Army drawdown forces tightening of retention standards
April 4, 2012
Army officials have announced the tightening of recruitment and reenlistment standards to reduce end strength and reshape the force to meet future requirements.
According to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, the drawdown will impact all ranks as the Army reduces its force of 570,000 to 490,000 by taking a hard look at who should join, who should stay and who should leave.
The Army will continue to retain qualified, competent and proficient Soldiers, Chandler said. But it will enforce standards more strictly, and those Soldiers with discipline problems will disappear from the ranks. To implement those cuts in personnel, the Army will recruit less, retain fewer Soldiers and reduce the force through retention control points and early retirement for some Soldiers.
Under the new retention directives issued by the Army G-1, commanders are instructed on how they are to implement the "whole Soldier" concept when determining their best. This whole Soldier concept includes all those attributes, competencies, leadership potential, adherence to standards, duty performance and evaluations that demonstrate the Soldier's ability to serve in any military occupational specialty.
"Those are still going to be important criteria and one of the many ways we measure whether you are among the best," Chandler explained. "But it's also two other areas, which may be more intangible -- character and commitment. Those are going to be a really big part of the professional Soldier of the future."
"Service is a privilege… not a right," he stated. "You've got to continuously work hard to truly posture yourself as someone who is among the best. There are performance indicators that get you promoted, and there are discipline and conduct issues that get you in trouble."
Command Sgt. Maj. John L. Murray, Army Contracting Command, added that this focus on the "whole Soldier" will help commanders identify those best qualified for retention.
The sergeant major explained that there are those Soldiers that will look at the physical fitness scorecard and identify the minimum standards they need to pass the test, and then after they've achieved that mark, they simply stop.
"They get up and announce that they're done," Murray said. These are the Soldiers that will only meet the minimum standards to get by and that's not what we need."
This month, the reenlistment window opens for Soldiers whose enlistments end in fiscal year 2013. Unlike previous years, however, ACC brigade-level commanders cannot exceed reenlistment objectives set by the Army Materiel Command and are directed to retain only a percentage of the eligible population.
In addition, commanders must address Soldiers in over-strength, balanced and shortage military occupational specialties. This may require Soldiers to reclassify from over-strength to shortage or balanced MOSs if they are to continue with their Army career.
Fortunately, 51-Charlie (acquisition, logistics and technology contracting noncommissioned officer) is a shortage MOS, added Murray. "Still, Soldiers must meet the standards. We will only reenlist those top performers."
He admits that though standards to enter the 51-Charlie career field are stringent, "a Soldier just can't just sit back and say I'm okay, I've made it.
"These standards have got to be enforced across the board," Murray said. Standards, he remarked, Soldiers may find daunting at times considering the
ACC's contracting mission requiring their constant deployment and work in field office environments in some remote region of the world. This unique career field mandates that the Soldier adhere to a strict discipline regiment to maintain the Army standard, the sergeant major said.
Murray added that it is imperative that leaders at every stage ensure their Soldiers receive the proper performance counseling necessary in determining their retention.
"When a commander refuses to reenlist an individual," he said, "it will not be a surprise to that Soldier."
The drawdown comes as the Army completes its mission in Iraq and focuses on winning in Afghanistan; after 10 years of war, the Army is switching gears, moving from the need to grow the Army to reducing it to its pre-Global War on Terror levels, Chandler said.
"A lot of people talk about the drawdown and think it's going to be a gigantic challenge for the Army," he said. "In some ways it is -- we're fighting a war, we're deploying Soldiers, we have incredible strain on our force. But this is an opportunity for us to seek out and retain the best-qualified people for our Army and for the nation. It's our obligation to do that. And as sergeant major of the Army, my expectation is that the NCOs are doing what they're supposed to do: to counsel their Soldiers, to develop their Soldiers and to help their Soldiers get better. And I'm also expecting them to enforce standards and discipline."
(Portions of this article were obtained from written reports by Jennifer Mattson of the NCO Journal, Rob McIlvaine of the Army News Service and the Deputy Chief of Staff, G1 Public Affairs.)