With the Army preparing to shed 59,000 soldiers from its active and reserve components over the next three years, it will become increasingly important for those who stay to be available for deployments and other operational duties, according to Lt. Gen. James C. McConville, chief of personnel.

This personal readiness mandate is directly linked to Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley's campaign to make force readiness the service's No. 1 priority.

"For us in the personnel business, that means every single soldier needs to be able to get on the field and play his or her position," said McConville, who became the Army G-1 (Human Resources) in August 2014.

"If soldiers are not deployable, or are unable to do their job, we are going to have to take a hard look at their ability to stay in the Army."

"The message I want to get out to soldiers is that we are a professional team, and if you want to play on this team, you need to get out there and play your position," McConville said during a Sept. 29 interview at his Pentagon office.

"This will become more important as the Army gets smaller," he said.

The Army ended fiscal 2015 on Sept. 30 with 1,039,000 soldiers, a total force consisting of 491,000 Regular Army members, 350,000 National Guard and 198,000 Army Reserve.

As the Army moves towards the end of the drawdown in 2018, that total force will be reduced to 450,000 regulars, 335,000 National Guardsmen and 195,000 Army Reservists, for a total of 980,000.

"Ideally, we'd like to do the drawdown entirely through accessions and natural attrition, but we won't be able to do that," he said.

"There will be some involuntary separations as we go forward," McConville said.

Actions during the fiscal year just ended included separation and enhanced selective early-retirement boards for certain cohorts of captains in the Army Competitive Category, primarily year group 2009.

Also targeted were certain specialties in Army Medical Department year groups 2007 through 2009.

The boards met in September, and the results, once approved by the secretary of the Army, will require 90 to 100 days of processing.  Affected officers will be required to leave service no later than the first day of the 10th month after the secretary approves the selection list.

McConville said it appears there will be additional boards in 2016 for senior warrant officers, captains and lieutenant colonels.

"We don't think we'll have to do majors, but a lot of this depends on the behavior of the force (in terms of voluntary attrition)," he said. "If we can avoid involuntary separations we will, but the behavior of the force kind of drives us on what we do. We brought in almost a thousand extra officers during the Grow the Army phase, and those officers are now captains and their year groups are overstrength."

The personnel chief said that, while it is Army policy to only look at captain and major year groups once for separation or early retirement, officers will go through promotion reviews at those grades that could result in an involuntary separation.

"The lieutenant colonel separations are needed to provide promotion opportunity for others officers coming up through the ranks," McConville said. "If lieutenant colonels are passed over twice and are allowed to stay until 28 years (the maximum tenure for O-5s), then that will not allow us to get the promotion rates for other officers where we want them to be."

McConville said that within the warrant officer corps, "we may be looking at some CW5s for possible separation to provide better upward mobility for CW4s."

Early this year, the Army stopped its long-standing practice of masking junior officer evaluation reports once an officer is promoted to captain or chief warrant officer three.

The new policy is in effect and applies to OERs submitted to the Human Resources Command for placement in an officer's official file.

Previously masked reports have been moved from the restricted section of personnel files to the performance section, which is seen by selection boards.

The masking process was adopted nearly 20 years ago so that officers would not be penalized late in their careers for black marks or mediocre ratings they received as lieutenants or WO1s while adjusting to military life.

"As we drawdown the Army, we have to maintain the highest quality force that we can," McConville said. "To do that, we will have to identify and differentiate talent. By unmasking the OERs, we'll be able to see a five- or six-year track record of performance and potential up to that point."

"This will allow us to make the best decisions for us and for them," he continued. "If this person has performed in a particular way, then we can make a much better decision on evaluating his or her potential. If we don't unmask the reports and look at the full record, we would be making that decision based on two or three reports."

Because of recent Qualitative Management Program separations in the NCO corps, "we don't feel we'll have to do as many Qualitative Service Program (separations) as we have in the past," said the personnel chief.

The QMP is not a drawdown tool, but a quality-control measure that is triggered when noncommissioned officers have derogatory information placed in their personnel file.

The QSP is a force-shaping tool for the drawdown that is targeted at select categories of staff sergeants and senior NCOs who are in military occupational specialties that are overstrength or have limited promotion opportunities, or both.

"Certainly, we want to avoid separating fully qualified soldiers just because they are in an MOS that is overstrength," McConville said. "The ones to go first will be the soldiers who do not meet Army standards for behavior and performance under the QMP."

McConville said that if needed because of MOS considerations, some NCOs may be looked at by more than one QSP board. However, he noted that most NCOs have repetitive promotion opportunities without the two-strikes-you're-out policies of the officers.

McConville said the Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA) has been authorized by Congress for use by the Army during the drawdown, and will be available for eligible soldiers through 2018.

"This is a program for officers and soldiers who are being involuntarily separated, but who otherwise are fully qualified for service," McConville said.

TERA, also known as the 15-year early retirement plan, is not an entitlement, but, rather, an option that has thus far been limited to soldiers who are being involuntarily separated from active duty because of the drawdown, or, in the case of some officers, because of promotion non-selection.

Unlike the TERA option that was available during the drawdown of the 1990s, soldiers cannot volunteer for the benefit if they have not been selected for involuntary separation.

TERA allows soldiers with at least 15, but fewer 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 reduced accordingly.

Soldiers who fail to qualify for TERA, but who have six to 15 years of active service at the time they are separated, generally qualify for involuntary separation pay, provided they are not being forced out for cause, such as a courts-martial conviction.

There are two types of involuntary separation pay:

Half Severance Pay: This type of separation pay is for enlisted soldiers and officers who are not fully qualified for retention, and who have been denied re-enlistment or continuation. The payment is calculated by multiplying five percent of a soldier's basic pay at the time of separation by years and partial years of active service.

Full Severance Pay: This type of separation pay is for enlisted soldiers and officers who are fully qualified for retention, but who are denied re-enlistment or continuation. The payment is calculated by multiplying 10 percent of a soldier's basic pay at the time of separation by years and partial years of active service.

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