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Army Enforces Standards, Retains Quality Soldiers During Drawdown

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March 14, 2012
By Jennifer Mattson, NCO Journal

FORT BLISS, Texas - During the next five years, the Army plans to reduce the active-duty force from 570,000 to 490,000 by taking a look at who should stay and who should go.

Soldiers who wish to remain in the Army will need to be committed and flexible.

One in 10 Soldiers currently serving will be affected by the drawdown.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III said the drawdown will impact all ranks of Soldiers from throughout the Army.

"The number one thing I want people to understand about this drawdown is that this is going to affect one in 10 people in our Army," Chandler said. "When you think about a squad, about nine people, almost one person per squad is not going to be in the Army in five years."

To implement those cuts in personnel, the Army will recruit less, retain fewer Soldiers and reduce the force through retention control points and early retirement for some Soldiers.

"We're going to cut as many Soldiers as we need to meet the Army's end strength," Chandler said. "For those people currently serving, there will be a tougher future to try to stay in the service. We're going to look at our retirement-eligible population, and some of those Soldiers are going to be asked to leave before their mandatory retirement date."

TOUGHER RETENTION

In addition, sergeants and staff sergeants already have tougher retention control points. Retention control points allow the Army to stipulate how long a Soldier can serve in a particular rank. The tougher restrictions, implemented in June 2011, weren't put in place as a part of the drawdown. Rather, they were enacted to set higher standards and help quality Soldiers progress in their career, Chandler said.

The new retention control points are 13 years for sergeant and 15 years for staff sergeant. These retention control points affect only those who are up for re-enlistment; they do not include Soldiers who already have a retirement date.

"We changed the retention control points for sergeants and staff sergeants so they will serve less time at their current grade than they have in the past," Chandler said. "That might impact about 2,000 Soldiers in the next five years."

Though tougher restrictions are being implemented for sergeants and staff sergeants, the Army plans to decrease the numbers in all its ranks, Chandler said.

"It is across-the-board cuts," Chandler said. "We are not targeting one specific rank. We are reducing the size of the Army overall. It will impact everyone from private to sergeant major."

AXING BRIGADES, BUT NOT THEIR SOLDIERS

The Army is still in the process of figuring out how to implement the drawdown. No plan has yet been put forth about what the future force will look like in regard to which military occupational specialties will be in demand or which brigades will be deactivated, Chandler said.

"Brigades are going to maintain a certain size; we're not going to say everyone from brigade X is going to be let go out of the service, but brigade Y is going to stay in," Chandler said. "We'll manage the drawdown across the Army. There will be some brigades that will no longer be in the Army structure in the future. But as an Army, we expect the brigades we retain to be fully manned, trained and equipped."

The Army will continue to retain qualified, competent and proficient Soldiers, Chandler said. But it will enforce standards more strictly, and those Soldiers with discipline problems will disappear from the ranks.

"Service is a privilege," Chandler said. "It's a privilege; it's not a right. You've got to continuously work hard to truly posture yourself as someone who is among the best, and those ways that we determine who are among the best are all common knowledge for those who are in the Army. There are performance indicators that get you promoted, and there are discipline and conduct issues that get you in trouble."

It's not just junior enlisted Soldiers who will have to worry about disciplinary issues, Chandler said.

"If you don't perform satisfactorily, you risk your ability to continue to serve, no matter what your rank is," Chandler said. "But if you're a person who strives for excellence, who tries to get better every day, you will definitely have opportunities in the Army."

The criteria for qualified Soldiers, for their promotions and for their potential among their peers won't change, Chandler said. But the Army is going to go back to focusing on the whole Soldier.

"We focus a lot on competence in our Army -- how well you shoot your weapon, how well you do on [physical training], how many awards you have, your civilian education, your military education -- those are all very important criteria," Chandler said. "Those are still going to be important criteria and one of the many ways we measure whether you are among the best. But it's also two other areas, which may be more intangible -- character and commitment. Those are going to be a really big part of [evaluating] the professional Soldier of the future."

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