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HEIDELBERG, Germany — The Army is extending “short” soldiers now deployed to the Middle East and Afghanistan who were scheduled for reassignment to another unit within the next six months.

As part of the recently announced stop-loss program, which extended expiring Army contracts for soldiers downrange, the new stop-movement policy is designed to stabilize units as they prepare to return home, said Mark Renfroe, the deputy director of U.S. Army Europe’s enlisted personnel management office.

As with stop loss, stop movement affects all soldiers now deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, as well as Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

The new rules, signed by Acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee on Jan. 2, push back all pending permanent change of station orders to July 1. If a solider already is scheduled for reassignment after July 1, that date is still good, said Renfroe. The same rules apply to those slated to get out of the Army.

The new stop-movement rule also applies to those who were assigned to a unit that deployed, but remained in Europe as part of the rear detachment, said Renfroe.

For those who get back in time and are in a hurry to move on to their next assignment, or begin civilian life, Renfroe said they would be allowed to depart as soon as they complete reintegration processing and normal out-processing requirements.

“Soldiers are authorized a minimum of 90 days of stabilization at their current unit after returning from downrange before leaving the Army or any reassignment,” said the U.S. Army Europe’s assignment manager, Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Ramsby.

“If the soldier doesn’t want to stay for the full 90-day period that he is authorized, he can get with the commander to waive that,” said Ramsby.

That 90-day period begins with the return of the unit’s main body.

“Some guys might come back two months before the main body, but that’s not when it starts. The 90-day window begins when the main body returns.”

Renfroe explained there is a misconception among many family members “that their husband or wife will return from Iraq early because they were initially scheduled to PCS in the near future. This is not the case since stop move prevents anyone affected from PCSing.”

The recent changes add to the stop-loss/stop-movement policy announced in November that extended Army contracts and unit tours for soldiers slated to join as the second major wave of deployments into the Middle East, dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom 2.

“Anyone scheduled to deploy with OIF 2 will be retained until 15 May 2005,” said Renfroe.

However, there were some exceptions to that rule, Renfroe said, including: mandatory 30-year retirements, the need for retraining as a result of becoming medically disqualified for an MOS, administration separations for the convenience of the government and soldiers selected for officer candidate school or assignments to special operations units.

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