Col. Ricky Gibbs, commander, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Multi-National Division, Baghdad, places a Purple Heart on the collar of Sgt. Jennifer Hunt, a civil affairs specialist assigned to Company A, 450th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), 360th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne), for wounds suffered due to enemy contact during her deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Hunt says the Pentagon policy that bars women from formal assignment to ground combat units made her feel especially vulnerable because she was not completely familiar with her unit. (Army)
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Editor's note: This is the second of three stories on changes that will affect soldiers in 2013.
The competition is now in the second of three phases, with about 86,000 rounds fired through each vendor's weapon to measure reliability, durability and accuracy.
As many as three finalists should be announced by early spring, said Col. Scott Armstrong, program manager, Soldier Weapons. That phase will focus on technical testing, with an additional 180,000 rounds per vendor fired.
Also, soldiers will get a chance to try out the carbines for limited-user evaluations.
The winning carbine will be announced in the fall.
A cost-benefit analysis will follow to determine whether the Army would be better off buying the winning carbine or sticking with the M4A1, which is being tested alongside the carbine competitors.
The ambidextrous M4A1 has a better barrel and bolt. More than 6,000 M4A1s were fielded to 101st Airborne Division this summer. An additional 3,000 will be fielded to deploying soldiers this fall.
The bulk conversion of M4s will begin this summer.
The early retirement option offered during previous drawdowns has been approved for the upcoming force reduction but will be limited to officers and NCOs selected for involuntary separation.
The Temporary Early Retirement Authority allows eligible soldiers with at least 15 but less than 20 years of active service to receive the same benefits as those who retire with 20 or more years of service, except that their retirement pay is adjusted accordingly.
In approving this program in September, Army Secretary John McHugh stipulated that TERA is not an entitlement, and only will be offered to NCOs who are denied continued service as a result of the QSP and commissioned and warrant officers who face involuntary separation because of promotion passovers.
Unlike previous drawdowns, when TERA was a voluntary separation incentive, the current program "is not something you can volunteer for," said Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, the Army G-1 and chief of personnel.
Soldiers can apply for TERA retirement, but only after they are invited to do so because of QSP or promotion nonselection.
2013 re-enlistment opportunities
Despite the pending drawdown of forces, the Army plans to re-enlist as many as 63,000 soldiers for the active component in fiscal 2013.
Re-enlistment options only are available to soldiers in the ranks of specialist and above whose current enlistments end this fiscal year (Jan. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2013) or fiscal 2014 (Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014).
The policy of requiring soldiers to re-enlist at least 90 days before the end of their term of service remains in effect.
The re-enlistment mission for 2013 is 54,000 soldiers at the minimum and 63,000 at the maximum, according to Sgt. Maj. Dean Drummond, the Army's senior retention NCO.
"We need to retain at least 10,000 more soldiers for fiscal 2013, and 44,000 for fiscal 2014," Drummond said. "These are lower rates than in previous years, so we have no concerns about making these minimum numbers."
During the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the Army re-enlisted 64,012 soldiers in the active component. The mission window was 61,800 at the minimum and 71,600 at the maximum.
Key features of the 2013 retention program include the following guidance:
• Initial term soldiers in overstrength MOSs, as indicated in the reclassification in/out calls, are restricted to Re-enlistment Option 3 (Army Training). Additionally, they must re-enlist for a specialty that is understrength or balanced. Waivers are possible, but soldiers need to talk to their unit career counselor.
Soldiers in balanced or understrength MOSs are eligible for the Option 1 (Regular Army), Option 2 (Current Station Stabilization), Option 4 (Overseas Assignment) and Option 5 (Continental U.S. Station-of-Choice).
• Midcareer soldiers in overstrength MOSs are limited to Option 3 (Army Training) and must select an understrength or balanced MOS for reclassification and re-enlistment. Waivers are possible, so interested soldiers need to talk to their unit career counselor.
Soldiers in balanced or understrength MOSs are eligible for the Option 1 (Regular Army), Option 2 (Current Station Stabilization), Option 4 (Overseas Assignment) and Option 5 (CONUS Station-of-Choice).
• Career soldiers in balanced or understrength MOSs with less than 10 years of service may receive Option 1 (Regular Army).
Staff sergeants and above, regardless of the strength status of their MOS, must re-enlist under the Indefinite Re-enlistment Program.
• Bonuses: The Tiered Selective Re-enlistment Bonus and the Bonus Extension and Retraining programs that took effect Oct. 15 will remain in effect through Dec. 31.
However, Drummond expects those programs will be updated during the second quarter (January to March) of fiscal 2013.
NCO education system requirements
Every soldier must complete his respective Structured Self-Development before attending courses under the NCO Education System. And promotion will be impossible without completing the required courses.
The strong emphasis on SSD and professional schools is all about leadership. SSD bridges the gap between operational and institutional experiences and helps make a well-rounded NCO, Chandler said.
The multifaceted plan strives to develop career timelines that align personnel and training policies and prepare leaders for the challenges of today's operational environment. It also provides a foundational knowledge upon which institutional instructors can build — and take you to the next level of leadership.
Roughly 35,000 soldiers have not been to the school commensurate with their rank. Half are ineligible and most likely will not be in uniform much longer. The remaining soldiers have a short time to catch up.
Admission to Command and General Staff College will also be competitive.
New officer and NCO evaluation reports
A new officer evaluation system featuring separate reports and rating techniques for officers of different ranks will be fielded in late 2013.
A new NCO evaluation system also is in the works, but Bromberg does not expect the new report will be fielded in 2013.
Similar to the OER, the new NCO report will be linked to leadership doctrine and likely will provide raters with opportunities to suggest developmental assignments for their NCOs, according to Bromberg.
The new Officer Evaluation Report will apply to commissioned and warrant officers of the Regular Army, National Guard and Army Reserve.
In preparation for the Dec. 1 launch of the new system, the Army will conduct an extensive information and training campaign for officers and rating officials.
Bromberg said it will take about one year from the filing of initial reports in December for the new OER to populate files throughout the officer corps.
Key features of the new system include:
• Transition to a "grade plate" array of reports, rather than a single report form.
The company-grade report will be for warrant officers 1, chief warrant officers 2, lieutenants and captains.
The second grade plate (field-grade) will feature one report for majors and chief warrant officers 3 and 4 and a second report for lieutenant colonels and chief warrant officers 5.
The strategic leader grade plate will be for colonels and brigadier generals.
• Implementation of a rater profile, similar to the senior rater profile technique now in effect for senior raters.
Within a rating chain, the rater is the rated officer's first-line supervisor, and the official who assesses job performance.
Senior raters assess promotion potential.
Such profiles allow selection board members to assess a specific rating in comparison with a rating official's past tendencies for officers of that grade.
• Implementation of a "top 10 percent" box in the senior rater section of the report to identify top performers at the ranks of lieutenant colonel and colonel.
While the existing senior rater profile technique limiting the number of officers who can be placed "above center of mass" to no more than 49 percent has provided opportunity for advancement to lieutenant colonel and above, the new "top 10 percent" box is designed to clearly identify the very best officers.
• Rating chains will identify operational and broadening assignments to help career managers in making assignment and professional development decisions.
• Implementing regulations that will discourage commanders and supervisors from pooling officers they rate.
Pooling occurs when, in an effort to increase top-box rating opportunities for a particular group, a rated population is expanded beyond a level that allows the senior rater to know all of the officers in the population.
For example, some brigade commanders have been known to create large captain senior rater populations so they can provide top-box ratings to most of their company commanders.
Other captains who normally would be senior-rated by a battalion commander have to struggle for a top-box rating.
Women in combat
Seventy-six percent of duty positions and 92 percent of MOSs are open to women, and those numbers will expand in 2013.
A recent six-month review in which women were assigned to nine infantry battalion and armor battalion headquarters sealed the decision to open all brigades down to battalion level for women.
Female engagement teams also will become permanent in the coming year. And the coming year will see a concerted effort to establish common standards for men and women in infantry and armor occupations.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno is confident further jobs will open, but not until common standards are set.
"For me, it is about talent management," the chief said. "I want to make the best use of the talent that we have in our Army. That is regardless of male or female. There are some things that we still have to do. We have to come up with common standards in infantry and armor. ... Once that is done, we will look at how we integrate women into MOSs that are now closed."