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Fort Benning: More soldiers expected to leave Army

A U.S. servicemember provides ground security while conducting a tactical check point near Patrol Base Doria, Iraq, on March 21, 2007.

With the Iraq War over and the Pentagon looking to trim its force by 2017, Fort Benning officials are seeing more soldiers leave the Army this year.

Eddie Perez, transition services manager at Fort Benning, said his office saw about 150 soldiers per month last year, but now he's seeing more than 200 men and women leaving the military. "It's a little bit more now because the war is over and downsizing," Perez said Friday.

The Maneuver Center of Excellence has already topped its total of 4,300 separations in 2012 with 4,500 already this year, said Donny Philips , chief of personnel operations branch on post. Between now and December, Philips said the post has 900 more soldiers with scheduled dates to separate, but all may not leave.

"Soldiers decide they will re-enlist so that number is going to change," Philips said. "By the time the end of year comes, there may only be 600. It depends on the soldiers."

Soldiers leaving the military include those who didn't make the cut in basic training, soldiers injured in training and those who have completed their term of service, Perez said.

Although the Army is downsizing, Philips said most soldiers with a two or four-year obligation usually complete their enlistments.

"It is no mad rush to try to get out because they are tired of being in military," he said. "Most of these guys seem to be happy about what they are doing, because they are serving their country and doing a good deed."

Dudley Love, chief of the personnel readiness branch at Fort Benning, said April through August or September are months for high movement at Fort Benning. He expects more activity on post this year because many of the deployed units are now returning. "We try to make the movement process as easy as possible for the soldier," Love said.

The Army expected more soldiers separating and prepared for increased traffic in the transition services office. Five more Circle counselors were hired to answer soldiers' questions in the Army Career Alumni Program.

With many resources available, Perez said his office has been very successful in helping soldiers make the transition from the military to civilian life.

"We capture the soldiers when they first get in the Army, and when one decides to leave," Perez said, "we put them on an education track or employment, whatever it is they want."

Based on a survey of 100 soldiers, Perez said about 80 percent of those separating are going to school and the other 20 percent are going to work or opening up their own business. There is a "Boots to Business" program to help soldiers start their own business.

Soldiers returning to the workforce don't have to worry about health care for five years if you received a combat patch fore service in Iraq or Afghanistan. Soldiers sign up for health care with Veteran Affairs. "That's a benefit to them and the employer initially," Perez said. "They started this several years ago."
 

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