Army puts all units tapped for Iraq, Afghanistan on stop-loss, stop-move
ARLINGTON, Va. — From now on, all Army units tapped to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan will be placed under stop-loss and stop-move restrictions that prevent soldiers from switching assignments or voluntarily leaving the service, according to an order signed June 1 by Reginald Brown, the Army’s assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs.
The stop loss/stop move will take effect as soon as a unit is activated for deployment to a future Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom mission. It won’t end until three months after the unit returns to its home station, Maj. Gen. Franklin L. “Buster” Hagenbeck, the Army’s chief for personnel matters, told reporters at a roundtable Tuesday morning.
The stop-loss/stop-move order includes the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, which is on its way later this summer to Iraq from South Korea, Hagenbeck confirmed, as well as any units that will deploy for the third rotation into Iraq, or OIF 3.
Stop-loss restrictions prevent servicemembers from retiring or leaving the service at their scheduled time. Stop movements mostly prevent permanent changes of station.
The stop-loss/stop-movement restrictions will be in place “for several years” until the Army has finished “transforming” itself into a service based on 48 brigade combat teams that stay together for 36 months at a time, with a 12-month deployment period included, Hagenbeck said.
That project will take at least another six years to complete, according to Army plans.
“Until we reach a steady state, where we’ve built these [brigade combat teams] and have this predictability where we rotate people over a given period of time,” stop loss will serve as a “stop-gap measure” to keep units together in combat zones, Hagenbeck said,
“Stop loss is focused on cohesive, combat-ready units,” Hagenbeck said. “We want to build, them, train them and deploy them together as a team.”
The Army’s announcement comes at a time when the service is scrambling to find enough units to cover multiple large missions, with no end in sight to the deployments.
Every available unit is on the table, service officials have said, regardless of how sacrosanct or “untouchable” they might have been in the past.
The 2nd ID had been described by a senior Army official as “the ultimate sacred cow.” But two weeks ago, Army officials announced that the 2nd Brigade would leave South Korea for Iraq.
And now the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the vaunted “Opposing Force” from the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., is “under consideration” for a deployment, Hagenbeck confirmed Tuesday.
The Army has decided on a universal stop loss, not because it’s desperate for manpower, Hagenbeck said, but because units deployed to combat zones need to keep their experienced teams together.
“The idea is we’re unit-focused, so that we’re not meeting each other on the battlefield for the first time and shaking hands, which is what we’ve been doing since World War I with our individual replacement system,” Hagenbeck said.
“If we didn’t have stop loss, we’d send units to Iraq or Afghanistan, and over that period of six to 12 months while they were in theater, they’d continuously be having people rotating in and out of there, breaking up the teams and squads,” Hagenbeck said.
All four Department of Defense services imposed stop-loss/ stop-move orders after the terrorist attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Air Force, Marines and Navy, however, limited their stop losses to specific occupational specialties, rather than entire units. All three have long since lifted their stop-loss orders.
The Army, in addition to job-specific stop losses, has imposed “unit” stop losses on entire groups of soldiers called up for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The first “unit-based” stop losses went out in January 2002, applied to units identified in the Pentagon’s war plans for Iraq.
Since that time, about 45,000 soldiers have been prevented from leaving the Army because of stop loss, Hagenbeck said.
Since that time, all Army units sent to Iraq and Afghanistan have been given stop-loss orders, but the orders have come down piecemeal, specifically applied to different “phases” of OIF and OEF.
Now Army officials have decided to “give truth in lending to our young soldiers” and let them know up front that they will be stop-lossed if their unit is chosen to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan, Hagenbeck said.