Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, resigned his direct commission as an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve, it was reported recently. Although he was 43 years old at the time of his commissioning, three years over age, he sought an age waiver and got it.
Biden was serving as a public affairs officer; mostly, he went to Norfolk, Va., once a month and did a weekend of service. The twist here is that Biden was forced to resign because he had tested positive for cocaine in June 2013.
A direct commission is a little-known entry point to get into the military. It’s a way for experienced professionals to serve; it’s mostly done for doctors, nurses and dentists. But age 40 is pretty much the brick wall for those outside of those disciplines.
I know this because I tried to get an age waiver for a direct commission as a Naval Reserve public affairs officer in 2002.
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I was at least two years younger than Biden.
My experience in the Naval Reserve recruiting process was labyrinthine. I tried several times to get interviews by recruiters and eventually was asked by one of them if I “knew any senators.”
I did. Actually, the senators weren’t as much help as a few new friends in the Naval Reserve who held high ranks. I was then asked to go to the Pentagon to interview.
The interviews went well, and it probably didn’t hurt that I had a cartoon on The Washington Post editorial page that morning. As I sat down in a captain’s office, I looked out his window to a freshly plastered wall in one of the inner rings of the Pentagon.
“See that?” he asked. “That’s where the nose cone of the plane stopped.”
My ratings came back from my interviews: “Poster boy for Naval recruiting,” one of them said. “Lock to break out into the top third,” another said.
I don’t know what Hunter Biden’s interview ratings were like. But mine were 9s and 10s. I passed the physical in August 2002.
My commissioning board was to meet in October. Three weeks before the board met, I got a letter from Naval Recruiting Command in Millington, Tenn. It was from a lieutenant commander, noting that I was over 40, and, therefore, ineligible to get a commission.
I called the admiral in charge of Naval Reserve Public Affairs, who was very supportive of my nomination. He basically said, “… well, I don’t know what happened.” He was upset.
I spent the next year trying to get before a commissioning board. As they say in the Navy, I just wanted the straight gouge. My case got kicked up to the three-star admiral in charge of the Naval Recruiting Command. Nope. This was after a personal entreaty from Sen. John Warner, the GOP chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Jack Murtha, who was the ranking Democrat on House Defense Appropriations subcommittee. Those are pretty good recommendations. I had never met them, either.
Now, why I didn’t get the commission is still unclear to me. I still have all the correspondence, and, trust me, it’s voluminous.
But I can tell you that 13 years later, when I read Ensign Hunter Biden, USNR, got in at 43, and then blew it, literally, on cocaine, I guess I have to admit I was a little mad. I can only surmise how he got it. I doubt his father even had to make a call. They can read.
After I was denied an age waiver, I had a long conversation with a man named Blake Gottesman. Gottesman was President George W. Bush’s personal assistant, the so-called “body man.” I asked Blake if he could do anything.
He said, “We are not allowed to do things like that. That’s not how it works.”
Maybe Blake worked for the wrong administration.