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ARLINGTON, Va. — Some Army officers and their families may now have as little as 45 days’ notice to report to a new duty station, according to service personnel officials.

The change is being driven by the “near-term turbulence” of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Army’s simultaneous reorganization, said Lt. Col. Kevin Arata, a spokesman for the Human Resources Command.

Traditionally, officers received 120 to 180 days notification for permanent change of station, or PCS, Arata said.

The system could affect about 51,000 active-duty Army officers and 11,000 warrant officers between now and the end of fiscal 2005 in October, Arata said.

Arata estimated that some 13.5 percent, or 8,400 officers, will be affected. Those who won’t include JAGs, chaplains, doctors and veterinarians, whose assignments are not managed by the same personnel office.

As was first reported by The (Baltimore) Sun on Dec. 8, the Army’s Human Resources Command’s Officer Operations Division started notifying the first group of about 2,100 officers in September that they would need to PCS on short notice.

Two more groups will receive similar notifications in fiscal 2005, with the next letters starting to go out the first week of January, Arata said.

As it became clear earlier this year that Iraq deployments would continue until 2006 or longer, Army leaders decided to change the officer reassignment system, which filled vacancies on a more or less random basis, Arata said.

Instead, the leaders decided that units that are deployed or about to deploy would get priority when it came to filling officer vacancies, Arata said.

And because things come up in units preparing for Iraq or Afghanistan, Arata said, such a system meant that officers destined for the war units would probably receive much less notice to PCS.

For example, a lieutenant may break his leg during predeployment training, and as a result, his replacement would need to move quickly to take command of his new platoon.

But because such last-minute requirements rarely occur in large numbers, “most officers will continue receive 120 and 180 days notice on pending PCS moves,” Arata said.

In another effort to fully man deployed units, Army leaders have changed the status of officers working for Multi-National Force headquarters billets in Iraq and Afghanistan to a one-year, permanent change of station status, Arata said.

Until now, the Army used to deploy individual officers to these billets for a period of 179 days on a Temporary Change of Station, or TCS, basis.

The new policy will affect about 433 officers — 395 commissioned officers and 38 warrant officers, Arata said.

Army leaders decided to change the TCS to a PCS order because it provides more continuity for the headquarters staff, while at the same time, the officer’s home unit can request a replacement for the slot opened by the PCS.

The Army does not allow such replacement if a soldier is on TCS orders.

PCS orders also allows families of the assigned officers to move to a different location while the officer is deployed, if they so choose, Arata said.


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