Stop Loss Orders: It's not your President's National Guard...
December 30, 2003 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Army Stops Many Soldiers From Quitting According to their contracts, expectations and desires, all three soldiers should have been civilians by now. But Fontaine and Costas are currently serving in Iraq, and Eagle has just been deployed. On their Army paychecks, the expiration date of their military service is now listed sometime after 2030 -- the payroll computer's way of saying, "Who knows?" The three are among thousands of soldiers forbidden to leave military service under the Army's "stop-loss" orders, intended to stanch the seepage of troops, through retirement and discharge, from a military stretched thin by its burgeoning overseas missions. As Helena Cobham notes, They don't want to call it a draft but it sure ain't your father's "all-volunteer military" any more... Marine's Girl, Cobham's cause celebre of some time ago, writes about stop-loss here and here. See also Army reservists choosing to be citizens, not soldiers.
posted by y2karl (32 comments total)
Nothing new in is the right the military has during a war. As for reserves: hey, they joined and now they are doing what they joined for. Sad. I got called back into military after serving my term and had to drop out of college etc...I was in inactive (no pay, no meetings) reserve!
posted by Postroad at 8:02 PM on December 30, 2003

Postroad is right-this is nothing new, and the military guys know this is a possibility to begin with.

People need to understand WHEN THEY SIGN UP that these things are possible. Being in the military should never be a casual thing. In my opinion it is a calling-just about has to be because of the hardships that are connected to it.
posted by konolia at 8:24 PM on December 30, 2003

When faced with the prospect of a (congressionally) popular draft, how many people will embrace Rumsfeld's idea of privatizing half the military? (Maybe this is the idea in the first place.)

Seems to make economic sense. What is better, an $90,000-to-train private flipping omelets on his first day of work; or three years of a "mercenary" actually flipping omelets for $30,000 a year, and no long-term benefits?

A draft. Yecch. Only if we're going to war with China.
posted by kablam at 8:28 PM on December 30, 2003

speaking of the draft (senate) and in the house too

If their time is up, they should be allowed to come home...what kind of place doesn't honor their contracts?
posted by amberglow at 8:32 PM on December 30, 2003

amberglow, both of those died in committee

kablam, contractors fix stuff, they don't fight, I know, I used to be a soldier and am now a contractor. My job title says systems administrator, not mercenary. I don't even have a subscription to soldier of fortune.

I also narrowly escaped stop loss, it's a bullshit cop out for not recruiting enough people (at least in the air force, sounds different in the army from that article). I say make it so that after graduating from high school you must serve 2 years minimum in some civil capacity.

What's wrong with a draft anyway? Afraid you or your kid may die needlessly? Maybe that will keep you from letting our leaders fight pointless wars.
posted by klaruz at 8:52 PM on December 30, 2003

If their time is up, they should be allowed to come home...

This is the point you are misunderstanding... Their time is not up.

When I signed my contract with the Wisconsin Army National Guard I knew that it was an 6+2 contract. I signed up for 6 years of active reserve (one weekend a month, two weeks a summer unless of course I was activated.) I also knew that the +2 part meant that if I did not reenlist after my 6 years, though I was not "in" and attending drills, I could be called back to service in the event the Army needed me.

Above and beyond that, Stop Loss Orders are nothing new. And you can hardly say that these soldiers (and that is what they are) did not know about them... Most of the soldiers in the WaPo story had served at least ten years. Immediately after 9/11 , the enlisted men of my Battery knew and expected that these kind of measures could be taken.

The quote from SSG Costas that "An enlistment contract has two parties, yet only the government is allowed to violate the contract; I am not," particularly gets my goat. If the Sgt would read his contract, he would know not only that the Army is within it's rights, but that the Army is just asking him to fulfill his end of the deal.

"Vote Bush, get the Draft." College Republicans will quietly be voting Dean next year

You must really be living in a fantasy land.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:05 PM on December 30, 2003

Maybe that will keep you from letting our leaders fight pointless wars.

yeah, i saw you out there, preventing bush's invasion of iraq. way to go, man!
posted by quonsar at 9:07 PM on December 30, 2003

amberglow, both of those died in committee
I've been hearing all over that they'll definitely be put forward again come next session of congress--and you can pooh-pooh it all you want, but we're overextended now and not done with our military wars for the near future, esp. if there's a 2nd term for bush.

and Steve, the article clearly said it was the expiration of their contracts: By prohibiting soldiers and officers from leaving the service at retirement or the expiration of their contracts, military leaders have breached the Army's manpower limit of 480,000 troops, a ceiling set by Congress.

If the armed forces don't have enough people, then they should do something about it--like maybe not kicking out the gays and lesbians serving?
posted by amberglow at 9:12 PM on December 30, 2003

also, this war is endless--are they going to keep doing this until the "war on terror" is over? Where's the declaration of war?
posted by amberglow at 9:13 PM on December 30, 2003

What's the deal with the Air Force manpower problem? My daughter's friend graduated this past June with the plan of enlisting in the Air Force-they kept on pushing back his entry date-they finally told him they would take him next year. Tired of waiting, he joined the Army instead, and leaves next month.
posted by konolia at 9:17 PM on December 30, 2003

The number of troop that Congress allows the Military to have, has nothing to do with whether or not the Military can "Stop Loss" a solider. The number 480,000 can be adjusted by Congress at any time to meet the needs of the nation.

And surly you can not believe that the soldiers quote by the WaPo are bitching and whinny about that fact that the Military has reached the celling for total troop strength, can you? They only care about their individual situation. (Besides, many in Congress have been calling to up the troop strength number anyways.)
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:23 PM on December 30, 2003

1-The stop-loss is legal and well known in the military.
2-This seems to be a new attack point on Bush. Stop-losses were put into effect 2-3 months after 9-11. Why didn't anybody complain then? It was OK then to tell some guy with 19+ yrs experience that he had to stay in (sorry about your transition plans!) but now it is an issue?
3-My experience (current SSG, active duty Army) says that 90% of active duty military oppose the draft. It isn't needed, and will substantially lower moral, both inside the military and in the civil population. I know I would have resented being drafted.

skallas-I would post less, if I were you. Luckily, I am not.
posted by mcchesnj at 9:55 PM on December 30, 2003

Duh. I'm a lefty liberal Bush-hating longhair[1], and I don't see what these soldiers are complaining about either. If you sign up with the military, you know that you might have to stay in indefinitely. You know that, unlike with a normal civilian job, you can't just quit if you feel like it (say, when people start shooting at you — quitting at that time is especially frowned upon).

On the other hand, it's worth noting that, e.g., the Army's recruitment commercials on TV mostly concentrate on how useful your Army experience will be in your civilian career.

[1] I exaggerate a little bit here.
posted by hattifattener at 10:09 PM on December 30, 2003

Their Photos Tell the Story
posted by homunculus at 10:14 PM on December 30, 2003

Crud, a thread where I agree with Postroad, Konolia, and S@L, and disagree with Amberglow. Sorry, but this is pretty much a cut and dry issue. The army has the right to keep them, and they knew this when they signed up, and their only recourse would be to invent a time machine and go back and not sign up for the army. Bad luck for them though.
posted by Hildago at 10:32 PM on December 30, 2003

Of course this is not a technical breach of contract, and yes, people who join the military need to expect battle.

But think of the 18-year-olds who don't read fine print. How many of them were told "don't worry about it" by their recruiters? (Black-letter contract law says that this kind of verbal evidence can be used to interpret or even negate terms in the written contract - but in practice this would be exceedingly difficult to prove.) The government has enticed these kids with essentially worthless enlistment contracts with no intention of sticking to the recruit's understanding of his agreement.

Hopefully, more and more soldiers - and by extension, their families and communities - will recognize that their government, far from supporting and embracing them, has defrauded and exploited their lives. This kind of treatment of the men and women who sacrifice everything for the American flag will only propel military communities to reject Bush's corporate war machine in favor of a government that will treat its soliders with the respect they deserve and will honor the commitments and sacrifices they make.
posted by PrinceValium at 10:43 PM on December 30, 2003

I'm surprised that no one commenting here has thought to compare these "stop-loss' tactics of the US military with those of predatory credit card lenders.
posted by troutfishing at 11:06 PM on December 30, 2003

Some background:

U.S. prepares for massive troop rotation

Shortly after the start of the new year, American military forces will begin what may be the largest mass troop rotation in their history.

Over the next five months more than 250,000 troops will be moving into and out of Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. Fresh forces will be replacing combat-weary soldiers scheduled to come home after spending 12 months in war zones.

Iraq troop rotation has military on edge

By promising troops they could go home after a specific time, the Pentagon may have boxed itself in to a particularly arduous rotation schedule, some military analysts said.

"They're driven by the fact that though they claim this was a war of necessity, it's really a war of choice," said Lawrence Korb, who was assistant secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration. "Because it's a war of choice, if they don't get those troops out of there, they are going to cause long-term problems for the U.S. military because they will have horrible re-enlistment rates."

The vast movement of forces from January through May is described by the military itself as unprecedented in scope and risk. Not even during World War II were so many troops with their helicopters, planes, ships and combat equipment transported into and out of a combat zone in such a short time.

With attacks against U.S. troops a daily fact of life in Iraq, Pentagon officials say they are bracing for the possibility that insurgents could seek to strike during the mass changing of the guard. They could also have difficulty maintaining the offensive against the enemy. Even after the new troops are in place, military officials fear they could be at a security and strategic disadvantage without the on-the-ground savvy that only the departing troops have.

Iraq War Stretching US Army to Breaking Point

The US Army recently reported that nearly half of its combat brigades -- sixteen out of thirty-three -- are bogged down in occupation operations in Iraq, with the rest in Kuwait, Afghanistan and the Balkans and elsewhere throughout the world. Nearly three-quarters of the Army’s combat brigades are currently deployed in Afghanistan and in and around Iraq. Under Rumsfeld, by next spring all but three of the Army's combat brigades will either be in Iraq or on their way home from Iraq. Some of them will come home from Iraq and head almost immediately to Afghanistan or Bosnia or South Korea or the Sinai Desert. Over 370,000 US Army troops or over seventy-five percent of its total force is currently deployed in about 120 countries worldwide, leaving just over 100,000 troops to defend the country from a hypothetical attack and safeguard its borders. One military analyst has called the massive scale of this unprecedented US military deployment the equivalent of “civilization building,” resulting in a serious and costly overextension of our ground forces. Furthermore, for the first time in contemporary US history, there are no active US Army brigades available for deployment in the event of a crisis. Operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans have stretched the Army so thin that when Lt. Gen. John Vines, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, recently requested one more Army battalion be deployed to that country, service leaders could not find one in the active force.

Another take: Mobilize The Regular Army

...The Army has proven resistant to change, and Army Generals hoping to expand the Army have already lined up support in Congress for more soldiers. However, recruiting and training 30,000 additional soldiers will take over two years, and the Iraq problem should be over by then. In addition, a total of 80,000 more soldiers are required to allow 50,000 for recruiting, training, administration, and support for 30,000 additional soldiers for two new divisions. Moreover, the Army must plan for smaller budgets in the coming years as soaring federal budget deficits threaten the nation. This is yet another reason to demobilize reserve units to save billions of dollars and mobilize 30,000 serving regular soldiers for two new infantry divisions.
posted by y2karl at 11:17 PM on December 30, 2003

Of course, this makes Richard Perle & David Frum's An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror an even more impossible dream. But then we knew that: Attacks Force Retreat From Wide-Ranging Plans for Iraq. We shall see if, as Billmon suggests, it's twilight of the neo-cons. Which, considering Perle and Frum's current beating of the Pyonyang war drums, will be, as Martha Stewart always says, a good thing.
posted by y2karl at 11:50 PM on December 30, 2003

kinda shitty, I think. but it doesn't seem a little counterintuitive to keep soldiers around that don't wanna be there?
posted by mcsweetie at 12:03 AM on December 31, 2003

Actually, it seems to be wise to try and keep soldiers there who know what they are doing. Bringing in an entirely fresh group of people means that that group of people could possibly make many of the mistakes the first group made over again.

In the meantime, whenever you take a job, always read the contract.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:35 AM on December 31, 2003

Lots of people my age in the Guard and the Reserves. I know a guy my age who is in the guard and is in the process of being deployed for a year.. I doubt he and his wife expected this but I haven't heard them complaining..
posted by konolia at 4:20 AM on December 31, 2003

klarus, whilst I don't doubt the veracity of your experience, it is not necessarily the norm that private contractors 'don't fight'.

In Iraq:
' ...the proportion of contracted security personnel in the firing line is 10 times greater than during the first Gulf war. In 1991, for every private contractor, there were about 100 servicemen and women; now there are 10.

The private sector is so firmly embedded in combat, occupation and peacekeeping duties that the phenomenon may have reached the point of no return: the US military would struggle to wage war without it.

While reliable figures are difficult to come by and governmental accounting and monitoring of the contracts are notoriously shoddy, the US army estimates that of the $87bn (£50.2bn) earmarked this year for the broader Iraqi campaign, including central Asia and Afghanistan, one third of that, nearly $30bn, will be spent on contracts to private companies.'

'It is a trend that has been growing worldwide since the end of the cold war, a booming business which entails replacing soldiers wherever possible with highly paid civilians and hired guns not subject to standard military disciplinary procedures.'

So now it is conceivable that the US government could be 'held to ransom' by unscrupulous private contractors looking for ever higher margins. The US military is in a situation where they would struggle to operate without private help.

It does not supprise me at all that the private army sector is dominated by the other 'coalition' member in Iraq, the UK.

mcsweety poses an interesting question, to which I would add; do you really want soldiers who are not employed directly by the US government 'defending' the US? It doesn't seem unthinkable that the offer of a higher wage might switch their allegence, considering that they are in it for the money. Also, mercenary armies fighting one another on a global scale would constitute a massive step back for the human race, IMHO.

So, if the US is to continue it's crusade, as some in the present government seem to want, there will have to be more recruitment into the military and/or more spending on (mercenary) private forces.
posted by asok at 4:36 AM on December 31, 2003

the soldiers ... are bitching and whinny (sic)

Way to support the troops!!
Good to see a winger be so dedicated to our fighting men and women.
How about I propose an alternative?
Let's send CARE packages of essential items (things Rummy won't furnish) to these "whiners" along with a note letting them know we sympathize with their plight.
Might not hurt to send a sample ballot with Dr. Dean's mug on it too.
posted by nofundy at 4:57 AM on December 31, 2003

YES!!! Nothing better in the world- except, perhaps, to reinstitute the draft. PLEEEEZE!! Iwannit, I wannit, I wannit!!

Get those little goobers pulled into camo by the necks, and Bush will have the electability of a door knob!

Bring it on, my dear warlords!
posted by Perigee at 5:03 AM on December 31, 2003

Stop-loss CAN prevent you from quitting but NOTHING can make you fight! When they activate the unit STAY THE HELL AT HOME! sure it means jail time,court marshal ect but lets face it, if you get deployed for a year or more you will most likely loose your job,home and spouse anyhow. why loose your LIFE too?
posted by hoopyfrood at 7:21 AM on December 31, 2003

Huh? Because your job, home and spouse are 100% safe if you end up in a military prison? To say nothing about the difficulties you'll have for the rest of your LIFE with desertion and a dishonorable discharge hanging over your head.
posted by Cyrano at 7:44 AM on December 31, 2003

Perhaps if the US Military had a noble cause, more people would sign up.

When the army is so transparent in killing for big business, there is little wonder so many true patriots want out.
posted by the fire you left me at 8:04 AM on December 31, 2003

Perhaps they should just walk away, since recent articles claim that the U.S. is not prosecuting deserters (couldn't find the link).
posted by rushmc at 11:01 AM on December 31, 2003

And they would be following their Commander in Chief's example.
posted by homunculus at 11:36 AM on December 31, 2003

But think of the 18-year-olds who don't read fine print. How many of them were told "don't worry about it" by their recruiters?

Again, we are not talking about green Privates who just joined. (If you just joined, a Stop Loss would not affect you since you just joined and would not be leaving the military anytime soon.) We are talking about people with 10+ years of service in.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:34 PM on December 31, 2003

When the army is so transparent in killing for big business,

Would somebody please support that statement with some evidence? Specific evidence? Otherwise I am sick of hearing about it.

Thank you in advance.
posted by konolia at 1:59 PM on December 31, 2003

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