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How did Your Retirement Services Develop?

By Bill Hursh, Army Retirement Services Office

On November 14, 1955 the Army established the first Retired Activities Unit at Headquarters Department of the Army (HQDA). The mission of the Retired Activities Unit was to provide a specific point of contact where Retired Soldiers would receive assistance and information on all matters pertaining to their retirement. From these humble beginnings today’s Army Retirement Services Program developed.

Within six months of activation, the Army’s Retirement Services Program increased to seven Retirement Activities Units with the activation of units at the seven Army headquarters. The first Retirement Activities Unit outside the continental United States was established in April 1958 at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. In May 1959 the Army announced the establishment of a Retirement Activities Unit at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, the first Retirement Activities Unit in a foreign country. By July 1960, the Army was providing assistance to Retired Soldiers at 102 sites worldwide to include Korea, Canal Zone Panama, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Philippines, and Germany.

The Army quickly recognized the need to communicate with Retired Soldiers and launched the inaugural issue of the Retired Army Personnel Bulletin in March 1956 which continues today as “Army Echoes” the newsletter for Retired Soldiers, surviving spouses, and annuitants. In the first issue of the Retired Army Personnel Bulletin, General Maxwell Taylor, Chief of Staff of the Army asked Retired Soldiers to avail themselves of the services offered by the newly established Retired Activities Program to keep informed on the Army and to speak out for the kind of Army needed to keep America strong and free.

The January 1959 edition of the Retired Army Personnel Bulletin contained an article that discussed various activities on installations to honor Retired Soldiers. Over the years, the various activities of the installation “Open House” days for Retied Soldiers developed into the yearly Army Installation Retiree Appreciation Day (RAD). The activities described at Fort McPherson, Camp Kilmer, Fort Sheridan, and Fort Sam Houston contained many of the components we recognize in today’s Army RADs.

Until 1964, the Army’s Retired Activities Program lacked the pre-retirement counseling and assistance component of the modern Army Retirement Services Program. In 1964 Retired Activities Officers started to hold conferences that briefed Soldiers approaching retirement on benefits and programs. In order to get up to date information to Soldiers approaching retirement, the Army Retired Activities started in 1969 to publish a pre-retirement newsletter called “Outlook”.

Within fifteen years of its inception November 14, 1955, the Army Retirement Services Program developed into a program that a Soldier retiring today would easily recognize. A program that provides preretirement counseling and assistance to the retiring Soldier as well as retirement benefits information and assistance to the Retired Soldier. The components of today’s Retirement Services Program such as RADs, an Army newsletter to keep Retired Soldiers, their families, and survivors informed, and Retirement Service Offices worldwide were also developed in the first fifteen years of the program. While retirement benefits and the technology to deliver counseling and information change, the inherent need to assist the Retired Soldiers who gave so much to the Army and the nation remains unchanged.

Retired Soldiers, The Army’s Bridge to the Nation's Communities
When the Retirement Services Program was first established on November 14, 1955, the Army’s Senior Leaders believed the approximately 100,000 Retired Soldiers at that time had the capability to act as the Army’s spokespersons in their communities to establish favorable public relations. Over the years, the Army’s senior leadership has continued to ask Retired Soldiers to provide their communities with information and understanding of the Army that only one who served can provide. This view of the Retired Soldier as the bridge between the Army and the civilian community is as valid today as it was 60 years ago. Your commitment as a Retired Soldier to provide a valuable link between the Army and your communities to strengthen their understanding of the Army is the spirit that makes you a true “Soldier for Life”.