How Old Is Too Old to Join the Military?

Joining military later in life
Master Sgt. Angela Wilson poses inside 1st Fighter Wing Headquarters on Sept. 23, 2020, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. Wilson joined the Air National Guard in 2008 and made history when she graduated basic military training at 40 years old. (Tech. Sgt. Lucretia Cunningham/U.S. Air National Guard)

Here are a few of the questions I have received recently about basic training. Even if you aren't over 30, read the answers carefully. I always like to say every five minutes of reading you do on basic training before you leave will reduce your amount of push-ups by 5%. If you have any questions you would like me to address, please go to and email me.

Question from Cheryl:

SGT Volkin, I am joining the military at 34 years old. I used to run a lot but after having a couple kids and taking a few years off of exercising, I am not sure I can keep up with the 18-23 age group anymore. What can I do?

Answer: Actually, basic training isn't about competing with other recruits; it's about meeting military standards and exceeding your expectations. In my book, there is an eight-week fitness guide that walks you through, day by day, specific basic training workouts. Follow that guide, and you will far exceed any military standard.

Update: This letter writer emailed me back after she completed the workout described in my book. She claims she is doing one-arm push-ups now for the first time ever! She also reported she just ran her fastest two-mile run in her life after only eight weeks of training.

Question from Paul:

I am 40 years old and want to serve my country; with the new military age limit, I now have my chance. Will the younger recruits be looking to me for guidance simply because of my age?

Answer: The answer to your question is twofold, yes and no. At first, some recruits will look to you for guidance simply because of your age. However, after they get accustomed to basic training and drill sergeants, they will learn quickly not to listen to what other recruits say and only what their drill sergeants say (or yell).

Question from Rick:

I am over 40 and joining the military. Will drill sergeants view me differently?

Answer: Actually, drill sergeants view everyone differently but treat everyone the same. The drill sergeant's job is to break you down mentally as a civilian and build you up into a soldier in a very short time. To do this, a drill sergeant must be tough so you may get a couple cracks at your age, but don't worry too much about it. They are just testing your mental fitness.

SGT Michael Volkin is the author of The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook: Tips, Tricks and Tactics for Surviving Boot Camp, available at

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