After six months of waiting, we’re finally learning just how many soldiers will be affected by the Army’s stop loss program. Back in December, when the measures were first announced, the DoD and Army refused to give specifics, leaving many of us to hope the measures were limited to a handful of vital MOS’s. Today it’s clear that’s not the case.
The announcement Wednesday, an expansion of a program called “stop-loss,” affects units that are 90 days or less from deploying, said Lt. Gen. Frank L. “Buster” Hagenbeck, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel.
It’s obvious from any day’s headlines that we’re undermanned in Iraq, and equally obvious that the shortage is due to the SecDef’s decision to ignore military experts’ advice concerning ground-troop deployment at the onset of the war in Iraq. Now those same ground troops – cut short in the beginning – must pay the price. It is, as former Army Captain Andrew Exum wrote in the New York Times, a shameful way to treat our troops.
These soldiers are falling victim to the military’s “stop-loss” policy — and as a former officer who led some of them in battle, I find their treatment shameful. Announced shortly after the 9/11 attacks and authorized by President Bush, the stop-loss policy allows commanders to hold soldiers past the date they are due to leave the service if their unit is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Military officials rightly point out that stop-loss prevents a mass exodus of combat soldiers just before a combat tour.
But nonetheless, the stop-loss policy is wrong; it runs contrary to the concept of the volunteer military set up in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Many if not most of the soldiers in this latest Iraq-bound wave are already veterans of several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have honorably completed their active duty obligations. But like draftees, they have been conscripted to meet the additional needs in Iraq.[...]
These soldiers have already been asked to sacrifice much and have done so proudly. Yet the military continues to keep them overseas — because it knows that through stop-loss it can do so legally, and that it will not receive nearly as much negative publicity as it would by reinstating the draft.
Meanwhile, up to 6500 soldiers who have already retired may be involuntarily called back to duty as part of the Individual Ready Reserve pool.
At least there’s some indication that the DoD is considering the implementation of an idea I proposed back in August, albeit in different fashion.
The Army is also considering a plan to close its premier training center at Fort Irwin in California so the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the much-vaunted Opposition Force against which the Army’s tank divisions hone their combat skills, would be available for combat duty in Iraq.
No decision has been made on that plan.
Do it, Rumsfeld. But first, apologize and admit your mistake. There’s no shame in admitting you were wrong. The shame lies in making ill use of those who gladly volunteered to serve.