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Posted: 9/22/2004 6:26:21 AM EDT
Issue Date: September 27, 2004

Units of action: a Catch-22
3-year re-enlistments giving some tough choices

By Sean D. Naylor
Times staff writer

Soldiers who don’t want to re-enlist in brigades being turned into “units of action” might face being sent to Iraq involuntarily with other units.

The issue was brought to light when two soldiers in the 4th Infantry (Mechanized) Division’s 3rd Brigade told The Rocky Mountain News that they’d been threatened with being sent to a unit deploying to Iraq if they didn’t re-enlist. The brigade is in the process of converting to a unit of action.

Spokespersons at the brigade’s home post of Fort Carson, Colo., said one of the soldiers later told a local television station that he had misunderstood the policies brigade officials explained to him and misinterpreted them as a threat. That could not be confirmed by press time, but the issues raised are real and illustrate the difficulties the Army faces converting to units of action while it fights wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the Army changes to a new force structure and a new personnel system, several policies intersect to potentially put some soldiers in a Catch-22 situation. Those who are a few months short of the date they are supposed to leave the service could be faced with this choice: Re-up in their own unit, which is almost certain to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan at some point. Or, don’t re-up and face being sent to another unit, possibly one that is deploying and operating under stop-loss orders that bar soldiers from leaving the service.

The Army is converting its entire combat force structure to brigade-size units of action manned by troops who serve together for a preset three-year period. As the Army converts its combat force structure into those units of action, it is establishing a unit-manning system that will fill the units with a full complement of troops for three years. The idea is that keeping soldiers together for that period will build cohesion.

Soldiers in a brigade about to make the change who have less than three years left in their term of service then either must sign up for at least three years or be transferred to another unit to open a slot for a soldier signing on for three years.

This is where things get messy. Army policy is not to move a soldier with less than a year left of his enlistment to another post. At the Army’s largest installations like Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Hood, Texas, there are many organizations where short-timers can find a temporary home. But that is not the case at smaller posts such as Fort Carson.

Carson officials have few options for placing 3rd Brigade soldiers who do not want to re-enlist. But because both the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and the 43rd Area Support Group are the most likely reassignments, but are also both due to deploy to Iraq, any soldier assigned to those units would be subject to stop-loss, meaning he would be kept in the unit beyond the expiration of his term of service and sent to Iraq with the unit.

But Carson spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Johnson said that was an improbable scenario.

“I would say it’s very unlikely if there is a soldier who is going to ETS within the next few months that that soldier’s going to be reassigned to a unit that could be deploying,” he said. However, he declined to rule it out altogether. “We are a nation at war,” he said.

Link Posted: 9/22/2004 6:30:45 AM EDT
Combined with the re-enlistment bonus, sounds like a plata o plumbo proposition to grunts.
Link Posted: 9/22/2004 6:34:26 AM EDT

Originally Posted By raven:
Combined with the re-enlistment bonus, sounds like a plata o plumbo proposition to grunts.

Unfortunate, its either the carrot or the stick.
Link Posted: 9/22/2004 6:36:48 AM EDT
When they sign up they know the risks, I did.

Like he said "We are a nation at war"

It would suck thinking you are getting out then have this come at you but if it were me, I'd do it and not complain....too much :)
Link Posted: 9/22/2004 6:38:22 AM EDT
This is all a little misleading. The implication is that these folks are sent to units that may, or may not, go to Iraq as punishment for not reenlisting. I don't see it that way at all. In reality, they have been under threat of being sent somewhere since the day they signed and took the oath. The media demonizing the fact that the military MUST move people around is doing the military, and all of us, a disservice.
Link Posted: 9/22/2004 6:38:46 AM EDT
Military makes it very clear that they can hold you in a time of war. Plus most enlistments are 8 years not 4 as one would believe (4 active, 4 IRR (inactive ready reserve). They are told this when enlisting.
Link Posted: 9/22/2004 6:39:31 AM EDT
Yes, I remember "misinterpreting threats" from my superiors many, many times when I was in.

Didin't mean jack shit.
Link Posted: 9/22/2004 6:39:49 AM EDT
"The needs of the Army..."
Link Posted: 9/22/2004 10:25:44 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Dolomite:
Yes, I remember "misinterpreting threats" from my superiors many, many times when I was in.

Didin't mean jack shit.

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