarter century is far too sensible to get involved in that sort of stupidity for the cash offered by HM Socialist Govt. Think Pension, Holiday Home.
I didn't mean to imply that those of 40 years old and beyond should be ruled out of any possible age extension, particularly if they have previous regular service experience; no, I chose that age bracket as I don’t imagine Recruiting Group would extend the age limit beyond that (but who knows?). Indeed, there are many people of 40+ years who would be quite capable or running the legs off many 18 year olds. What with the tendency toward short term contracts - notably the SSC for officers -I do not see there being an automatic disadvantage in accepting older candidates at both recruit and cadet level. I know that the combat arms have a preference for ‘young blood’, but if someone is fit and able why shouldn’t they get a look in? It could also be argued that an older candidate would be less likely to pack it in after only a few years.

I have heard it said that a person only really matures physically in their mid to late twenties, so if this is true then I do not see there being an inherent disadvantage in accepting older people, so long as they are physically capable. If anything, older recruits should have a broader outlook on life and a wider breadth of experience upon which the Armed Forces can draw.

I should confess here to having a vested interest in this speculation because of my own situation. I had been due to start at Sandhurst in May, but developed a pretty bad knee strain - since cleared - that stopped me dead in my tracks in mid-March. I knew at the time - from having consulted several specialists - that my injury was not of itself serious, merely requiring plenty of rest and physiotherapy, but would become so were I to continue training. However, I also knew that said injury would not have cleared by the time I started the Commissioning Course. It is here that I should point out that the May intake was the last for which I was within the age limit for admission to the RMAS (I turned 29 in August).

Much as I wanted to go ahead and give it a go (who wouldn't?), I knew by the time of my Pre-Course Briefing in late March that my injury was probably going to be the cause of my breaking down once training began. Unfortunately, had this happened I would have returned home to considerably reduced prospects, as starting at Sandhurst entailed leaving a job and postgraduate place at university. Much as neither 'career' appealed to me, arriving back home, having had to leave the RMAS with no prospect of regaining job or university, and therefore being well and truly f***ed, was not something I could afford to do. However, being a bull-headed sod, I turned up at the PCB. Faced with the imminence of a physical assessment and the signing of my contract I felt that I couldn't honestly go ahead with it; I also felt that once I got through the PCB, signed said contract and received my uniform etc. I was effectively committed to starting. So I found myself in the hellish situation of knowing that if I didn't leave there and then, I wasn't going to do so at all, but that I would almost certainly be turfed out (quite rightly) after I invariably broke down. I allowed my head to overcome my heart and left the Pre-Course Briefing. Following this, I made contact again with the OCAC at Sandhurst, where they were as helpful as they could be. It was suggested to me that I apply for an age waiver, which I did through the officer sponsoring me – I didn’t have a regimental or corps sponsor on account of my Cat 3 at the RCB Briefing. This seems to have been a telling point; not having a regiment pushing for an age waiver on my behalf. I was also warned that the RMAS had had difficulty with some age waiver candidates who had broken down during training, so the omens did not look good for me. While I waited for my fate to be decided, I mentioned my position to a number of former and serving personnel, who were unanimous that I had taken the only sensible decision, as they believed that I would probably not have lasted a week. They suggested that I should still push to be taken onto another intake. After numerous letters and ‘phone calls to various people and regiments, I learned that because there will not be any vacancies at the RMAS until May 2005 I would have to forfeit my place on account of being then too far over the age limit. Although initially preferring the combat arms (hope springs eternal at 28/29) I was willing to opt for anything in order to get in, but it seems to have ultimately come down to there being such an abundance of candidates – some 120 on the waiting lists if I recall – and places being full. Gutted as I am, I can understand why the RMAS did not make an exception for me, when there were plenty of other, younger candidates with regimental sponsors. That said, and in light of my suggestion regarding an extension of age limits, I still feel that I could go through with it despite my age. I gave a good account of myself at my RCB (my second crack at it), and my performance at the physical assessment was particularly highlighted to me – granted, the physical tests are hardly killing, but it was good to hear this. I have always appreciated the importance of physical health and fitness, which accounts for my belief that I would have broken down during training.

At this stage, some months after being told that I won’t be allowed onto another intake, I have no expectation of being able to follow this course, but being one of life’s optimists I am leaving myself open to the chance that the possibility might arise. Theoretically, I believe I am right in thinking that the powers-that-be at the RMAS could even now have a change of heart and let me in - if a sufficient number of vacancies arose or they were prepared to make room for me. However, I don’t think I will be that lucky, though I have known stranger things to happen. I regret having to take the decision I did, but I still believe I did the right thing at the time. Cold comfort now, but there you have it. No doubt it sounds like I 'bottled it', which I didn’t, but I wonder if another in my position wouldn't have done the same thing?

Doubtless this tale of woe will undermine the validity of my initial proposal regarding the extension of the age limit, but I am applying my own experience. My apologies for regurgitating the details of my case here, but it has naturally enough been on my mind for some time now. I actually mentioned this in my first posting back in April, but this was shortly after I left the PCB and before I knew my fate. No doubt there will be those who will say that this is not the best forum to be airing this on, but I have exhausted every official avenue. Despite my own particular situation I still believe there is a case to be made for extending the age limits for recruit and cadet intakes. Speaking for myself, I have a comfortable, well-paid job and I would throw it over tomorrow if I got the chance, so I don’t believe an older candidate’s commitment is at issue. I am not putting myself forward as a shining example of what sort of candidate should be taken in under any age limit extension, but there may well be similar situations to my own out there.

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