[ Triad Online Home ]                                                                                    November 25, 2005
News

Army Retirement Service Office celebrates 50 years of helping Soldiers, families

By Laura Paul, Army News Service

      WASHINGTON, D.C. - Nov. 14 marked the 50th anniversary of a program that was designed to keep retiring Soldiers close to the Army for the rest of their life.

Photo: Attendees at the Fort McCoy Retiree Appreciation Day activities listen to a presentation from a guest speaker Sept. 2. (File photo)
Attendees at the Fort McCoy Retiree Appreciation Day activities listen to a presentation from a guest speaker Sept. 2. (File photo)

      The Army Retirement Service Office (RSO) has been helping Soldiers and families transition into retirement and continuing to support them in retirement for 50 years.

      Of course, the Army has been retiring Soldiers for more than 50 years.

      This anniversary commemorates the creation of a separate office and program at Headquarters, Department of the Army (HQDA).

      In 1955, the retired population was growing. Army retirees alone had increased almost sevenfold from about 15,000 before World War II, to almost 100,000 after Korea. In September of that year, the assistant secretary of defense for manpower and personnel recommended that all services look into establishing a Retired Activities Branch. That same month, the Army chief of staff directed establishment of a Retired Activities Branch. On Nov. 14, the Retired Activities Unit was stood up as part of the Personal Affairs Section, Personnel Services Branch in the Office of the Adjutant General.

      The Army's commitment to its retirees was made clear in the circular announcing the new unit, "To further the maintenance of a strong bond between the active Army and its retired members, commanders at all levels are enjoined to encourage a more personal relationship in all dealings with retired personnel."

      In the early days of the program, about 22 staff members served all retirees, answering letters and phone calls and even receiving visits to the one office in Washington, D.C. Even then, similar offices were being started in the different parts of the Army throughout the world.

      Today, the HQDA Army Retirement Services office is staffed by only six people, but the network of those serving retiring and retired Soldiers, families and surviving spouses has grown. Now, retiring Soldiers and spouses and more than 900,000 retired Soldiers and surviving spouses are served by 110 installation Retirement Services Officers worldwide.

      At Fort McCoy, the RSO has provided services for more than 20 years and currently serves retirees in the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Northern Illinois, Nevada and California, said Bill Walters, installation Retirement Services officer. This includes an Army retiree and survivor population of 120,000 and a total (all services) retiree population of 435,000, giving the McCoy RSO the largest service population of more than 60 other RSOs worldwide. 

      The Fort McCoy RSO conducts a Retiree Appreciation Day (RAD) at Fort McCoy in September each year and sponsors and is involved with 10 annual RADs throughout the seven-state assigned service area.  It publishes two  editions of an annual newsletter, Honors. The west coast edition includes information for retirees residing in California and Nevada, while the midwest edition includes information for those retirees living in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa and Illinois. 

      The RSO also provides pre-retirement briefings for those military personnel preparing to retire.  The Fort McCoy RSO is located in building 2187 and is open weekdays from 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Appointments are encouraged.

      Walters can be contacted at (800) 452-0923 or via e-mail at william.walters@emh2.mccoy.army.mil.            

     One force multiplier are retirees themselves who live up to the motto  "Still Serving." Often that service comes through participation in the installation retiree council. These councils, made up of appointed retiree volunteers, bring retiree concerns to the attention of the installation and, if warranted, to the Army Chief of Staff's (CSA) Retiree Council.

      The CSA Retiree Council, begun in 1972, is a group of 14 retired Soldiers, appointed by the CSA. They meet annually at the Pentagon to review issues surfaced by installation retiree councils. After briefings and consultations, the council decides which issues merit the attention of Army leadership. The council's annual report is posted on the Web site.

      Retired Sgt. 1st Class Dan Horn has been part of the Fort Polk, La., Retirement Services Office both as a Soldier and a civilian employee. A few years after his military retirement, he decided he "wanted to give something back," so he got involved in the Fort Polk Retiree Council, which he now chairs.

      Over the years, the Fort Polk Council has seen issues that it and other councils have forwarded to the CSA Retiree Council improve the lives of retirees and families.

      Horn points to the changes in receipt of retired and disability pay as an example.       "Councils asked for a change in the system that reduced retired pay by disability pay," Horn said. "Now some retirees are getting some of that money back through CRDP (Concurrent Retirement and Disability  Payments) and CRSC (Combat-Related Special Compensation)."

      For more on the Army Retirement Services Office see http://www.armyg1.army.mil/retire.  

 (Editor's note: Paul is with Army Retirement Services.)

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