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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army has formally lifted stop-loss restrictions for active-duty units and for soldiers in about half of the specialties that had been required to stay on active duty.

The stop-loss lift, which was expected, will unlock the “exit” door for about 16,000 active duty soldiers who were scheduled to leave the Army but couldn’t because they were under restrictions, according to Army spokesman Lt. Col. Stan Heath.

Another 4,900 Army Reserve soldiers and 675 National Guard soldiers with restricted skills who were frozen in place can also leave between now and October, Heath said.

Entire Army Reserve units covered in a separate stop-loss order are not affected by Thursday’s lift. That population will be handled in a separately in an action whose time frame Heath said he could not estimate.

The Army’s Assistant Secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Reginald J. Brown, formally approved the measure Tuesday but the Army did not announce the move until Thursday night.

The change has been expected since May 14, when the Army announced a phased lift to its stop-movement order that came down in early January and affected active-duty soldiers whose units are part of the war plan involving Iraq.

Stop loss prevents servicemembers from retiring or leaving the service at their scheduled time, while stop movements mostly prevents permanent changes of station (PCS) moves.

The precise number is classified, but analysts believe between 10,000 and 12,000 special operations forces were involved in OIF. That includes personnel from all services, such as SEALs, but most special operations personnel are from the Army.

Heath said that the Army has not yet calculated the number of soldiers who are still frozen in place under stop loss. It’s a difficult figure to tally, Heath said Friday.

“Because it’s a rolling calculation — the numbers [of soldiers scheduled to leave the service] change every month.”

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