Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Pentagon to End Stop Loss
This afternoon, the Associated Press reported that defense officials will curb implementation of the controversial Stop Loss policy this summer. AP also reported that troops held past their ETS dates will be entitled to an additional $500 per month for the duration of their extended service. The new benefit, called Stop Loss Special Pay, will be retroactive for members of the military held beyond their ETS after Oct. 1, 2008.
Stop Loss is the oft-criticized military policy to hold mission-critical troops beyond their contract or retirement dates. Stop-loss is often referred to as a "backdoor draft" which is responsible for forcing thousands of troops to continue serving in the military long beyond their prescribed time in service. (It was also the subject of the controversial 2008 MTV Film "Stop Loss.")
According to a Department of Defense press release, the Army Reserve and National Guard will deploy their first Stop Loss-free units in August 2009. The active component will follow in January 2010.
Personally, I couldn't be happier to see DoD give Stop Loss the axe. During my time in the Army Reserve, I saw the ways in which the policy affected the morale of troops, both in the field and in garrison. Once Stop Loss in enacted, the sense of hopelessness can permeate well beyond the affected soldier. Their battle buddies feel the same loss of purpose and motivation when faced with a suddenly open-ended military obligation.
When my unit returned from Iraq in 2004, our MOS, civil affairs, was held under Stop Loss. Though the policy did not directly affect me, since I was still under contract, the loss of morale was palpable. Some of my closest friends--friends with ambitions of college, ambitions of a normal family life, ambitions of a civilian life--were suddenly deciding to reenlist!
Naturally, I asked why. After all, they were quite adamant about leaving the military after a rough year in Iraq. They simply told me that they had no other option. The Army was going to hold onto them anyway, so they might as well cash in on the bonus.
In no way do I intend to disparage the service of career military men and women. Nothing is more noble than to dedicate your life to serving your country. But I must ask what might have been for the men and women who epitomized the mantra "Army life is not my style," yet decided to re-up.
The military has repeatedly touted the necessity of the program over the years, saying that it was essential to the mission to retain the best and brightest. I'm happy to see that DoD has changed its tone, despite of continued operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy reiterated my thoughts in his statement on Stop Loss today:
"Stop Loss disrupts the plans of those who have serve their intended obligation. 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."
If you have stories of your experiences with DoD's Stop Loss policy, let us here about it!
(Photo: In 2007, then-Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno delivered the oath of enlistment to soldiers from 2nd Infantry Division at Joint Security Station East in Iraq. Photo by Staff Sgt. Curt Cashour, released.)