By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
As of late January, 13,200 U.S. soldiers were in Stop Loss. Defense Department officials announced last week a plan to end the involuntary extension of soldiers beyond their enlistment or retirement dates.
It's a change that Gen. Peter Chiarelli, former 1st Cavalry Division commander and current vice chief of staff, has worked on for the last six months, he said while addressing the local Association of the U.S. Army chapter earlier this month.
Ending Stop Loss will begin with Reserve and National Guard soldiers, Chiarelli said. They will mobilize units not under Stop Loss beginning in August and September of this year, according to information from the Defense Department.
The active-duty Army will deploy units no longer on Stop Loss beginning January 2010.
The goal is to cut the number of Stop-Lossed soldiers by 50 percent by June 2010 and eliminate the regular use of Stop Loss across the Army by March 2011, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during a March 18 press conference at the Pentagon.
That doesn't mean the Army won't have soldiers under Stop Loss in theater then, Chiarelli said, but everyone on Stop Loss should be home by March 2011.
"Stop Loss disrupts the plans of those who have served their intended obligation," Bill Carr, deputy under secretary of defense for military personnel policy, said in information from the Defense Department. "As such, it is employed only when necessary to ensure minimal staffing in deploying units, when needed to ensure safe and effective unit performance. It is more easily rationalized in the early stages of conflict when events are most dynamic; but tempo changes in this war have frustrated our efforts to end it altogether."
The Defense Department is set to pay those Stop Lossed during fiscal year 2009 $500 a month until the policy is completely eliminated. That affects soldiers Stop Lossed on or after Oct. 1, 2008. Those soldiers will get that pay until they separate from the Army or retire, and includes time in recovery after returning from a deployment, according to information from the Defense Department.
"While these changes do carry some risk, I believe it is important that we do everything possible to see that soldiers are not unnecessarily forced to stay in the Army beyond their end-of-term-of-service date," Gates said. "Being able to operate without Stop Loss is another step in the ongoing transformation of the Army into an expeditionary force."
Stop Loss has been implemented sparingly and for limited periods of time throughout the Army's history, said Lt. Col. George Wright, an Army spokesman. Before Sept. 11, 2001, the Army last implemented Stop Loss in 1990 during Operation Desert Storm.
"Our nation is at war, and above all else the Army must sustain a force prepared to defeat all enemies, foreign and domestic, and carry out all its missions, including warfighting, stability operations and disaster relief," Wright said.
Soldiers' contracts read they could be Stop Lossed: "? The President may suspend any provision of law relating to my promotion, retirement or separation from the Armed Forces if he or his designee determines I am essential to the national security of the United States. Such an action may result in an extension, without my consent, of the length of service specified in this agreement. Such an extension is often called a 'Stop-Loss' extension."
The Army strives to not extend soldiers with fewer than six months before their end-of-enlistment or retirement dates, Wright said.
Officials are able to phase out Stop Loss because of the progress in Iraq, the Army's growth and a new unit rotation model being instituted, according to information from Wright.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at email@example.com or (254) 501-7547.
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