Monday, December 13, 2004

Retired Doc, 70, Sent to Afghanistan

R. NORMAN MOODY, GANNETT NEWS SERVICE - Dr. John Caulfield thought it had to be a mistake when the Army asked him to return to active duty. After all, he's 70 years old and had already retired - twice. He left the Army in 1980 and private practice two years ago. "My first reaction was disbelief," Caulfield said. "It never occurred to me that they would call a 70-year-old."

In fact, he was so sure it was an error that he ignored the postcards and telephone messages asking if he would be willing to volunteer for active duty to "backfill" somewhere on the East Coast, Europe or Hawaii. That would be OK, he thought. It would release active duty oral surgeons from those areas to go to combat zones in Iraq or Afghanistan. But then the orders came for him to go to Afghanistan.

Today, Caulfield, a colonel from Satellite Beach, Fla., is an example of how the continuing demands of keeping ground troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are forcing the military to go to extraordinary measures to keep its ranks filled. He's attending to patients - U.S. troops, Afghan soldiers and civilians - at the Army's 325th Field Hospital in Bagram, Afghanistan. He is one of about 100 over the age of 60 known to be serving. The Department of Defense couldn't provide exact figures.

Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman, said the service has taken back some 350 soldiers who had already retired from the military. But some of those could have done 20 years of duty and still be only in their late 30s. He did not know how many of the returning retirees are 60 or older. The reason, he said, is clear: "It's the continuing demand in the service."

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home