Officials for the U.S. Army (search), which is struggling to meet enlistment quotas following two years of war in Iraq, announced the policy on Friday. They said raising the age expands the recruiting pool and strengthens the readiness of Reserve units. Another benefit, the Army said in a statement, is the "maturity, motivation, loyalty and patriotism" older recruits will bring to the service.
Physical requirements will remain the same for all recruits regardless of age. Army spokeswoman Maj. Elizabeth Robbins told FOXNews.com that the older recruits will be required to pass the same "standard batter of physical, mental and cognitive tests" and would be expected to enter any environment expected of younger soldiers.
There are many "physically fit, health-conscious individuals in this [age] category who can serve their nation and they do right now," Robbins said.
The Army National Guard missed its recruiting goal for the 2004 fiscal year and is "short across the board right now" in recruiting soldiers for active duty, Reserves and Guardsman, Robbins said. But she added that recruitment during winter months is generally lower than average, while the end of the school year and summer see a jump in enlistments.
The number of Army Reservists and Guardsman mobilized as of March 15 is 47,000 Reservists — about a fifth of the total enlisted reservists and 108,000 Guardsman, nearly a third of the total in the Army's service. Those mobilized can be anywhere, including the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan or local airports.
The latest attempt to attract recruits is one of several initiatives taken by the Army to boost service numbers. Among other efforts, more recruitment offices are on the street and the service has offered several new financial incentives to encourage enlistment.
Robbins said that the Army expected the higher enlistment age to help it reach recruitment goals, but that no specific numerical goal for the older age group was set.
The test program applies only to new recruits and not those currently enlisted soldiers whose age requirements are determined by federal law. The age increase will run to September 2008. After the end of that period, the Army will "collect and analyze statistical data," including how many enlistments were recruited and how many were retained.
FOX News' Nick Simeone contributed to this report.