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Army now allows immediate promotion of mobilized Reserve, Guard officers

By LISA BURGESS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 19, 2003

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army has enacted a policy that allows mobilized Army Reserve and National Guard officers to be promoted immediately, instead of waiting until they come home.

On Thursday, Reginald Brown, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserves, signed a policy that permits reserve officers to be promoted even if they are not already in a higher grade vacant position, as long as their home unit could match them with a position that they can fill when they return.

The policy change is designed to fix a long-standing discrepancy between deployed reserve officers and their counterparts at home.

Until now, all reserve component officers, except for a few select branch officers, who were selected for promotion had to wait until a slot opened up in the next higher grade before they could “pin on” the higher grade.

Usually, such slots were with their unit or a nearby unit at home, not the “downrange” units, which are “cross-leveled” before deployments specifically to reduce the turmoil associated with turnovers in leadership.

With few higher-grade positions coming available in their units, thanks to the cross-leveling, the promotion rule has been stifling advancement for many reserve officers.

The exact numbers of those affected were not available at press time, but there are more than 130,000 National Guard and reserve soldiers activated around the world, including 58,000 supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“We’ve been working on this issue for months,” a senior Army officer said Thursday afternoon.

“It wasn’t an easy situation to fix,” the officer said, because reserve promotions are governed by laws that can only be changed by Congress.

Army officials had to find a way to remedy the promotion issue that did not involve actually changing the law.

The alternative would have been to find a member of Congress to propose a bill, which would then have had to make its way through the often-lengthy legislation process to the president for signature.

The solution should level the playing field between deployed and nondeployed reservists, Army officials said, although they wanted it made clear that officers will still have to have a “home job” to go back to under the new policy.

“This is not a policy that is a blanket promotion for everyone in a promotable status,” the officer said. “I don’t want people to think, ‘Hey, I’m promotable, I’m going to get pinned on.’

“We’re not promoting officers beyond the needs of the Army Reserve and National Guard, and not promoting without a requirement that exists,” the officer said.

According to Brown’s “memorandum of decision,” a copy of which was obtained by Stripes, the new policy applies only to reserve officers who are mobilized in support of current operations.

From now on, just as soon as a promotable officer is matched against a vacant position in the higher grade, he or she can pin on the new rank. Officers will then be assigned to their new position 180 days after demobilization.

There’s another nuance to the issue, which involves an alternate way reserve officers can get promoted if they are unable to find a position: transferring to the Individual Ready Reserve.

Once in the IRR, officers will be promoted after reaching their maximum time-in-grade, which is usually within a year after the promotion list is released.

But since reserve components are promoted purely by date of rank, an officer who has to wait until reaching maximum time in grade to be promoted is at a disadvantage, compared to peers.

Under the new policy, if for some reason the officer can’t take the new post in 180 days — he or she relocates, for example — then the officer will be required to transfer to the IRR at the higher grade.

Army National Guard and Reserve officials are now working on ways to efficiently implement the new rules.

As soon as Brown reviews and approves those implementation plans, the reserve components can start promoting their mobilized officers under the new policy, the officer said.

The officer did not know when that will happen, but said the reserves “are working on it as we speak.”

For more information:

¶ Army National Guard officers should contact the Adjutant General for their respective states through Guard Knowledge Online, www.arng.army.mil/soldier_resources/

¶ Army Reserve officers can contact Col. Geoffrey Jones at: Geoffrey.Jones@usarc-emh2.army.mil or Steven Stromvall at: Steven.Stromvall@usarc-emh2.army.mil or call the Army Reserve Public Affairs Office, (404) 464-8492.


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