61-year-old joins the Army, hopes to follow in father's footsteps
January 29, 2013
After retiring from a radiology private practice, Richard Theodore "Ted" Mull begins yet another career this year. The 61-year-old has rejoined the Army and is heading off to the Officer Basic Leadership Course this month at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
The seasoned radiologist who now has commissioned as a Lt. Col. in the Army will now be faced with living and working under "field" conditions which includes setting up and working in a field hospital. He will be training approximately 25 miles south of Fort Sam Houston at Camp Bullis and exposed to weapons training, day and night land navigation, communications training, basic first-aid training, evacuation of casualties and Nuclear Biologic and Chemical training under strenuous conditions that are difficult for today's young Soldiers.
These harsh and yet strenuous conditions are not stopping Mull from pursuing his goal. He's ready to face the challenge. "The last time I received Army medical officer training was 30 years ago." Mull suspects that the officer training is longer and more formal which interrupts to more physically demanding. "I have lost a few steps over the years but if I can just pass the current version of BOLC, then my family and I are on our way to serve in Korea," Mull said.
He recalls what it is like to be standing in the military boots when he served as a resident active duty radiologist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center immediately after graduating from Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. Following his residency at Walter Reed, Mull returned back to Augusta, Ga., where he served about two more years as a staff radiologist at Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon.
This time, Mull is leaving from Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell, Ky., Where patriotism seems to be contagious.
"I caught a bad case of "gung ho" from the local young Soldiers and volunteered to join them on active duty with the U.S. Army Medical Corps last year. I was finally accepted as a Lt. Col. in the U.S Army Reserves," said Mull.
One might ask how a 61-year old can join the Army today. It seems a bit complicated. Presuming that Mull is able to pass OBLC, he and his family go next to a duty assignment in Korea, he will turn 62 years old during his first month overseas in Korea. Mull was allowed to join because he already had nearly five years of prior service in the Army. The Army occasionally grants age waivers, and often allows veterans who re-enlist or are re-commissioned to subtract prior active duty time from their current calendar age, if the math enables them to fall below the maximum entry age. A more popular Army program is available exclusively to older non-veterans, which is called Officer Accession Pilot Program (OAPP), which extends the Opportunity to Serve to Practicing Physicians. The Army's OAPP permits reduction of the minimal Military Service Obligation (MSO) period to two years for experienced and qualified health care professionals in the age range of 43 to 60 years old, who are seeking initial appointment as an Officer in the Army Medical Corps.
Mull has led an interesting adult career. Soon after college, he served as a Nuclear Engineer for the Atomic Energy Convention, manufacturing plutonium at the Savannah River Plant near Augusta, Ga. where radioactive fissionable material was produced for use in atomic bombs. He would drive past the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Ga. every day on his way to work but one day he decided to stop in and talk with the admission officer.
Choosing the radiology field was a simple decision for Mull. "I was an engineer and a physicist - so Radiology seemed to fit."
After he completed his schooling, Mull felt the best residency available was Walter Reed but had to join the Army to get the residency of his choosing.
"Now after practicing in the civilian sector for 23 years in private practice, I'm rejoining now to pay back the career I got out from the Army."
Mull's career as a physician in private practice included 13 years as a partner in a five-man group near his childhood home town in North Carolina and for eight years as a partner in an eight-man group in southern West Virginia, along the border of Virginia and West Virginia.
According to Mull moving from private practice and returning to the government was a familiar territory, "It is a matter of retiring and finding a new challenge. I remember how excited I was to put on those Army boots the first time and now, much later, I'm finally getting the chance to put them back on."
Another bonus for Mull in returning to work for the Army as a civilian and an active duty radiologist is the possibility of an additional retirement income. An extra retirement income stream might prove useful to the long-term support his two late surprises in life - an eight year-old son and a six-year old daughter. Mull says that he and his family are excited about moving to the next phase of their lives and about giving his children a travel experience in Korea that not very many U.S. children are able to experience.
Although Mull is happy about another challenge and is excited about returning to the Army, he ultimately would like to do a tour of duty in the same geographic area where his father, Garland Theodore Mull, served during World War II. His father, a combat medic, was stationed with the US Army's 181st General Hospital for four years in Karachi & North Malir, Pakistan, (then, India) - which is located near the Arabian Sea, about 500 miles due south of the active US Army base at Kandahar, Afghanistan.
After graduating OBLC, Mull has requested a deployment to Afghanistan as soon as possible in order to return to the region his father spoke about for so many years. He said that his current leadership will not make any promises because of the extreme physical demands a combat deployment might place on an older physician, but they finally agreed to place him as a "second-string alternate" on their deployment list.
"My father died about two years ago at 92 years of age and used to talk a lot about his own deployment to that part of the world." Mull still holds onto one of his dad's letters to his mother, Eleanor, a local North Carolina newspaper reporter published in 1944. "My father knew a great deal about the local language and customs, and even now I still get excited when I recall the adventure stories I heard at his knee. These are the kind of adventures you can never forget."
Chief of Blanchfield Army Community Hospital's Radiology Department Maj. Paul Shogan said, "It is with amazing courage that Dr. Richard T. Mull, M.D. has decided to re-join the US Army Medical Corps as a Diagnostic Radiologist at his current age. Dr. Mull completed his Diagnostic Radiology Residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the late 1980s and in the interim has practiced in various clinical settings. The soldiers under Dr. Mull's care will benefit from his wealth of knowledge, dedication and desire to serve."