- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Army is preparing to inform soldiers due to return from Iraq and Afghanistan in the next several months that they will not be allowed to retire or leave the service for 90 days after returning to their home bases, defense officials said yesterday.

The order, known as “stop loss,” is a personnel-management tool whose use reflects the difficulty the Army is having in keeping enough soldiers available to meet worldwide commitments.

Before the war in Iraq, stop-loss authority rarely had been used; it is seen by many as being in conflict with the principle of an all-volunteer military, in which enlisted personnel sign contracts for a specific period of service. It was used first in the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

The Army has not announced the order officially, although Lt. Gen. Dennis Cavin, commander of Army Accessions Command, told CNN on Friday that a new stop-loss order was under consideration. Defense officials discussed some details of the order yesterday on the condition of anonymity.

It is an expansion of a stop-loss order imposed in November on the tens of thousands of soldiers scheduled to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan this year. They were told that they may not leave the service during their one-year deployment abroad or for 90 days after they return.

Now the Army is applying the clamp to soldiers scheduled to leave Iraq in a force rotation that begins this month and is expected to be completed by May. Temporarily prohibiting soldiers from retiring or quitting when their enlistment is up can be a hardship for those who had made plans to leave the service, but it does not extend their unit’s stay in Iraq.

The order also prevents soldiers from moving to new assignments during the restricted period.

Among the first combat units to return from Iraq, beginning this month, will be the 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Ky.

The other major units returning this year are the 1st Armored Division, the 4th Infantry Division, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the 2nd Light Cavalry Regiment, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and elements of the 82nd Airborne Division.

The expanded restriction also applies to the U.S. soldiers due to be replaced in Afghanistan this year.

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