When now-Staff Sgt. Clark Jordon walked into an Army recruiting station in Sierra Vista, Arizona, in 2008, he wasn’t the one interested in joining the Army. The appointment was for his daughter, Julie.
At the time, Jordon was a 47-year-old master automotive mechanic who served nearly seven years in the Army in the 1980s. But the country was on the verge of financial crisis, and “things were tough trying to make a living as a mechanic,” Jordon said in a Saturday interview with Army Times.
So when the recruiter first asked if he wanted to join back up, Jordon laughed. He was technically eligible because after factoring in his prior service, his “reentry age” was 41. That was just below the age cap of 42, which was temporarily-raised during the Iraq War surge.
“I was 50 pounds overweight and had to lose 10 minutes off my two-mile run time,” said Jordon.
But his wife was worried about the skyrocketing cost of health insurance, and he was worried about his decreasing workload at the dealership as the auto industry was dragged into the financial crisis. Plus, his daughter, who had to finish high school before going to her own basic training, was willing to help him get in shape.
During his first stint in the Army from 1980 to 1987, Jordon was a wheeled vehicle mechanic stationed in Germany. He enjoyed the work, but he wasn’t promoted beyond specialist thanks to three Article 15 non-judicial punishments he received during his enlistment.
“I didn’t stay in because I kept getting in trouble [off duty],” he said. “Seven years on, I was still a specialist!”
But he gave it another shot. And here he is, a double knee-replacement later, and one year away from an Army retirement next May at the rank of staff sergeant.
One of Jordon’s soldiers described him to Army Times as potentially “the oldest active duty soldier” after he “Googled and Googled and [couldn’t] find someone older.”
Although Jordon likely isn’t the oldest active duty soldier, he’s certainly in a rare demographic. Army officials said there are older staff sergeants, though they did not have an exact number available.
Age hasn’t stopped others from re-enlisting, either. For instance, a 59-year-old Army Reserve soldier, Staff Sgt. Monte Gould, graduated basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, last summer.
After a lengthy enlistment process that required a series of waivers, Jordon successfully signed his contract to rejoin as a wheeled vehicle mechanic. He reported to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in January 2009 for his condensed entry training.
Jordon overcame a health scare there after he collapsed during week three of training and was subsequently hospitalized to recoup his blood count. But he made it through, and then he successfully tested out of his advanced training requirement.
After completing training, he and his wife moved out to his old stomping grounds — Germany, with the now-defunct 170th Infantry Brigade. He even deployed to Afghanistan with the unit in 2011.
While on his way to Afghanistan, Jordon was able to meet up with his daughter in Kuwait, who was also deployed at the time. He also was able to participate in her promotion to sergeant at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in 2012.
Asked what his favorite utility uniform is — he’s worn four different ones over the course of his career — Jordon said he liked the current Army Combat Uniforms the best, because of the boots.
“I imagine if I had back all the hours I had shining boots back in the day, [I’d] have a month’s vacation,” Jordan said.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.