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51-year-old crushes ACFT, readies for BCT graduation and EOD school

Sgt. Michael Murray, 51, is about to graduate basic combat training — again.

The first time was in 1992, when Murray attended infantry One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Georgia, said Army Training and Doctrine Command spokeswoman Megan Reed.

He later commissioned as an officer, earned a law degree from the University of Southern California, and racked up 17 years of active duty, Army Reserve and National Guard service. Three years ago, he left the military to work in the private sector in Port St. Lucie, Florida, according to a Fort Jackson news release.

But Murray decided he wanted to finish off his military career, so he enlisted once again and headed off to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for a second round of basic training earlier this year.

“At one point I never thought I would go back but I took a look at myself and I was feeling good,” Murray said in the release. “I just had this urge to finish what I started.”

Murray arrived for basic combat training this February as part of his reenlistment with the Florida National Guard’s 221st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company in Camp Blanding. In order to rejoin, he had to resign his previous commission as a captain and re-enter as a sergeant, the release said.

Murray is several weeks from graduation. And while the new Army Combat Fitness Test rollout has been suspended until further notice, it’s still a required part of finishing basic training. Murray scored a 433 on the new test, meaning he reached the “heavy physical demands” category, said Reed.

Sgt. Michael Murray, a trainee assigned to 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, Fort Jackson, South Carolina, low crawls under a razor wire obstacle during the final training event - The Forge. (Lt. Col. Jason Dudley/Army)
Sgt. Michael Murray, a trainee assigned to 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, Fort Jackson, South Carolina, low crawls under a razor wire obstacle during the final training event - The Forge. (Lt. Col. Jason Dudley/Army)

During Murray’s time with his training unit, he’s been allowed to wear his deployment patches and Ranger Tab. After he graduates, he’ll be working to pin on the EOD badge, too. Murray will attend eight weeks of advanced training at Fort Lee, in Virginia, before heading back to his home state for 28 weeks of EOD training at Eglin Air Force Base on the Florida panhandle.

“I want to serve my state. I didn’t just want to sit back and be an observer during state emergencies,” Murray said in the release. “My unit said the only way I could join is I had to go enlisted, but that’s the job I wanted, the job of a team leader.”

Others who have been out of the service for more than two years were also in Murray’s training class, though he was the oldest. Another member of Murray’s company, Sgt. Eric Le, is a 34-year-old prior service Marine.

“Having each other to rely on helps us get through it,” Le said in the release. “With every graduation requirement, like the range or physical training, we get after each one of us to see who can do it better. It’s a great motivator.”

In mid-January, Army Times also reported on a 59-year-old former soldier and Afghanistan veteran who would be returning to Fort Jackson in June after a 10-year break in military service.

Even that soldier is not the oldest to attend basic combat training. Army Recruiting Command said that a 68-year-old had shipped to basic training in 1999.

Bringing recruits in through basic training has been a challenge for the Army as it adjusts to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The service paused bringing in new recruits on April 6 and resumed shipments two weeks later. Fort Jackson also suffered an outbreak of more than 50 coronavirus cases within one training battalion last month.

Since then, Army officials said the post has been given four testing devices that can run approximately 750 tests locally each day.

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