Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Involuntary soldier separations are a far cry from stop loss

My last 16 months in the Army were involuntarily served. My unit deployed to Iraq the same month I was to begin my final leave before becoming a civilian and I was stop-lossed and deployed with them. After a 13-month tour of duty I returned home, did the required transition classes and briefings, and left the Army for the civilian world. I was not happy about this extra year of service at the time - I had major life plans that were completely upended. In spite of this, I was a supporter of the stop-loss system. Service is about something more than yourself - losing people on the eve of a deployment would have been destructive to the unit since the Army personnel manning program couldn't figure out how to manage its people so that stop-loss was not necessary. That doesn't mean that being stop-lossed didn't suck. Because it did. It became a political issue, inaccurately referred to as a "back-door draft" by its opponents (usually those subjected to the policy), and President Obama ordered the end of the policy last year.

Oh my, have we come a long way from that. On Friday, the Department of Defense issued a release titled, "Changes Coming as the Army Expands Use of Early Discharge Authority of Regular Army Enlisted Members" (and you thought Ink Spots' titles were long...). Details are to follow, but the crux of the message was to say that enlisted soldiers between 3 and 6 years of active service who did not deploy with their units can be involuntarily separated 3 to 12 months before the contractual separation date. In a few years the Army has gone from involuntary extension of contracts because of deployments to don't deploy these soldiers because they don't have enough time to complete the deployment to all you guys who didn't have enough time are getting pushed off the books.

This shouldn't be a surprise. The Army is going to have to cull its force significantly as it shrinks and the operational tempo is slowing down. These soldiers are perfect candidates for separation as I can't imagine they're all gainfully employed on their unit rear detachments. I find the shift in policy, so significant and so quick, quite amazing. The Army personnel system is going to get much more interesting before it gets boring - here's hoping it's moving in the right direction. This is a good indicator that it is.

1 comment:

  1. Jason,

    Brent Chastain seems to want to question your experience in 3/7 CAV.

    "This research is based on my own experience as a young officer in 2005 that did what he was trained to do, which was mechanized high-intensity war, and didn't really accept counterinsurgency until I was facing the prospect of defeat as a member of one of the last surge units in 2007."