By Lori EganDecember 16, 2008
FORT BENNING, Ga. Mike Finnegan might be the oldest first lieutenant to graduate from the Basic Officer Leader Course II at Fort Benning, Ga.
At 53, he completed the end of course Army Physical Fitness Test Monday with a score of 295, completing 84 push ups, 66 sit ups and running two miles in 15:22.
But it took Finnegan 30 years to get there.
When Finnegan received his commission from Siena College in 1978, he asked for an academic deferment to go to law school. After his graduation from Pace University in New York, the Army was downsizing and serving on active duty wasn't an option, Finnegan said. After seven years of individual ready reserve, Finnegan received an honorable discharge.
"But I never served," he said. "My only active duty time was Airborne School in 1977. It didn't feel honorable."
During the Gulf War, Finnegan again requested active duty, but the Pentagon denied the request, he said. So when he retired as an investment banker from the Wall Street firm of J.P. Morgan in April, he talked with his family about the Army again.
"Because this was my third attempt, my wife didn't really think I had much of a chance of coming back into the Army," Finnegan said. "So she said, go ahead, not thinking it could happen.
"I found out I was going about it all wrong - I needed to ask to be recommissioned."
In May Finnegan, who has four securities licenses in addition to his law license, was recommissioned and branched to the Finance Corps.
"My wife doesn't understand why I would give up my freedom to start over when I've already struggled with establishing a career, but my daughter who is at Cornell said to pursue my dreams and my 16-year-old son said, 'Hooah - go kick ass. My son who is a freshman at Holy Cross agrees with my wife, so the family was split on my decision."
But 2LT Jason Isgrigg, Finnegan's classmate, said it was the right decision for the Army.
"Mike Finnegan brings a lot to the table," Isgrigg, the honor graduate for Class 02-09, that graduated Thursday. "He has so many experiences from the outside world that are applicable to the military. He's a great asset to the military."
Assigned to the 77th Regional Readiness Command in New York, Finnegan said the BOLC III classes at Fort Jackson, S.C., are filled for fiscal 09. He has a class reservation for April 2010.