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.
at the Fort McCoy Retiree Appreciation Day activities listen to
a presentation from a guest speaker Sept. 2. (File
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.)