<b>CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq</b> - The decision to send U.S. Soldiers back early from Iraq is a critical part of meeting the President of the United States' mandated troop strength of 50,000 troops in Iraq by Sept. 1.

The President is able to make that decision because of the improving security condition and the growing capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces.

Under that mandate, and as part of a promise made by the brigade commander to his Spartan Soldiers, the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division is sending more than 200 Soldiers home between now and Aug. 1. The remaining Soldiers will complete the full 12-month tour as Operation Iraqi Freedom is completed, and Operation New Dawn begins, Sept. 1.

"Many of these Soldiers are part of Stop Loss," said Col. Charles E.A. Sexton, the 2nd HBCT commander. "These Soldiers have served honorably, while having their service obligation extended beyond their original separation date in order to meet the operational needs of the deployment.

This early redeployment is an opportunity to allow these Soldiers to separate from the service at a time closer to their original separation date."

The FORCE CAP, or mandated troop strength redeployment, also allows the brigade commander the opportunity to redeploy Soldiers who will attend professional development schools, assist in the reintegration of the brigade upon redeployment, or who have Family emergencies or complex Family needs.

"The decision to send a Soldier back early is one the command takes very seriously," Col. Sexton continued. "They must also take into consideration the operational impact of sending the Soldier home early. Each Soldier is carefully selected, based on the unit's continued operations, as well as the aim to meet those criteria. While not every Soldier can be sent home early, the decision is very deliberately made for each and every Soldier."

The brigade is also reducing their numbers based on those Spartan Soldiers affected by Stop Loss.

"These Soldiers have served very honorably, and they're our first priority to go back home. If they're not critical, or vitally essential to the mission, they're authorized to go home, where most of them plan to attend school," Col. Sexton said.

"The Army's (attitude), as well as our attitude, was to keep good faith with our promises. We thank them for their service and for exceeding their commitment. We're doing the best we can at our level to get them out of here and into their next step in life - becoming a civilian citizen of the United States," Col. Sexton added.

Sergeant Drake Harris, Forward Support Company, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor, was to separate Sept. 26, 2009. The Prescribed Load Listing, Maintenance Control noncommissioned officer in charge planned to start school at the University of St. Louis in September. He has no regrets about the Stop Loss extension.

"I've been able to save a lot of money and pay off a lot of bills," said the 23-year old St. Louis, Mo., native. "I've also researched other schools, even the ROTC program at St. Louis. I've looked into the new GI Bill and everything it offers. If I had gotten out in September, I wouldn't have been able to research everything as thoroughly as I have.

Sergeant Harris is scheduled to redeploy to Kuwait in early-August, well ahead of the rest of his brigade.

"We worked with branch to get their orders amended, and we worked with the rear detachment to get classes scheduled within their 30-day window once they get back to the rear. They'll undergo reintegration classes and within 30 to 60 days, they'll be out of the Army" said Col. Bryan Luke, the brigade deputy commanding officer.

"All of them are great Soldiers and they've done their commitment - they're not being kicked out. These Soldiers have decided to go on with their civilian career, further their education, or to pursue other options," he said.

The concept behind the military Stop Loss program was to sustain cohesive operational forces that train and serve together throughout their deployments, as well as keep Soldiers with certain skills needed within those units.

First used in the 1990-91 Gulf War, authority for Stop Loss has existed since 1984 (Section 12305, Title 10, U.S. Code). It enables the President of the United States to involuntarily extend or retain active-duty enlisted servicemembers beyond their established separation date if they are deemed to be essential to the national security of the United States.

Page last updated Thu July 8th, 2010 at 10:45