Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Are we losing with stop loss?

Stop Loss has always been an interesting concept to me. I was subjected to stop loss at different points of my career with the Army Reserve. The stop loss was sometimes formalized by a message send out by DA that covered entire career fields or functional areas or specific units. More often, however there was a stop loss policy imposed by local commands to hold soldiers that may be needed on a wholesale basis. These stop loss programs involve the delay of outprocessing documents, created red tape for transfers from the reserves for unsatisfactory participants and generally held soldiers as long as possible.

Frankly the fact that I served more than 20 years and was deployed to Iraq was due to my own delayed departure in part as a result of decisions made related to timing when I could leave the Army without a lot of hassle. Ask any soldier that has trasferred to the IRR, between Guard and Reserve or other transfer and you will get stories of a process that is designed to slow down your exit, even when you are no longer obligated to serve.

Based on that I read some of the statistics on the Army’s current Stop loss rates and see they are again increasing (the formal stop loss that is) The number of soldiers held in the Army under the stop-loss program reached a high in March 2005 of 15,758. That number steadily declined through May 2007, when it hit 8,540. But since then, the number of soldiers subjected to stop-loss orders began to increase again, reaching 12,235 in March 2008.

The Secretary of the Army said

"They don't like it any better than I do. But it has proven necessary in order to maintain the force," Gates said. … use of the policy is an issue. It troubles me." "When somebody expects to leave at a given time, and you tell them they can't do that, it's got to have an impact on them. And that's the part that troubles me"

While I understand the necessity of retaining soldiers at critical times, I would echo the sentiment that we still break contracts with soldiers in terms of requirements. The carte-blache approach to applying stop loss both formal and informally shoud stop and we should examine each individual case – all 15,758 of them to determine if we must disrupt that soldier’s life. I would bet there are both volunteers and other soldiers that have not been deployed that can fulfill many of the requirements. We cannot allow leaders to apply organization wide policies that void contracts with soldiers… if it must be done it should be a highy deliberate face to face decision. Any leader worth his salt that cares about soldiers would insist upon a process that does so.

Continued organizational disregard for the shared committment to service contract which is expected and delivered only by the soldier will not serve the Army in the future.

1 comment:

Erin said...

my marine brother has to go back now. he's been to iraq three times already and when he came back he had an extremely hard time acclimating. it took him a good year and a half, but he finally did it, finally started taking care of himself... and now he's got to go back. it feels like betrayal. it feels like endangering not only his physical safety, but also the very person he is.