Artillery: June 3, 2004

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The U.S. Army has invoked another Stop Loss order. This is a procedure that forces troops, who will end their enlistment (and be eligible for discharge or retirement) during, or just before beginning, an overseas assignment, to stay in uniform until the overseas assignment (usually a year) is completed. They can then be kept in up to another 90 days, before being allowed to go. Stop Loss is used to keep units overseas, especially those in a combat zone up to strength with experienced troops. This is especially important because of the many older, and more experienced, troops who are about to get out. These more experienced soldiers are disproportionately critical to the success of the unit in combat. Studies of casualties during World War II, Korea and Vietnam showed that it was the loss of the older and most experienced troops in a unit that caused combat casualties to go up. So a Stop Loss is, literally, a matter of life and death.

This most recent Stop Loss will affect several thousand troops. The army is unsure of exactly how many. Every soldier is obliged to obey a Stop Loss order, as it is part of their employment contract. In the last two years, the army has hit about 45,000 troops with a Stop Loss order. Most of those have since left the service, after putting in some extra Stop Loss time. While the troops receive their regular pay and benefits during their additional service, they suffer most from having post-military plans upset. Many troops about to get out have vacations, new jobs, entering college, apartment rental or house purchase lined up. As a result of all the Stop Loss activity, troops have learned to take the possibility of an unexpected service extension into account when making their plans. 

 


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