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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army is seeking congressional approval to place all active-duty soldiers currently deployed in support of Operation Iraq Freedom under a short-term stop-loss action, a senior Army official said Monday.

The new stop loss, which could come as early as this week, “will only be [in place] for a few months,” the official said. “It’s not Armywide, and it’s not MOS,” or skills-based, as previous stop-loss actions have been.

The purpose of the new stop loss “is to bridge the gap” between the 130,000 soldiers currently in Iraq, or “OIF 1,” as Pentagon leaders call the rotation, and the next round of some 110,000 replacements, which the Pentagon has dubbed “OIF 2,” the official told Stars and Stripes.

Stop losses prevent servicemembers from retiring or leaving the service at their scheduled time.

The impending Army stop loss was first reported Saturday by the Los Angeles Times, which did not say which soldiers would be affected.

The action “will buy units more time” to better organize the changeover, which will take place beginning in March, the official said.

That swap, which Army officials are calling “the surge,” is the largest, most complex movement of U.S. military personnel since World War II.

The Army is preparing for the surge and will be ready when it happens, the official said. But moving so many people, while at the same time preventing the moves from hurting stabilization efforts in Iraq, is an enormous challenge, the official said.

Limiting individual personnel movements between now and the end of the surge will minimize unit-level disruptions to the process, the official said.

For those soldiers in Iraq who are due to get out of the Army, “instead of getting on a plane and coming home by themselves [if they have an exit date coming up], they’ll come home with the rest of the unit,” the official said. “It’s not that much extra time.”

The official did not know precisely how many soldiers would be affected by the new stop loss, or whether the same provisions will hold for soldiers in Afghanistan.

Details of the stop-loss program won’t be officially announced until Army officials have first presented the plan to Congress, “some time this week,” the official said.

All the services used stop loss to some extent after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but only the Army still has programs in place.

In fact, the coming stop loss will be the Army’s third major order of its kind since war in Iraq was considered imminent last January.

At that time, the Army placed unit stop-loss restrictions on all soldiers deploying to the Middle East theater, both active and Reserves.

The unit stop-loss order began 90 days before the troops arrive in Iraq or the surrounding theater, and doesn’t end until 90 days after the soldier returns home from his or her yearlong deployment.

The January stop loss was lifted for active units May 29 — but not for Reserve or National Guard soldiers whose units are now deployed or about to deploy. The reserves remain under the program.

The disparity between the “stopped” deployed reserve troops and the “unstopped” deployed active-duty troops has been the source of much unhappiness, judging by letters sent to Stripes from the first group.

Then, on Nov. 13, the Army issued a so-called “unit” stop loss for all active-duty soldiers involved in OIF 2.

That leaves only the currently deployed active-duty soldiers “unstopped,” a status that will change if the Army has its way this week.

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