Stop Loss To End

March 20, 2009

One of the most unpopular programs that has been implemented after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, was the Stop-Loss Program. The stop-loo program was put in place to ensure that deploying units had enough Soldiers for their mission. In the program, a Soldier who was nearing the end of his or her term in service, or one who was preparing to retire, could have their active duty status extended, so that they could deploy with their units. Currently, the Army is the only branch of the military that has been using the program and it’s been a very unpopular and controversial one. The Marines used stop-loss in the early days of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistn, but stopped utilizing it on May 12, 2003. The Air Force used the program very sparingly and quit using it on June 23, 2003. In the Navy, the program wasn’t used at all since the spring of 2003. Even then, it was only for medical corpsmen who would serve with Marines.
On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates announced that the stop loss program would be phased out between now and next January. That news I’m sure will receive much support from Soldiers in the Army, as they no longer will have stop-loss hanging over their head. Currently in the Army, there are approximately 13,000 Soldiers whose active status was extended through the program.

“We have the legal authority to do it,” Gates said during a Pentagon news conference. “But … I felt, particularly in these numbers, that it was breaking faith. It wasn’t a violation of the enlistment contract. But I believe that when somebody’s end date of service comes up, to hold them against their will, if you will, is just not the right thing to do.”1

According to Mr. Gates, while there will always be a need to perhaps hold some people in service, the numbers should be much smaller. I’m sure that those who would continue to be affected by this, would be Soldiers who are in critical MOSs in which there is a shortage of personnel. I’m sure that this news will be cheered by Troops and will go a long ways towards helping increase the morale of Soldiers.

“Effective this August, the US Army Reserve will no longer mobilize units under stop-loss,” Gates said. “The Army National Guard will stop doing so in September, and active Army units will cease employing stop-loss in January.”2

The hope is that by June 2010, the number who have been stop lossed, will be cut by 50 % and hopefully by March 2011, the numbers will be near zero. Mr. Gates did emphasize however, that the military will retain the authority to be able to utilize stop-loss in extraordinary circumstances.

Instead of stop-loss, the Army will implement several incentives that will hopefully encourage Soldiers to volunteer to extend their enlistments. Beginning this month, the Army will be paying stop-lossed Soldiers $500 additional per month. According to Mr. Gates the program is retroactive to October 1 of last year, which was when such payments were authorized by Congress.

According to Army officials, the Army is able to make this move, to end stop-loss because of several factors. Those factors are: Conditions have changed in Iraq, a new unit rotation schedule has been implemented and the size of the Army has increased. During the next 18 months, the drawdown in Iraq will continue. According to Mr. Gates, the drawdowm will far outnumber the increases to Troop levels in Afghanistan.

I think this is a great move by the Department of Defense and one that will impact troop morale, attitude and willingness to serve in a positive way. I’m sure that many who are serving will be happy to hear this news. In the end, I think it will better serve our country and the military to end this policy at this time.

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