Army basic training at 55, could you do it?

Sgt. 1st Class John Taffe, a Coast Guard employee does push-ups at Army Basic Training.

Sgt. 1st Class John Taffe, a Coast Guard employee does push-ups at Army Basic Training.

 

Written by PA1 David J. Schuhlein

Coast Guard logistics management specialist John Taffe knows what it’s like to attend and complete U.S. Army basic training at the age of 55.

Taffe, who serves with the Director of Operational Logistics command detached to Coast Guard Island Alameda, Calif., just barely made the cut without needing a waiver for his age.

“I came within just a few hours of not being able to join the Army,” said Taffe. “It literally took a call to congress,” he added.

The idea to serve again was rekindled after Taffe was exploring promotional opportunities within the government.

Sgt. 1st Class John Taffe maneuvers an obstacle at Army basic training.

Sgt. 1st Class John Taffe maneuvers an obstacle at Army basic training.

Shortly after reenlisting into the U.S. Army reserve Taffe arrived at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri on March 17, to begin Army basic combat training. The first few days were spent getting shots and completing administrative tasks with his fellow recruits, he added that he thought that it might not be so bad of an experience for him. Then it all changed. Just days into Army basic training, and after letting down his guard a bit he met his permanent drill sergeants for the first time.

Insanity commenced…

“The biggest dude there walked up to me and said ‘You’re mine’,” Taffe said.

Sgt. 1st Class Travaris Strowbridge, drill sergeant, along with Sgt. 1st Class John Taffe at his graduation.

Sgt. 1st Class Travaris Strowbridge, drill sergeant, along with Sgt. 1st Class John Taffe at his graduation.

Taffe was referring to a drill sergeant who never let up the pressure on him the entire time he was there training.

“I respect the fact that he was authentic,” added Taffe.

He says some of the young recruits had a hard time understanding why things were they way they are, but that he always understood and helped mentor others. Taffe added that the drill sergeants never once took it easy on him because of his age, rank or prior status.

Speaking of rank and status, Taffe previously served 14 years in the U.S. Navy leaving active duty in 1991 as a Chief Petty Officer. That’s 23 years ago if you’re counting. He returned to Army basic training at his previous naval rank of E7 but with a new title, Sgt. 1st Class.

Back to basic training after nearly 37 years wasn’t easy according to Taffe. But he kept himself fit and stepped up his workout routine prior to arriving in anticipation of the rigors of boot camp.

Sgt. 1st Class John Taffe

Sgt. 1st Class John Taffe

During his time in the Navy he earned the naval parachutist badge, the master explosive ordnance disposal badge, as well the first class diver badge while working as an explosive ordnance disposal technician commonly known as an EOD tech.

In the end, he helped others more than he set out too, Taffe says a lot of the young guys benefited from having him around and credited him for his inspiration and their motivation to complete basic training.

Taffe a Bronx, New York native and Long Island raised recruit excelled physically scoring more than the maximum 300 points allotted attaining a 331 on the extended scale on his Army physical fitness test. Second highest in the company, highest score going to an 18-year-old recruit.

He started with a company of approximately 180 recruits, and graduated May 29, with about 150.

But it’s not all Army according to Taffe. He credits his coworkers and his boss on the east coast with picking up the slack while he was gone at Army basic training.

“My out-of-office message was set for three months when I left for basic training,” Taffe said with a laugh.

John Taffe at his desk at Coast Guard Base Alameda

John Taffe at his desk at Coast Guard Base Alameda

He described thousands of emails and requests that were in his inbox when he returned to work, yet he quickly realized they had all be handled by his coworkers in his absence. He was elated and humbled.

“I’m looking forward to bringing my experience and knowledge back to the Coast Guard as I serve with the Army reserve,” Taffe says.

He wants to, where possible, use processes and procedures from the Army to help the Coast Guard be more effective and efficient within his scope of his work at DOL.

Join us in sending a Bravo Zulu to John Taffe from All Hands for all his accomplishments!

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