CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq -- Whoever said ‘An old dog can’t learn new tricks’ never met Maj. James Charette, who deployed here with the 2nd Marine Division after coming out of retirement.
Charette, a Goshen, N.Y., native, and liaison officer for the Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned, is the division’s link to data concerning lessons in war fighting within the division. He mobilized for duty after nearly seven years away and found that the Corps is an ever-evolving institution.
At age 50, Charette doesn’t let the ‘20 somethings’ slow him down. Since he’s been back, he’s participated in the Corps’ new Marine Corps Martial Arts Program and earned a tan belt. It’s brought back some youthfulness in him, but he’s also found a few other changes that made him feel outdated.
“Now, the Marine Corps has a strong reliance on the internet and emails to pass information,” said Charette. “I guess it’s just showing my age.”
Charette works back home in the New York State courts system as a senior court clerk for Orange County. There, he processes and reviews official paperwork and answers questions, without giving legal advice, for customers who come in to file divorce and other legal proceedings.
“I was sitting at home one day looking at Marine Online when I saw this small advertisement for retired Marines to volunteer for mobilization,” said Charette. “So, I put my name in the hat.”
Charette retired back in 1998 after devoting about 10 years of active duty and another 10 to the Reserve Forces. Almost a year later, on April 1, he received a phone call from a staff sergeant.
“I thought it was an April fool’s joke or that the Marine Corps Association wanted to sell me something,” said Charette. “But when I looked at my caller I.D. and I saw that it came from (Marine Corps Base) Quantico. I knew it was time.”
Many of his friends and colleagues thought he was crazy for returning to the Corps after retirement, according to Charette, who dismissed them and went to his closet for his uniforms.
“You have to look at the practical reality of it,” said Charette, matter-of-factly. “The Corps said they could use me, so it was tough to sit on the sidelines. It may sound corny, but it comes down to who you are, not what you do.”
The Corps had a billet for him to fill, but it wasn’t exactly what he was looking for. They sent him to his first assignment at the F.B.I. laboratory, in the Terrorist Explosives Device Analytical Center. There, he examined the devices that Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel recovered from Iraq.
It was a fitting job for a major with a background as a combat engineer, but he wanted to be where the action was.
“I didn’t want to sit in Quantico for a year,” said Charette. “I asked to go to a forward unit and 30 days later I ended up here.”
Now, Charette is working for the Division’s Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Richard A. Huck, who was a platoon commander as a captain in his basic school class. He finds it funny that he ended up working for one of the Marines that was his instructor back in 1977.
“The Corps has changed a little, but the Marines haven’t,” said Charette. “Some of the fine points have changed, but the thought process is still the same – probably since WWII. But the bottom line is that I just like putting on my uniform again.”