Army Reserves at 41 as an MI Captain

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Army Reserves at 41 as an MI Captain

Post by justglassin »

Apologies for the long post. I'm seeking some advice or insights from others who have served or are still serving in the reserves as I consider returning to the Army as a reserve intel officer. I served 5 years as an infantry officer post 9/11 and left after my initial commitment to pursue some academic and other professional goals in 2008. This was not an easy decision and frankly I missed the association with the uniform and camaraderie almost immediately.

But things have worked out well. I'm in a good job as a senior civil servant in the Defense Department managing an interesting portfolio of research and development projects with as much interesting travel (frequently combined with annual leave) as I could ask for as well as enough latitude/autonomy to pretty much always be working on or initiating one or two projects in new technical and operational areas that are intrinsically interesting and impactful. Having been in this job for over a decade, some aspects of it grate on me (as would any job -- even astronauts file travel claims!) but I still feel it's a unicorn more days than not.

That being said, the window for me to serve in uniform again is finite. I have contacted the NCO in my region who handles these sorts of things and she says I don't have to seek an age waiver at this time. As I was branch-detailed Military Intelligence, I would return to uniform as an MI officer as an O-3 (Captain) grade and would immediately need to go to the RC MICCC (though for reservists most of that is correspondence/video conference).

This MI affiliation is another reason I'm considering this. My current job (in the DC area) has me well networked into a host of national security-related agencies and commands that frequently have openings for reservists in short-term mobilizations (90-120 days). I don't understand all the ins and outs of individual mobilization augmentee (IMA) assignments vs TPU status, but have friends who are doing some pretty interesting mobilizations here and there as IMAs and all in all it seems like a great arrangement, particularly from the POV of having an insiders perspective on potential opportunities in the national security enterprise.

So, what am I not considering? I'm single, no kids, enjoy a very active social and recreational life away from my job, am in the best shape I've ever been in, and am fine with deployment -- although 15 months in Iraq was admittedly a grind when I was active duty. As I'm a fed, the risk of a deployment derailing my career in the civil service is minimal (I'm a GS15 and vying for SES just does not interest me now and probably never will).

I'd welcome thoughts/advice or illumination of potential blindspots that I may be missing as I put my packet together. If you're a reservist, what's been your experience? TPU or IMA? What have you liked and disliked? Are the benefits (medical/dental in particular) a factor in your staying in? What is the typical commitment for a Reserve appointment/enlistment-- what do you owe in drilling/TPU or IMA status vs IRR? e.g., 2 yrs "active" reserve (IMA or TPU) + 6 yrs IRR?

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Re: Army Reserves at 41 as an MI Captain

Post by chevca »

Go for it! Sounds like you want to do it. And, the reasons I'd say not to if you had a family, kids, or were out of shape don't apply. I don't see any reason for you not to do it.

I was enlisted and did some Reserve time after my active duty time. I didn't find it worth it because I missed too much time with my kids as a divorced dad and there were no decent jobs for me without reclassifying as an old Infantry guy. The only thing that might have kept me in would have been the retirement and medical part. A Reserve retirement paycheck wouldn't have been all that much for me as an enlisted guy. As and officer, it would probably be a more meaningful amount. But, that doesn't kick in until you're 60 years old as a Reserve retiree. That age limit changes if you do active duty time as a Reservist... the more you do the sooner you can collect, IIRC.

It's too easy to meet the yearly drill requirements. I've actually forgotten all the terms (MUTA/UTA?) and numbers. But, just going to drill each weekend a month gets you past the required number each year. Let alone the 2 weeks a year and any other mobilizations you might do. I think the requirement was 40 something and I'd always end up around 70 for the year just doing the weekend a month and 2 weeks a year deal. One thing to keep in mind though, as a Captain you would likely be doing more than just a weekend a month. As one moves up in rank, it becomes more and more that you're involved above the one weekend a month deal. If that's not a big deal to you, then no worries. I didn't like it when it seemed like I was doing something Reserve related weekly.
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Re: Army Reserves at 41 as an MI Captain

Post by Mathew675 »

I think Chevca said a lot of the points I would make. The downsides are that you have a weekend a month which means you will generally go to work for 12 days straight at some point each month, a lot of unpaid volunteer time as an Officer, and I would throw in there that there is a huge culture shock going from active to Reserves. I like to say it's the worst part of the Army crammed into one weekend. But in reality, it's really not that bad and you called out a lot of the benefits which keep me in. I have 7 more years to go as a Reservist but came back in as a Captain with about the same active duty time as yourself. It's harder now that I have kids but it is doable. It is also a lot easier to forge your own path which it sounds like you are interested in such as taking IMA assignments (which you can buy back your FERS time after return). It really is an interesting lifestyle and the pay is not bad, where else are you going to have a part time job with a pension attached? You don't get BAH but there are a few carrots they give you like double pay for each drill day you attend, access to military benefits, etc. I have also seen a lot of people come in, decide they hate it, and leave within a year. There's nothing stopping you as an Officer, you basically go in and decide for yourself what the plan is. If I went back in time I would make the same decision to join up again (or buy a lot of AMZN).
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Re: Army Reserves at 41 as an MI Captain

Post by Globalviewer58 »

Can you check out the local MI unit and chat with some Company grade membership? You might learn about the time requirement beyond the weekend plus 2 weeks. One of my ROTC friends was placed in a unit with a CO that wanted him in every weekend plus weeknight prep time. A major time suck and not much he could do about it for 6 years. As another poster often notes, YMMV. Good luck with your pre-decision Intel Op.
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Re: Army Reserves at 41 as an MI Captain

Post by flamesabers »


I've been on active duty for five years and in the reserves as a TPU soldier for about the last eight years. I've always been enlisted and logistics is my line of work.

I think one thing to consider is how do you feel about pursuing two careers simultaneously? Being a federal employee helps a lot in this regard, but you still have to budget your time between the two positions. Are you willing to put in the extra time necessary to get promoted and/or to serve in a command position? How would you feel about being promoted less quickly in your civilian job because you're spending a lot of time attending training courses and leadership schools?

Another consideration is the potential age/experience gap between you and your peers. Depending on what unit you go to, the lieutenants and captains you may be working with could be 10+ years younger then you or have extensive experience as an NCO prior to being commissioned as on officer later on in their army career.

A third consideration is the culture shock you'll be facing with a 11 year break in service and being in a different component then what you originally were in. For one, the wear-out date for the UCP uniform is September 30th of this year and it's being replaced with the OCP uniform. PT, or PRT as it's called now will probably be different then what you remembered.

The Tricare Reserve Select health insurance is definitely a good perk for being a reservist I think. Another is having access to the TSP. I mostly enjoy the work I do and usually find it to be fulfilling. Whenever I want to seek out new challenges, it's usually available. I'm also blessed to have good leadership in my unit.

One downside is once you obtain a certain level of rank/responsibility, the amount of work you have to do isn't compatible with the amount of paid time you get. For me, one weekend a month and two weeks a year isn't enough time to be a good NCOIC of a supply room when there is no full-time staff dedicated to ensuring routine supply tasks and paperwork are being taken care of. Having to do work on your own time is pretty much a given if you hold a leadership position or are in charge of a section.

Another problem for me is striking the balance between my military and civilian career. Not all training or schooling can be done online during the evenings and weekends. Being absent from work for 2-4 weeks to attend a NCOES can be a lot to ask for from your civilian employer. While USERRA officially protects service members from being fired/laid off for missing work for military duties, that may not quite be the case if you live in a "at-will" employment state. I haven't personally experienced this yet, but a number of my peers in my unit have had issues with their civilian employers.
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Re: Army Reserves at 41 as an MI Captain

Post by justglassin »

Big thanks to everyone who has chimed in. Your views and comments on the pros and cons, and especially the unstated realities such as extra effort beyond the as-advertised one weekend/two weeks in TPU, are truly helpful. All the best!
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Re: Army Reserves at 41 as an MI Captain

Post by Carolina Shagger »

I was on active duty only a couple of years then spent another 26 years in the Reserve. I was an officer. I was both in TPUs and also an IMA. Some TPUs required very little additional time as I had great first sergeants and full time technicians. Other TPU assignments required a lot more time. I commanded a very large Company as a major (because of the size the commander position called for a major). Lots of extra work! But at least I got extra pay for some of it. I then went into IMA positions and loved them. Very interesting work in some non-conventional positions. And if you can get extra time off work without sacrificing your civilian career, there are great opportunities for interesting short term assignments. I was lucky enough to have supervisors who supported my reserve time and was able to take advantage of some of these assignments. The assignments were so different from my civilian job that they seemed like a vacation. Plus some interesting travel: all across the US, Germany, Italy, Korea, etc.
One thing to be aware of is that in a TPU as you progress in rank, there will be fewer positions. If there are no positions in your geographic as well as career area you may have to go into the IMA program. Also it gets very political.
I'd say go for it! And the retirement isn't half bad either. The only part-time job you can retire from.
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Re: Army Reserves at 41 as an MI Captain

Post by goldendad »

I did 7 years active (Navy pilot) and 13 in the reserves to retire with 20 good years. I am 63 and have been drawing a reserve retirement for 3 years. My wife and I are on TriCare Select medical and like it. Overall no regrets so far.
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