4 August 2005

Let's stop all the hogwash about stop loss

It's one thing to shout from a podium, but when you shout, you'd better be right. Recently, on The Unpatriot's Blog, I came across a post mentioning RTO Trainer, who has been posting on blogs throughout the internets on the topic of stop-loss. Now I as one always bewitched by the shadows in Plato's Cave always appreciate it when someone wiser takes the time to straighten me out, but in this case I feel the guiding hand of someone leading me further into the darkness.

According to RTO Trainer (my emphasis):

Here's how it actually works: When stop loss is in effect, it only affects soldiers from the time that their unit is placed on alert until either they are stood down from alert or 90 days after they redeploy (return home from deployment). So soldiers that are supposed to End Term of Service (ETS) or retire (unless for attaing maximum age which is 60) won't until stop loss is lifted for the unit. What's more the current stop loss policy includes a 12 month out. If a soldier has been held past his separation date for 12 months he can choose to separate at that time.

This doesn't jive with what people still stuck in the service have told me. So I did an investigation and this is what I found:

The “stop-loss” order was initially issued November 13, 2003. Different stop-loss orders were then issued to various military entities with different stipulations designating effective time and targetted specialties.

Let's take a look at an official U.S. Military Site:

SECTION 1 ACTIVE ARMY

4. ALL ENLISTMENTS, REENLISTMENTS, EXTENSIONS, PERIODS OF OBLIGATED SERVICE, AND OTHER PERIODS OF ACTIVE DUTY (EXCEPT PARTIAL MOBILIZATION, WHICH IS NOT AFFECTED BY STOP LOSS) FOR ACTIVE ARMY SOLDIERS SPECIFIED IN PARA 4A(1) ARE EXTENDED, SUBJECT TO THE EXCEPTIONS NOTED IN PARA 10, UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.

"Until further notice." There's nothing here about "for 12 months" or "only if deployed."

ETS DATES ADJUSTED TRANSITION LEAVE EFFECTIVE TO 24 DEC 2031

The "ETS" date is militarese for when a soldier's allowed to get out. RTO Trainer calls this an administrative detail (which it is), I don't think the Army's going to hold soldiers for two or three more decades. But they will hold them as long as they want to.

And what about those soldiers in the Reserves?

READY RESERVE SOLDIERS IDENTIFIED IN PARA 6A(1) WILL BE INVOLUNTARILY EXTENDED UNTIL TERMINATION OF STOP LOSS FOR THE SUBJECT PMOS. STATE ADJUTANTS GENERAL MUST MANAGE THESE SOLDIERS TO ENSURE THEY DO NOT SEPARATE BEFORE THE TERMINATION OF THEIR STOP LOSS STATUS.

I don't see any promises here that it won't be longer than 12 months or the like. Some soldiers, convinced that they had signed a "contract," felt strongly enough about this issue that they sued the .The Law Office of Michael Sorgen was (is?) handling the case of a National Guard soldier who had been mobilized for an “Initial 545 days” (I'm not good at math, but ain't that more than 12 months?) The firm points out:

Unless this Court intervenes, Doe’s involuntary enlistment could be extended indefinitely. An Army directive implementing the stop loss program in the Army National Guard extends the actual period of Doe’s enlistment until December 24, 2031.

"Indefinitely." (In other words, the original enlistment contract is currently hanging on the hook in an Iraqi latrine.) The lawsuit (see Alternet) rightly argues that the stop-loss order should only be valid after is legally declared by Congress.

As pointed out in the Alternet article, "People don't surrender (all) rights when they go into the military," says Marguerite Hiken, co-chair of the Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild. "The government can't hold you indefinitely. If the war on terrorism never ends, 'stop loss' doesn't end. These people never get out. The military is saying we control you completely."

What about the Guard then? The blurb on the California National Guard site seems, at first site, to be closer to what RTO Trainer is talking about:

ARNG soldiers presently affected by the skill-based stop loss will remain under the Army’s 12-month soldier stop loss policy. Upon release from the skill-based stop loss or the completion of 12 months under stop loss, these soldiers will then only be affected by stop loss again if their respective unit is subsequently mobilized at a later date.

But wait a second. What happens to the soldier about to get out who gets held over for a year due to the "skill-based stop loss" and then gets deployed with their unit (which would require training prior to going to Iraq), a possible involuntary re-extention while in Iraq, and then an extra 90 days upon returning? We're talking what--something closer to about 3 years.

The COMD site has it right:

It is an axiom among activists working in the area of counter-recruitment that the enlistment contract isn't worth the paper it's printed on. What this means in practical terms is that whatever a recruiter promises to deliver to a new recruit — specific jobs or assignment, length of service, benefits, or even citizenship — can be withdrawn or changed at any time.

Section C, Paragraph 9 of the enlistment contract states: "Laws and regulations that govern military personnel may change without notice to me. Such changes may affect my status, pay, allowances, benefits, and responsibilities as a member of the Armed Forces regardless of the provisions of this enlistment/reenlistment document."

Everyone thinking about enlisting should think long and hard about this. You will be expected to live up to every word and comma in your end of the contract. The government, on the other hand, will dump you into its meat grinder, add a pinch of spent uranium for flavor, and then feed you to the dogs.

The blogs mentioned in the beginning as having been visited by RTO include: The Draft Begins from WinkBlog, Viewer Mail from Confessions of a Community College Dean, Disaster Recovery and Disaster Recovery from the same, Military Matters from Anbruch, Shanghai Revisited discussion of in Axe Handles, Blogbox July 8, 2005 from Backside of the Bell Curve, Scramble, from My Life as a Military Spouse, and Rumsfeld gets an Earfull, from Nitwit Planet.

17 comments:

RTO Trainer said...

The "Until further notice" clause in the MILPER message you quote does not mean that the effects of stop loss continue for any given Soldier, rather it means that this MILPER message does not have an expiration date and will continue in effect until a new MILPER message counteracts it.

The 12 month "out" is in a subsequent MILPER message that modifies the one you quote.

I will admit that I was not aware of an MOS stop loss that was still in effect. I'll have to check on that. Last I knew, the MOS stop-loss was applied (primarilly) to Special Forces and Aviation MOSs and had been either rescinded or relaxed. I know SF separations are up higher than normal right now.

Doe received orders for 545 days. That's the same set of orders that everyone in his unit got. The 12 month "out" would apply to him as an individual, unit deplyments do not.

Doe is also going to loose this one on the face of it. There is a declared national emergency that activates the provisions that Doe claims do not apply.

The hypotehtical soldier you suggest, that gets releif from MOS stop-loss, but finds his unit is deploying, would not deploy. I cannot back this up with anything explicit. All I can tell you is that stop-loss does not get applied back-to-back. I have friends in an Aviation battalion that used to be part of the 101st. When they redeployed from Iraq, thier unit was reflagged under 3rd ID. 3rd ID was already on alert for deployment to Iraq they had 6 months turn around. The troops that had not separated due to stop-loss on the initial deployment did separate on the 91st day after redeploying.

The contract is the only thing that is worth anything in this transaction. A recruiter may well tell a recruit about all kinds of gee-whiz schools and high-speed opportunities and promise the moon toteh prospective troop. If it's not in writitng on the contract, it's not going to happen.

That same contract also says that any or all troops may be involuntarilly extended, in the event of war or national emergency for the duration +6 months.

"Everyone thinking about enlisting should think long and hard about this. You will be expected to live up to every word and comma in your end of the contract." Damn straight. I tell this to everyone I talk to that expresses an interest in joining. Bottom line for me is that I do not want to have to rely on anyone who has to be coerced into doing the job.

I applaud you for the digging and research you've done. Bravo. I would not wnat you or anyone to accept what I've said at face value. Besides, if I'm wrong, no one needs to know that more than I do.

Karlo said...

Fair enough. I'm also not clear on which stop loss policy came into effect when (someone could do a law degree researching the implications of all the provisions). But I find the fact that people who are on stop loss get deployed along with their units (and those deployments are often extended far into the future) to be the ultimate loop hole for all these stop loss provisions. Personally, I find it a bit disingenuous for the military to sign people up for a "tour" when the time limit can be extended so easily. I hardly think running around the deserts of the world because a handful of Saudis hijacked some airplanes with mace and a pair of scissors could be considered a "national emergency" warranting the extension of contracts.

dailyread said...

SF separations are possibly up higher than normal right now due to the fact that these personnel are being blown out of their boots in abnormally high numbers.

I was guaranteed 52 weeks of training by my recruiter, but once I raised my hand and accepted the oath, my actual training decreased to twenty weeks. I'm not really complaining, mind you, because the training I received proved adequate for me to excel at my MOS.
I think the bottom line regarding stop loss during the current conflict we are engaged in is like any other agreement or point of law that runs counter to the desires of the current administration...the rules are patently ignored, or changed on the fly to fit the current need, much like the intelligence that led us into this assinine debacle in the first place.

Trying to win an argument based on fact in this political environment is like trying to make a point with Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Coulter, Hannity, or anyone else with no ability to think for themselves so they regurgitate talking points like their existence depends on it.

It is sad that the defining characteristic of today's political leader is machoistic immaturity...and that is the only thing that is keeping us in Iraq.

Karlo said...

"the rules are patently ignored, or changed on the fly to fit the current need, much like the intelligence that led us into this assinine debacle in the first place"

I think you're right--there's a pattern here with the way the administration treats both soldiers and the general population like mushrooms (keeps them in the dark and feeds them shit.)

anbruch said...

Thanks for looking into this and doing further research. I also appreciate the post below on Pvt Leonard Clark, demoted from specialist for expressing political beliefs.

Overall, a very nice blog.

\*/

RTO Trainer said...

"I'm also not clear on which stop loss policy came into effect when (someone could do a law degree researching the implications of all the provisions)."

True. You lamost have to read allof them to have the whole story and a spreadsheet to track the changes as each on ehappened. I think there 14 MILPER messages on stop loss at this time.

"But I find the fact that people who are on stop loss get deployed along with their units (and those deployments are often extended far into the future) to be the ultimate loop hole for all these stop loss provisions."

Deployment extensions were why the 12 month out was put in place. Some 3rd ID guys did get held almost the entire 15 months they were deployed the first time.

"I hardly think running around the deserts of the world because a handful of Saudis hijacked some airplanes with mace and a pair of scissors could be considered a "national emergency" warranting the extension of contracts."

Suffice to say I disagree, we could cover many many posts with that debate. Congress, if they agreed with you, could rescind the emergency or the resolution authorizing force,or simply decide to stop funding the war.

Karlo said...

My view is that Congress illegally gave up its Constitutional powers when it gave the President ongoing authority. A "war on terrorism" is simply to vague to have any meaning. All countries on the planet have always been fighting a "war on terrorism" (and a "war on povery" and so on).

"Deployment extensions were why the 12 month out was put in place. Some 3rd ID guys did get held almost the entire 15 months they were deployed the first time."

I still don't understand this. Are you saying that some people are getting sent back from Iraq ahead of their units because of a 12-month limit on stop loss (or that some units aren't taking them because of the policy)? Everything I've heard or seen indicates that this is not the case.

Kate said...

Sometimes it's not called "stop loss", it's just involuntary extension of a contract. My husband is in the national guard. His contract expired while he was in Afghanistan. He is going to be in Afghanistan until next February, we think. (They are so incompetent and disorganized no one knows for sure). His activation orders had an expiration time of 545 days, but also stipulated that he was under contract until 2031. This means that he can be called back up until 2031 though he's already served out the time of the contract he signed.

I don't see how anyone could argue this is fair. My husband has spent 17 years in the military. The military is a shell of its former self and he wants out. If he could, he'd come home tomorrow. There are officially 22,000 stop-lossed soldiers in-country. This does not include soldiers like my husband who have been held beyond the expiration of their signed contracts. Since the military doesn't track national guard members, we have no idea how many others like my husband are out there.

Meanwhile, our lives have been completely fucked up thanks to this involuntary service. Guard and reservists are given the shaft in every respect. Our health care sucks, but even that lousy health care will be stripped away the minute he steps off the plane in February. We can't even pay our own premiums. Not even a COBRA system for guard/reserves! It's outrageous. And let's not even talk about "one weekend a month, two weeks a year." What a joke.

It is no surprise that the military is failing to meet its recruiting numbers. Word on the street (the streets of Qatar, where my husband just had R+R) is that the reenlistment numbers include stop-lossed and involuntarily extended soldiers, so even those numbers are cooked. For selfish reasons I hope recruitment goes up; maybe then my husband will be let out of the military. But for altruistic reasons I hope they continue to fail to reach there goals. I would never wish military service under this administration on anyone.

Karlo said...

Your comments on the government's treatment of Reservists and the Guard agree with what I've personally heard from people who have been sent to Iraq. One Guard member I know lost hearing in one ear but was told for some reason that it didn't count as a disability. I don't know what planet the idiot who made that decision was from. And I can sympathize with your situation: if you're in the Guard or Reserves, you have a life with mortgages, payments, and businesses to keep up and a Guard check (with lousy health care) often doesn't make up for it. I hope your husband makes it back safely.

RTO Trainer said...

I appreciate you view on the breadth of the Resolution, though I disagree. However, teh COngress has in no way abdicated any power. All they have to do is rescind that Resolution.

If the 12 month out had been available to the guys in 3rd ID they would have been able to come home ahead of their unit. As there haven't been deploymetns beyond 12 months since then, this provision hasn't been needed to be exercized.

Kate, I want to thank you and your husband for your service (you serve as surely as he does) even if it has not been what either of you wanted to be.

Someone has been giving you bad or incomplete information though. I am a National guardsman, I've been deployed to Afghanistan once and I'll be going back in around 12 months.

The involuntary extension your husband is on is stop loss. If he is held 12 months past his ETS date, he does have the choice to separate at that 1 year anniversary. Be sure he knows that. The 2031 date does nto represent any real claim by teh Army on your husband or anyone else. It's only done to prevent errors in the computers that track deployed soldiers.

Healthcare, this is very important; you will not be stripped of your coverage when his deployment ends. You, your children if any, and he are all covered for 180 days after the deployment. After that point you have the option to buy into TRICARE at a monthly premium ($75 for just the soldier or $233 for the whole family) It's no great savings, but it is a plan that all troops and their families qualify for which is a big leg up for many.

I hope this helps a little. There are a number of benefits that you and your family are entitled to. Feel free to contact me for information about any of it as it sounds like your husband's unit is failing to keep you informed of them. RTO[dot]Trainer[at]gmail[dot]com.

I certainly join with Karlo in wishing your husband a safe return.

RTO Trainer said...

Karlo, if your friend with the hearing loss wants to contact me, I have a friend who was a Service Officer at the VA. He can advise as to how to appeal that apparent assinine decision.

Karlo said...

Thanks. I might take you up on that.

Kate said...

Thanks for your kind words and advice, RTO Trainer. I'm afraid you're wrong about the health care issue, though. The congress recently rejected an extension of benefits to "part-time" soldiers, which my husband counts as since he is not full-time national guard when he's not overseas. Our coverage ends when his active duty service ends, and we do not have the option to extend our service. Operation Truth has the skinny on it because they petitioned congress to give guard troops the same coverage as everyone else to no avail. It stinks, but that's the way it is.

Oh well. The coverage is lousy anyway. We're just worried about it because we lost our other coverage when my husband was called up. So goes it...

Take care --

Kate said...

RTO, here's a link to the Stars and Stripes article about the lack of coverage for "part-timers" that I mentioned in my last comment:

http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=28547&archive=true

And the provision was only for guard/reservists who were still in the military when they were released from active duty, which would have excluded us anyway. The military should offer a similar system to what is offered in the private sector. Under the COBRA system, I can leave my job and still pay to keep my insurance for up to 6 months, so that I don't go without coverage while I'm looking for a new job. The Guard doesn't allow this at all. If you are still in the guard when you return, you don't have coverage (as the article states). If you are out of the military when you return, as my husband will be, then you can't even pay out of pocket to continue your coverage. You are completely out of luck.

It's yet another slap in the face to soldiers, frankly. My husband has been in the military for 17 years. He was a marine during the time of the first gulf war and he's been a ranger with the guard since 1995. He wants to get out because the military has deteriorated. Perhaps this is not true for non-infantry units, but infantry units like my husband's have been torn apart and ruined. His unit was almost entirely made up of seasoned NCOs who had served active-duty before their guard service in infantry units like SEAL, Ranger, and SF. So far, the only man in his unit to reup is the commissioned officer who is full-time guard. None of the others he's talked to have. If they are still in the military they are stop-lossed or being held in-country beyond their contract dates (and from what he's told me, these are different classifications -- he would be stop-lossed if he came home and they didn't allow him to get out of the military. This is different than having his contract expire while he's on orders overseas).

The military is losing quality, experienced soldiers because many of them feel betrayed. Meanwhile, the military is having a hell of a time recruiting. This has everything to do with a failure of leadership on Bush's part. But then what else is new?

Take care and good luck over there. Stay safe --

Karlo said...

Thanks for the comments Kate. It really sounds like the military, under Bush, is shooting itself in the foot. Virtually everyone I've talked to who has been in Iraq has said that the incompetence in planning was everywhere to be seen. It's interesting to hear this echoed before the war in the Downing Street Memos where British officials stated that the Americans had no clear plan for what to do after the invasion.

RTO Trainer said...

Kate, I did indeed misunderstand your situation. Thanks for the course correction. I'm not done looking though, as I do beleive that there are privately run options out there for you. I'll check and post what I find here.

Karlo, you are correct inso far as the government often does not do enough for those who are serving and have served, however, you are wrong in laying it at the feet of this administration. The program to allow serving reserve component troops to continue on TRICARE, for example happened on this administration's watch. Prior to that, when we came off Active Duty there was nothing at all.

There are many things like this that are broken, but almost all of them are improving, glacially sometimes, but improvintg nonetheless.

Karlo said...

Many of the reservists I've talked to are deeply disenchanted about both the war and their treatment after returning.