Col. Daniel Pinnell, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division commander, gives the Oath of Enlistment to 46 soldiers, during a reenlistment ceremony, March 8, at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Army)
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The vast majority of enlisted soldiers who want to re-enlist during the coming drawdown will be allowed to do so, but they may have to change specialties to stay in service, according to the Army's chief personnel officer.
"We know we may have to do involuntary separations during this drawdown, but over the next three years, about 95 percent of the enlisted soldiers who want to re-enlist will be eligible," said Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg, the Army personnel chief. "Now the problem is that some of the soldiers who want to re-enlist in their current military occupational specialty, will either have to leave service or re-enlist in an MOS that is not their top choice. There will be some shifting among MOSs, locations and getting the school days needed to [reclassify]."
Bromberg said personnel officials do not expect the Army will have to use the Fast Track program, a mandatory reclassification process that moves soldiers from overstrength specialties to MOSs that are short-handed.
"We don't have any MOSs that are in such bad shape they will be so overstrength, say 180 percent, that we will force soldiers to leave," Bromberg said. "If we watch the [strength status] of MOSs each month, and make changes as needed, we think we can avoid a Fast Track situation."
During a drawdown that is expected to see the Regular Army shrink by 60,000 soldiers, "commanders [will determine] who goes and who stays," Bromberg said.
"When we give retention missions now, we give commanders a band of objectives, he said. "In the past, we might have told a commander that [he or she] needed to re-enlist 25 soldiers. Now we might tell them they need to re-enlist between 18 and 22 soldiers. This gives commanders the flexibility to base their decisions on quality."
The Army implemented the Qualitative Service Program last year as a means of shaping the grade and specialty content of the senior ranks of the noncommissioned officer corps, which primarily is staffed by soldiers serving indefinite re-enlistments or who are near or at retirement eligibility.
"This is a refined and delicate tool for going after those MOSs that are grossly overstrength and could clog promotion opportunity," Bromberg said.
So far, QSP boards, held in conjunction with senior NCO promotion boards, are identifying about 150 soldiers for early retirement.
Soldiers who fail the retention review, and who have 15 to 18 years of service, qualify for the Temporary Early Retirement Authority, commonly called the 15-year retirement plan.
Bromberg said people being retired early under QSP have 12 to 18 months' notice before being separated.
The latest updates to the Regular Army reclassification and re-enlistment programs were issued Feb. 4 and will take effect Feb. 21.
Included in the updates are:
• http://militarytimes.com/projects/careers/army/inout/2013/02/">In/out calls.
• http://militarytimes.com/projects/careers/army/srb/2013/02/">The Tiered Selective Re-enlistment Bonus.
• http://militarytimes.com/projects/careers/army/bear/2013/02/">Bonus Extension and Retraining programs.
The Army also has updated the commanders' allocation process for the Precision Retention program. Under this process, commanders are authorized to retain a number of soldiers serving in overstrength MOSs.
Overage ceilings, or caps, are a force management tool that allows the major commanders and their designated subordinate commanders to re-enlist fully qualified soldiers in overstrength specialties without requesting an exception to policy.
The overage levels that take effect Feb. 21 are targeted at Skill Level 1 soldiers in MOSs identified as overstrength in the revised in/out calls. The targeted populations include nine combat arms, combat support and combat service support MOSs. Altogether, the program authorizes re-enlistments for 7,410 soldiers in the designated overage MOSs.
Soldiers who are in one of the designated MOSs but are denied re-enlistment by their commander should contact their unit career counselor to explore reclassification opportunities in a shortage or balanced MOS identified in the in/out calls.
"There is no guarantee soldiers will receive their requested MOS," says a directive issued Feb. 4 by Human Resources Command.
HRC will evaluate the soldier's qualifications, along with Army requirements, and make the final reclassification determination.
Outlook for officers
The fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Obama on Dec. 31 reinstates some personnel management tools used in the drawdown of the 1990s, including Selective Early Retirement Boards and a temporary reduction, from three to two years, in the time-in-grade retirement rule for colonels and lieutenant colonels.
The service has yet to make use of that authority.
"We know we will have to use those tools. We just don't know when or the number of officers involved," Bromberg said. "Just like on the enlisted side, we will have to have some involuntary separations for officers.
"I think that, with the next 12 to 18 months, we will have to have some type of officer involuntary separation process," he said. "The SERB has a bad connotation, but it is early retirement, and we'll have to take a look at that."
Bromberg said the Army has not approved any waivers to the policy requiring officers to serve at least three years on active duty after being promoted to colonel or lieutenant, "but we do have that authority if we need it."