WIESBADEN, Germany — Sgt. Felix Aviles Ramos is just a few years away from retiring from the military, but now the 15-year Army veteran is uncertain whether he’ll get there. If the human resources soldier with U.S. Army Europe isn’t promoted by March 2013, his military service will end with no eligibility for retirement benefits due to a revision in Army policy announced in January.
Starting June 1, the Army will reduce the number of years that some enlisted troops can serve without being promoted. It’s based on what the service calls retention control points.
Currently, Aviles Ramos would be eligible for retirement as a promotable sergeant, but the revised “up-or-out” rules state that a soldier must be promoted to staff sergeant in order to achieve retirement eligibility.
Sergeants, corporals and specialists become promotable when they are recommended for the next rank after attending a promotion board.
“He’s a great NCO, he just has one of those (jobs) where it’s really hard to get promoted,” USAREUR career counselor Sgt. 1st Class Mariel Burgos said about Aviles Ramos.
The changes will reduce the time allowed for soldiers to serve:
- Staff sergeant limits go from 23 to 20 years.
- Promotable sergeant, from 20 to 15 years.
- Sergeant, from 15 to 13 years.
- Promotable corporal or specialist, from 15 to 12 years.
- Corporal or specialist, from 10 to eight years.
- Private, from eight to five years.
It marks the first time since 1993 that tenure ceilings have been lowered for junior enlisted soldiers. The revised policy applies to active-duty as well as many Guard and reserve troops.
The plan requires soldiers to be promoted to the next rank in order to stay longer in the military.
“It’s a wake-up call, it’s a motivator. ... Not only something I have to do for myself but I have to do for my family,” said Aviles Ramos, 34.
Soldiers who have at least six years of active service and are forced out of the military under the revised policy are authorized to receive separation pay, according to Army human resources officials.
Sgt. Maj. Dean Drummond, an Army senior career counselor, said it’s too early to say how many troops will be affected service-wide, but he said “the impact is going to be minimal.”
Of the 27,357 junior enlisted soldiers in USAREUR, 86 would have to re-enlist before June in order to stay in the Army.
Because troops will be able to serve out the remaining time on their contract after they have reached the tenure limit for their rank, re-enlisting buys these soldiers some breathing room.
Also, soldiers deploying before Oct. 1 will have an exception to the policy for about 15 months from the time they redeploy.
An additional 712 soldiers in Europe who have more than a year remaining on their current enlistment could be forced out in the next few years as a result of the revised policy, according to Sgt. Maj. David Best, USAREUR senior career counselor and retention sergeant major.
“A lot of these people are going to be taken care of normally, they’re going to get promoted,” Best said. “This is not a one size fits all; each case is unique.”
In January, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said officials will begin trimming about 49,000 soldiers in the next five years as part of an effort to cut military spending. Army officials said the June changes have been in the works for more than 12 months and are unrelated to Gates’ plan.
“This is all about the Army Leadership Development Strategy,” said Drummond, citing the initiative launched by Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey that highlights self-development and leadership training. “The soldiers are expected to meet certain requirements, they have to meet certain timeframes,” he said.