News: Third time’s a charm: Soldier begins third initial enlistment at age 53
Story by Sgt. David Strayer
FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – "You’re only as old as you feel," became the motto of Spc. Dean Buetikofer, who, at age 53, defied convention by beginning his third initial enlistment into the United States military.
As part of this third enlistment, Buetikofer underwent and completed Basic Combat Training again. He is currently training at the Fort Indiantown Gap Medical Battalion Training Site in the Combat Medics course.
“I knew that having to do basic training again wasn’t going to be easy, especially at my age,” said Buetikofer. “I just kept pushing myself in everything that I did; I wasn’t going to give up.”
Buetikofer’s three separate enlistments span across more than three decades and six different presidential terms. His first enlistment into the U.S. Military took place in 1977, an enlistment with the U.S. Air Force.
“I joined the Air Force in 1977 and went to basic training 11 days after graduating high school,” said Buetikofer. “I worked in the Civil Engineers Rapid Deployment Force, our main mission was to crew C-130s and build up bases from scratch.”
After he completed his six-year enlistment in the Air Force, Buetikofer made his way back in the civilian world, acquired a job and carried on until once again he heard the call.
“After several years in the civilian work force I decided to enlist again in 1991, the year my son was born, this time, in the U.S. Army Reserves,” said Buetikofer. “I enlisted as a medic and went to Fort Sam Houston, Texas to receive the training I needed to become a combat medic.”
He again separated from military service to rejoin the civilian work force in 2002, but the feeling of something left undone lingered. After leaving his civilian job and gaining a newfound focus on physical fitness and the conditioning of his body and mind, Buetikofer decided to again join the ranks of the U.S. Military. In 2011 he swore in, enlisting into the Pennsylvania Army National Guard as a medic for his third enlistment. The date of his third enlistment: Oct. 27, his son’s birthday.
“What makes this enlistment special and, I think, more memorable than the others is that I swore in on my son’s birthday,” said Buetikofer. “It really gets (you) in the heart.”
Buetikofer, midway through the 10 week Combat Medics course at the MBTS, is slated to join yet another military unit and move forward with them upon completion of the course.
“I know we have had soldiers come through the school-house on their second initial enlistment as well as soldiers that have reenlisted multiple times,” said Maj. Adam Bickford, medical operations officer and full-time officer in charge of the MBTS. “Spc. Buetikofer’s situation is definitely a unique and interesting one.”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 80 years old,” said Buetikofer. “If you know inside what you really want to do, there shouldn’t be anything that stands in your way or limits you.”