Age no obstacle to new lieutenant

Monday, December 16, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Starting a career as a 30-something might not be a problem in many lines of work, but the Army is different.

So when Kelly Kerns walked into the ROTC office at the University of Missouri-Kansas City two years ago, it wasn't his physical appearance that was a problem, it was his age. Kerns, of Lee's Summit, would be on track to graduate at 34, the maximum age for a waiver to become a commissioned officer.

Minus the long hair and paunch he had two years ago, Kerns was commissioned in the Missouri Army National Guard on Saturday when his wife and parents pinned second lieutenant's bars to his uniform in a ceremony at the Liberty Memorial.

Kerns looked into ROTC in the fall of 2000, when Maj. Bryce McCloskey sent a letter to everyone at UMKC who was receiving GI benefits, asking them to consider the Reserve Officers' Training Corps.

Kerns had served four years in the Navy and thought it was the perfect chance to rejoin the military. He had left the Navy in 1992 to take a job as a computer programmer for a medical company, and he missed the pride he felt at serving his country in uniform.

McCloskey was skeptical, though.

"I wasn't being too negative, but I was trying to be realistic," he said. "I thought it'd be too much for him, but he proved me wrong."

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