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The Army’s Sticky Fingers

Reuters opens the back door (draft) – (thanks E.D.):


The U.S. Army has forced about 50,000 soldiers to continue serving after their voluntary stints ended under a policy called “stop-loss,” but while some dispute its fairness, court challenges have fallen flat.


The policy applies to soldiers in units due to deploy for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Army said stop-loss is vital to maintain units that are cohesive and ready to fight. But some experts said it shows how badly the Army is stretched and could further complicate efforts to attract new recruits.


“As the war in Iraq drags on, the Army is accumulating a collection of problems that cumulatively could call into question the viability of an all-volunteer force,” said defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute think tank.


“When a service has to repeatedly resort to compelling the retention of people who want to leave, you’re edging away from the whole notion of volunteerism.”



I recall hearing about the foul-mouthed antics of a fellow soldier who was at the end of his four-year enlistment. Just before the declaration of the DESERT STORM stop-loss and just before his departure to the separation point in Cali, he gave a piece of his mind to superiors and subordinates alike. A move that was counter to good order and discipline? Perhaps, but the kid was getting out and it wasn’t like he was soldier of the year or anything, so they lent him vent. No harm, no foul. Mere hours before being processed out he was informed of his newfound status as a stop-lossee, and sent back to the unit. Not the happiest camper in the world, and of course he was going back to deal with all of his “friends” for an undetermined amount of time. Turn-about and all that . . .


If I am interpreting the story correctly (assuming Reuters got it right in the first place), this version of stop-loss differs from the one that kicked in the first time we went to Iraq. Back then you got locked in depending on your MOS, not your unit. Probably a more efficient way to do things, but still troubling.


I’m not a big fan of the stop-loss program. I think it is a sign of poor performance on the part of people who get paid to plan for this sort of situation. You know that X number of people are going to be getting out under normal circumstances. X+1 number of people are likely to get out during wartime. During war recruiting gets shaky . . . the best solution they can come up with is stop-loss? It probably isn’t the best solution, but it certainly is the easiest one.

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.