The Army is preparing to drop new rules for non-deployable soldiers in the next few weeks, according to the service’s deputy chief of staff for personnel.
Following the early October unveiling of a Defense Department-wide policy that will force out troops who have been on a non-deployable status for a year or more, the Army is hinting at some of the particulars of its own guidelines.
“Essentially, what I believe it will say is you have to be deployable to be able to serve in our Army,” Lt. Gen. Thomas Seamands told reporters Wednesday at the AUSA annual meeting in Washington, D.C., a stance that’s very much in line with the parameters Defense Secretary Jim Mattis laid out this month.
For the Army, that means 62,000 soldiers in the active and reserve components in various stages of non-deployability. Some might have put off their yearly dental exam, while others are recovering from a broken leg, and yet others have been taken out by a more persistent illness or disability.
That’s about 6 percent of the force, down from around 15 percent a few years ago.
The Army has gotten that number down by speeding up the medical evaluation and separation process from more than 400 days down to about 200, Seamands said.
As far as those with short-term non-deployable issues, the team putting together the new non-deployable policy took a fresh look at what it really means to be unable to fight abroad.
“So, you don’t get your annual dental exam. The bureaucratic rule in the system was you are not deployable if you hadn’t been to the dentist in a year, because everybody is supposed to go to the dentist,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Army Times in a September interview. "So we looked at it and we said, ‘Well, does that really make sense?’ "
The answer was no. Now, Seamands said, missing a health or dental exam doesn’t automatically flag you in the system. Instead, a commander would have to submit a change to the soldier’s status in order to make him or her non-deployable, if the commander felt that the soldier has a health issue that would come up in one of those exams.
And to follow up, the soldier will still be required to complete those exams before a unit takes off.
“If you were out of tolerance in the past, you were determined to be non-deployable,” Seamands said. “Now, it’s the commander’s call.”
The same goes for profiles lasting fewer than 30 days, which are given for more minor injuries, illnesses or family emergencies that need to be ironed out.
“What we found is 90 percent of them actually came back in less than two weeks,” Seamands said.
Now, instead of an instant flag for that 30-day profile, commanders will have to affirm a non-deployable status if they think a soldier will be out the full month.
“But by default, they’ll be considered deployable,” he said.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.