At 59, Staff Sgt. Monte Gould is the oldest-ever graduate of the Army's current Basic Combat Training Course, finishing Aug. 27 in the top 10% of his class. Now, a decade or two older than retirement age for most career soldiers, he's starting a new journey -- with plans to join his son, Spc. Jarrod Gould, in the 405th Civil Affairs Battalion's Las Vegas detachment.
In an Army news release, Staff Sgt. Gould spoke about the challenge of making it through the rigorous BCT, the Army's entry-level training course. A veteran of the Marine Corps and Army National Guard, Gould went through boot camp in 1978 -- more than four decades earlier.
The BCT experience, Gould said, was "completely different."
"One, I was in the Marines, and this is the Army. And two, it is 43 years later," he said in a released interview. "The context is this. It'd be like taking a guy that went through Marine Corps boot camp in 1944 and putting him back in boot camp in 1986."
Though much older than his fellow trainees, Gould said in the interview that he didn't indulge in self-pity.
"After the first two weeks (here) I said to myself, 'This isn't going to be hard,'" he recalled. "And anytime it did get a little bit hard, I just said, 'Dude, what are you whining about? You've been through way worse than this.'"
BCT was "absolutely not" harder than his first entry-level training cycle as a Marine recruit, he said.
However, "I couldn't physically do now what I did then."
He'd left the Marine Corps to work in civilian law enforcement, then enlisted in the Army National Guard in the early 2000s as an infantryman, according to the release. After serving until 2009, he once again hung up his uniform. He came back this year, according to the release, because he's two years shy of earning a military retirement pension.
But "I'll stay as long as they have me," Gould said.
He did have praise for the 10-week BCT, which he went through at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, with 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment. He said the physical training was better-organized and designed to avoid stress injuries.
It was "better planned, better choreographed, better executed in that it wasn't just 'PT until you die' kind of thing," said Gould. "You didn't PT until exhaustion. You PT'd with a purpose, and you physically trained to the point where your body developed and your muscles had time to heal."
When drill sergeants administered corrective PT, they didn't work recruits until muscle failure, like drill instructors did in the Marine Corps in the 1970s, he added in the release. Still, that didn't stop his knees from swelling up and sending him to sick call multiple times over the course of training.
"But the amount of squats that we do consistently and constantly was really rough on my joints. And it was a matter of being rough on it initially and my body getting used to it," he said.
He was also satisfied with the better PT uniforms.
"When I was in the Marine Corps, we ran in boots and utility pants and T-shirts," Gould said. "We weren't authorized tennis shoes."
Despite Gould's 18 years of military experience, he said he was able to connect with his fellow recruits.
"I think a lot of the kids were kind of awestruck or gobsmacked that I was here doing this because to them -- I mean when I was 17, a 59-year-old man, that's an old man," he said. "But I think the kids had that as an influence, and they're like, 'Oh my God, this guy's 59,' and then I'm doing the PT and doing everything with them -- you know, doing the road marches, doing everything they're doing."
For the record, according to the release, Gould is not the oldest-ever graduate of BCT. A 68-year-old completed an earlier version of the course in 1999.
-- Bing Xiao can be reached at email@example.com.