- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 13, 2015

The U.S. Army will allow a few soldiers, both officers and enlisted, to take up to a three-year sabbatical from service to pursue educational or other personal goals in order to keep top soldiers from leaving the force. 

The sabbatical program, known as the Career Intermission Pilot Program began as a U.S. Navy effort that Congress authorized as part of the Fiscal 2009 National Defense Authorization Act. 

Now it’s open to all Army personnel, including Army Reserve Active Guard/Reserve personnel, Military.com reported Friday.

Twenty officers and 20 enlisted soldiers per calendar year will be allowed to transfer to Inactive Ready Reserve status up to three years. 

Army officials stressed that the goal of the program was to entice the best soldiers to stay in the service. 

“We are not opening this to just anyone; this is a retention program,” said Albert Eggerton, deputy chief of the Officer Division for Army G-1, Military.com reported. 

“What we are looking for in this program this is to incentivize people who are able, well qualified, show potential for increased responsibility. … We are trying to get those folks — who also have challenges in personal life and professional development that can’t be met by the Army — to take a step back, go and achieve these things and come back to us,” Mr. Eggerton added. 

But the program comes with a condition, each soldier must sign a contract committing to two months of service for every month they participate in the program, Army officials said, Military.com reported.

Participants receive two days of pay every month and retain their medical and dental benefits and commissary privileges. Soldiers cannot use tuition assistance programs but can use the GI Bill to pay for school, Army officials said. 

So far there haven’t been many takers for the program, with just six soldiers — two officers and four enlisted members — currently participating. 

“So far we haven’t had too much response. … I kind of see this as soldiers and officers in the field are a little bit leery about this program and I don’t blame them,” Mr. Eggerton said, Military.com reported. “It’s hard to step off a fast moving train and expect to come back, and we know that is a challenge. But it’s also important for them to do things that support their personal and professional development in ways we can’t really support in the Army.”

 

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