NOTE: I am waiting to hear back from the captain in the story; also, trying to find out if the grad school program is still an option - MT.
About 40 officers selected for involuntary separation this spring will be ineligible to attend graduate school on the Army's dime, as initially promised.
Early in their careers, these officers signed contracts agreeing to serve three additional years on active duty in exchange for the Army paying for their master's degree. As part of the program, called the graduate school option, or GRADSO, soldiers are eligible to attend school while still on active duty and still receiving pay and benefits. After graduating, they are required to serve three days for every one day enrolled in school.
About 40 officers who signed the contracts now find themselves among 1,100 captains selected for involuntary separation as part of an ongoing Army drawdown to reach an end-strength of 490,000 by Sept. 30, 2015.
One of these captains, who asked that his name be withheld for fear it would hurt his civilian career, said he will have served 34 of the 36-month-service obligation that should have enabled him to cash in with an Army-paid-for degree.
The captain contacted Army Times only after failed attempts through official channels.
"I'm just trying to keep the Army honest," he said.
"I'm not even disputing the results of the board. I'm not even angry or bitter," he said. "I just think that since they selected me, they need to figure out how to fulfill my contract, whether it's just compensating me or sending me to school."
This captain, who is in the adjutant general branch, has been in the Army for more than six years and has served one deployment each to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Paul Prince, an Army spokesman, confirmed about 40 officers selected by the board for separation had signed up for the incentive, but that because of force cuts they would have "no option for funded graduate school" through the Army.
"The separation decision is administratively final, and, as a result of that separation, there is no mechanism for compensation," he said. "It is unfortunate that we must separate many well qualified soldiers to meet the requirement to reduce our end-strength, even as we continue to maintain readiness and keep the Army strong."
Also among those selected were almost 90 captains who were deployed in a war zone when they learned their fate.
"Foremost, we value the honorable service of all the men and women who have served honorably wearing the uniform of America's Army," said Paul Prince, an Army spokesman.
However, these officers have "no option for funded graduate school," Prince said.
The affected officers' contracts "are voided as a result of the [Secretary of the Army's] confirmation of their selection for separation," Prince said.
The GRADSO program is still being offered to new officers.
The captain told Army Times he believes he was selected by the board because of an average evaluation he received early in his career.
"It was my second evaluation in the Army," he said. "I was just a young lieutenant. I probably didn't really know what I was doing at the time. It definitely could have been better, but it wasn't a relief for cause or refer to a board or anything."
The contract he signed fresh out of ROTC had him agreeing to serve his four-year service obligation plus three more years, the captain said. In exchange, the Army would send him to the graduate school of his choice, and he would continue to be on active duty and receive his full salary and benefits, he said.
After he completed his degree, the captain would serve three days on active duty for every day he was in school, he said.
However, now that he's been cut, he said, "I'm kind of stalled because I don't know how I'm going to pay for it."
He has pleaded his case up the chain of command, beginning with his branch manager at Human Resources Command. He also submitted a congressional inquiry to Washington Sen. Patty Murray, which elevated his concerns to the Army G-1 (personnel) at the Pentagon.
"Pretty much everything everybody said was the board trumps all," he said. "[They said] once I'm out of the Army in April of next year, they have no obligation to me. They don't owe me anything, even though I would have completed 34 of the 36 months I was contractually obligated to complete. I was never given the option of not meeting my obligations."
The captain said he hopes the Army would let him stay or compensate him for the value of his contract.
"I'm not even disputing the results of the board. I'm not even angry or bitter," he said. "I just think that since they selected me, they need to figure out how to fulfill my contract, whether it's just compensating me or sending me to school. I'm just trying to keep the Army honest."