The 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, is slated for deactivation. Early-outs of up to 12 months have been authorized for short-timers whose enlistments are about to expire and who do not elect to re-enlist or extend. (Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth/Army)
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Early-outs of up to 12 months have been authorized for thousands of Regular Army enlisted soldiers assigned to units scheduled for deployment or deactivation.
The special policy, called the Enlisted Involuntary Early Separation Program, applies to short-timers whose enlistments are about to expire and who do not elect to re-enlist or extend as the Army draws down.
The Army’s master reorganization plan calls for nearly 800 units to be taken off of the active-duty rolls by the end of 2015, including 10 brigade combat teams, with five of those BCTs deactivating this year.
Despite the drawdown, the Army continues to deploy units to Afghanistan. About 30,000 soldiers remain in theater. Adding to the rotational mix during the coming months will be 8,300 soldiers as members of four BCTs and one division headquarters.
The new early-out program is authorized through the end of 2016, unless it is modified or suspended before then.
It is similar to another program authorized from 2009 to 2012, when the Army phased out the stop-loss and stop-move policies that generally required short-timers to remain with their units through the end of a deployment, even if their enlistments expired.
Separations under the new program will be administered under the provisions of Army Regulation 635-200 (Administrative Separations), which authorizes early-outs “for the convenience of the government.”
While technically classified as involuntary separations, soldiers who agree to these early-outs remain eligible for regular post-service benefits, such as Veterans Affairs Department programs and the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
As stipulated in the Defense Authorization Act of 2012, acceptance of this type of involuntary separation “does not affect any right, privilege or benefit that soldiers are otherwise entitled had they completed their enlistment or extended enlistment, except that the soldiers are not eligible for pay and allowances for the period not served.”
Soldiers who are separated under this program will be issued a DD Form 214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty) that indicates they were separated because of “insufficient retainability.” The separation designator codes will be LBM (service-initiated release) or JBM (transfer to another component).
The early-out program applies to two categories:
■Soldiers assigned to units that are deploying in support of a named contingency, such as Operation Enduring Freedom, who will have six months or less of service remaining when their unit arrives in theater.
If these soldiers do not re-enlist or extend to stay with the unit through the deployment, they will be involuntarily separated up to 12 months in advance of their contractual expiration of term of service date.
■Soldiers assigned to deactivating units with ETS between the inactivation date and inactivation plus 365 days, and who elect not to re-enlist or extend, will be involuntarily separated up to 12 months before their ETS.
Soldiers who decline to re-enlist or extend, and who are subject to involuntary separation, cannot be forced to sell back unused leave.
Depending on leave accrued, and a soldier’s election to take transition leave, “commanders have the flexibility to adjust at the soldier’s ETS date by one to three months, but never beyond the contractual ETS,” according to an instruction issued to field units in December.
Additionally, unused portions of enlistment or re-enlistment bonuses will not be recouped by the Army.
Separation pay will not be authorized for soldiers who leave service under this program, except if they qualify for such pay by having at least six years of service.
Soldiers who are given an adjusted ETS because of this program, but who subsequently want to re-enlist or extend, must request an exception to policy to Human Resources Command through their commander.
For specific details, soldiers should contact their local career counselor.