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Specialties with good career opportunities for Regular Army soldiers who want to reclassify are:
Military intelligence specialties for cryptologists and cryptologic network specialists.
Staff sergeants in 58 military occupational specialties will be the focus of an involuntary separation review by boards that convene in early February.
The Qualitative Service Program screenings apply to staff sergeants of the Regular Army and the Active Guard and Reserve (Army Reserve) who meet the following criteria:
• Were promoted to staff sergeant Feb. 4, 2009, or earlier.
• Entered active service Feb. 5, 1992, or later.
The upcoming boards will be the first to screen staff sergeants.
The QSP panels will meet in conjunction with the sergeant first class promotion boards that convene Feb. 4 at Fort Knox, Ky.
Personnel officials would not speculate on how many soldiers will be selected for involuntary separation by the upcoming boards.
"Like every board we do, the specific mission, by MOS, changes right up until the convening date," said a Pentagon official. "We will continue to monitor voluntary and involuntary losses, and we'll adjust the mission based on that behavior."
The QSP actions are designed to shape MOS and grade-manning levels to meet force structure requirements in fiscal 2014, the beginning of the Army drawdown.
Pentagon officials have projected that about 25,000 soldiers — 5,000 officers and 20,000 enlisted — will be involuntarily separated from 2014 through 2017.
The QSP program was implemented in April as a tool for managing the grade and MOS content of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps during periods of force reduction and restructuring.
As with previous QSP boards, the February panels will focus on soldiers who are in overstrength MOSs, specialties that have limited promotion opportunities, or both.
Early retirement an option
Because the zone of eligibility includes staff sergeants with 21 years or less of service, soldiers identified by the February boards will be eligible for the Temporary Early Retirement Authority option if they have 15 or more years of service.
Soldiers who are approved for early retirement receive the same benefits as those who retire with 20 or more years of service, except that their retirement pay is reduced accordingly.
Under QSP, the Army can consider soldiers for possible separation or early retirement if they are within one year of their retention control point.
Retention control points are the number of years of service soldiers may perform on active duty at a particular rank before they are required to separate or retire, or before they reach a mandatory release date for age.
The Army changed the RCP for staff sergeant from 23 years to 20 years in 2011.
However, because of a grandfather clause in that policy, some staff sergeants with up to 22 years of service remain on active duty.
There also is a provision of federal law, commonly called the 18-year retirement lock-in rule, that will apply to certain QSP-eligible staff sergeants.
Under that rule, soldiers who reach 18 years of service, and are otherwise eligible for retention, can remain on active duty until they qualify for regular retirement at 20 years of service.
Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, Army personnel chief, recently told Army Times, "We are going to be very careful on how we use the Temporary Early Retirement Authority."
Bromberg said that unlike applications of TERA during the drawdown of the 1990s, eligibility for TERA benefits during the coming drawdown will be limited to NCOs and officers who are selected for involuntary separation.
Soldiers receive TERA benefits "as the result of not being selected [for retention] by the QSP board, not something they can do on their own," Bromberg said.
Some can reclassify
The personnel chief said that in realigning and reorganizing the force, the Army will make a major effort to reclassify soldiers in overstrength specialties to MOSs with good career prospects.
"If a soldier cannot be reclassified, and if he or she has 15 years of service, they will be offered the early retirement option," Bromberg said.
As of mid-November, the projected zone of eligibility for the February QSP boards will include Regular Army staff sergeants in 55 MOSs, and Active Guard and Reserve soldiers in three MOSs.
The Regular Army zone includes a broad mix of combat arms, combat support and combat service support specialties.
Included are MOSs in such high-population career management fields as:
• Field artillery.
• Military police.
• Mechanical maintenance.
• Supply and Services.
"While the Army has no intention of expanding the (MOS) listing, additional MOSs may be added when dictated by (unplanned) force structure changes," according to the QSP board announcement issued Nov. 9 by Human Resources Command.
Personnel officials recommend that soldiers with less than 15 years of service, and who are in an MOS on the target list, consider reclassifying to another specialty.
Such soldiers should immediately contact their unit career counselor for assistance.
"Reclassification is something all soldiers should consider if their MOS is listed on the [QSP] message," said Gerald Purcell, an enlisted personnel policy integrator in the Office of the G-1. "This is the first warning sign that they hold an MOS that we think is overstrength for future requirements, or is causing promotion stagnation in the career field.
"The bottom line is that these soldiers could be at risk for selection by the QSP board," Purcell said. "Reclassification is a great avenue to consider if a soldier feels strongly about remaining in the Army."
HRC has authorized an exception to reclassification rules appearing in the Sept. 17 version of "in/out" calls for these reclassifications.
All requests to reclassify must be submitted to HRC, and approved by HRC, within 30 days of a soldier's QSP notification.
"When a soldier cannot be scheduled for a funded training seat that starts within six months of the notification memorandum, involuntary separation orders will be issued," according to HRC's Nov. 9 directive.