16 June 2009

Then and now: Army Captain continues career 20 years after retirement

Army Capt. Samuel Carlson, left, and Army Maj. Ryan O'Connor, then assigned to Combined Joint Task Force 101, pose at Bagram Airfield in 2005 during Carlson's first tour to Afghanistan. Photo: Amber Robinson.

From a friend currently serving with Captain Carlson who sent me the link:

This guy was serving on active duty before almost everyone over here was even born and he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the 1990s!!! He retired from the National Guard and when he came back on active duty his rank was Captain. It feels very odd to have this 60 year old Grandpa calling me Sir and saluting. He's very sweet and everyone teases him about his nickname of "OCITA" which means, "Oldest Captain in the Army."

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHANK, Afghanistan - The average Army career, if a Soldier chooses to make a life of the service, is a little more than 20 years. But for one jovial 62-year old Army captain, 20 years hardly seemed like enough.

Capt. Samuel Carlson, an intelligence officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Task Force Spartan, is on his second voluntary tour to Afghanistan. For a Soldier to volunteer to come to a combat zone twice is one thing; but to voluntarily deploy after being retired for more than 20 years is quite another.

Carlson came into the Army on May 9, 1967 as an infantryman and later transitioned to intelligence operations. He served in various conflicts until he officially retired on Oct. 1, 1987.

Samuel Carlson, now an Army captain, receives his commission to second lieutenant at Daley Barracks, Bad Kissingen, Germany, in front of the unit's Sherman Tank memorial. Carlson was 31 when he received his commission. Photo: Amber Robinson.

In 1991, Carlson volunteered to return and serve in Operation Desert Storm. Although his mission to Kuwait was cancelled due to the short duration of the fight, he chose to stay on active status.

Carlson served with the Texas National Guard from 1992 to 1995, working as the executive officer of the 502nd Military Police Battalion out of Fort Worth, Texas. He commanded the unit after it reorganized until his second retirement. He volunteered to come into the service again after the attacks of 9/11.

"That [ticked] me off," Carlson said. "I took that personally. I had family that worked in the World Trade Center, so that made it personal."

Carlson served with the 308th Military Intelligence Battalion, 902nd Military Intelligence Group, on his first tour in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2006. He returned to the United States for a short period before serving with Task Force Spartan with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan's Logar province this time around.

Carlson's love of the service is based on simple principles, he said, but it keeps him going.

"I missed Soldiers," Carlson said. "In the civilian world, it's hard to find the same camaraderie, teamwork and sense of brotherhood that you find in the Army."

Carlson's conventional military career spanned the globe. He served in El Salvador, Honduras, Germany, South Korea and a short stint in Vietnam.

Carlson's grandfather served in WWI and his father in WWII and Korea. His son will be deploying to Afghanistan soon, and to top it all off, his grandson is currently stationed in Korea.

The "Oldest Captain in the Army" plans to retire for the third and final time when Task Force Spartan completes its deployment at the end of the year, but with this guy, who knows?

Sheesh. Read the whole thing.

Update, Dec 2009: In the comments Sam "OCITA" Carlson writes to say that his son 1SG Carlson arrived in Afghanistan in July shortly after this post was written. His grandson David will deploy to Afghanistan from Korea soon, but probably after Sam returns with TF Spartan to Fort Drum.

Gee, Sam, if you could stay a little longer you guys could have a family reunion in Afghanistan. Sheesh, again!

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