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Answering the call to duty ... at age 72

March 25, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Allen Clifford has answered his country's call to duty by hauling his 30-foot travel trailer from his home in Florida to Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park in Williamsport.

Clifford, 72, who retired 10 years ago as a civilian quality assurance specialist, was called back to work by the U.S. Government to resume his job of inspecting ammunition to make sure it is ready to use when the military needs it.

In recent weeks, Letterkenny Army Depot has sent more than 11,000 tons of munitions to the Persian Gulf area, said Ed Averill, director of the munitions center at the depot. All of it is checked by a civilian specialist.

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The Army, because of earlier cutbacks and more recently because of the fighting in Iraq, has found itself short of qualified munitions specialists.

Clifford is one of a dozen retired quality assurance specialists in the country being called back to active duty, according to Averill.

Retirees are sought because they come back on the job with a lot of knowledge, he said.

Clifford reported to Letterkenny Army Depot last week. He is assigned to the local base for up to a year.

His job will be to inspect ammunition - from bullets to artillery shells to bombs - that has been stored at the base to ensure it is in good condition before being shipped to combat zones.

He will commute to the depot daily from the campground in Williamsport. His wife stayed behind at their home in Florida, he said.

Clifford said he's happy to serve his country again.

"I love America," he said. "I fly the flag at home every day and I'm glad to be here."

He said he wouldn't have returned to duty if he didn't think he was physically able to do the job. He thought it was funny that the Army gave him a drug test during his physical exam.

This is Clifford's first visit to Letterkenny. His 11-year career as civilian munitions specialist, from 1982 to 1993, took him to military installations in Illinois, Texas, New York, Arkansas and Great Britain, he said.

He retired from the Air Force in 1969.

Libzent Odom, a quality assurance specialist for 15 years, works at Letterkenny. Her husband, Jimmy Odom, also a specialist, was sent to Kuwait in July and won't be home until June.

The couple lives in Shippensburg, Pa., and has two children.

She loves the work, she said. "This job is important, making sure the soldiers in the field have the best ammunition."

On Monday morning, Odom and several colleagues were inspecting wooden crates filled with mortar rounds.

There are only about 500 civilian quality assurance specialists working for the military, she said.

"It's a small community. You usually get to work with most of them. There are people from all kinds of background. My husband and I have college degrees," she said.

Odom said she's looking forward to working with Clifford.

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