The Army is tapping into a new pool of potential recruits for the National Guard and the Army Reserve by raising the maximum enlistment age from 34 to 39, officials said yesterday.
The move, described as a three-year test program, is designed to help the Guard and the Reserve meet their recruitment goals when the Iraq war and other pressures are discouraging young people from joining.
The Guard missed its recruiting goal for 2004, and both the Guard and the Reserve are lagging behind their goals so far this year.
The age ceiling for the regular Army is set by law at 34.
Physical standards will not change for the regular Army, the Guard or the Reserve.
For the Guard and the Reserve, the age limit is set by policy and can be changed without approval from Congress, said Maj. Elizabeth Robbins, an Army spokeswoman.
A person one day short of his or her 40th birthday is now eligible to join the Guard or the Reserve; under the old system, the maximum age was 34 years and 364 days.
Census figures show that the change will add about 22 million people to the Army Guard and Reserve recruiting pool. The Army said in a statement that it has not forecast how much this will add to recruit totals.
"Experience has shown that older recruits who can meet the physical demands of military service generally make excellent soldiers based on their maturity, motivation, loyalty and patriotism," the Army said.