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Army drawdown: More early outs for junior enlisted soldiers

Two early out programs, one voluntary and one involuntary, have been re-authorized for certain categories of Regular Army enlisted soldiers as part of the service's drawdown strategy for 2016.

Both programs have been in effect since 2014, and generally are targeted at soldiers who decline to extend their careers, or who are in specialties that will become overstrength as the Army gets smaller. Here are the details:

Voluntary Early Separation Program

An option that authorizes early outs of up to 180 days for short-timers who choose not to re-enlist or extend, and who request early separation for the purpose of accepting civilian employment.

The promise of a civilian job must be fully documented, including verification from the future employer.  The requested separation date can be no earlier than 10 days before the start of the civilian job.

A second option under this program is targeted at soldiers who are in an overstrength MOS (See the latest in/out calls), and who are denied re-enlistment under the Precision Retention program. Such soldiers are authorized to request separation up to 90 days in advance of their contractual expiration term of service, or ETS.

Separations under this program must be approved by a commander with special courts-martial convening authority, or higher. Typically this will be a soldier's brigade, regimental or detached battalion commander.

Soldiers who believe they are eligible for a voluntary early separation should contact their local career counselor.

Involuntary Early Separation Program

This program applies to soldiers who decline to re-enlist or extend, and who:

• Are assigned to a deploying unit, and who will have less than six months remaining to ETS when their unit arrives overseas for a named contingency operation, such as Inherent Resolve, the ongoing operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Under Army policy, such soldiers will not deploy with the unit, and will have their ETS adjusted to be as close to 180 days in advance of their unit's arrival overseas as possible.

• Are assigned to a Korea rotational unit and who have an ETS that occurs during the rotation plus 90 days. These soldiers will be subject to involuntary separation if they cannot usefully be employed by another unit at home station.

A soldier's adjusted ETS will be as close to 180 days in advance of their unit's arrival in Korea as possible without affecting Army readiness.

• Are assigned to a deactivating unit, cannot be usefully employed by another unit at home station, and who fail to re-enlist or extend. The adjusted ETS will be as close to the deactivation date of their unit as possible.

The service of soldiers released under these two programs will be characterized as honorable for the purposes of post-service benefits, and will be conducted "for the convenience of the government," and the soldiers will be considered to have fulfilled their term of enlistment.

Soldiers who decline to re-enlist or extend, and who are subject to involuntary separation, cannot be forced to sell back annual leave.

Depending on leave accrued, and a soldier's election to take transition leave, commanders have the flexibility to adjust the soldier's ETS date by one to three months, but never beyond the contracted separation date, according to instructions issued by the Human Resources Command on Dec. 9.

Additionally, unused portions of enlistment or re-enlistment bonuses will not be recouped by the Army.

Separation pay is not authorized for soldiers who leave service early for civilian employment. Soldiers in other categories may qualify if they have at least six, but fewer than 15 years of service.

For detailed information about these programs, soldiers should consult their local career counselor.

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