WASHINGTON -- To support the ongoing efforts to reduce the number of non-deployable Soldiers, Army leaders released a new directive designed to encourage Soldiers to reach deployable standards outlined in the directive.

If standards are not met within six months, a Soldier could face separation.

Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley prepared the directive, which took effect Oct. 1.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Calloway, director of military personnel management, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, presented the new directive Tuesday in a media briefing at the Pentagon.

The number of Soldiers in non-deployable status has been reduced from 121,000 (roughly 15 percent of the total force) to less than 60,000 this past year. In October alone, the Army posted a reduction of 7,000 non-deployable members.

Calloway said the separated members came from across the force, including unsatisfactory Soldiers in the Army Reserve and National Guard and some who were pending separation.

The effort followed the release of a new directive by Defense Secretary James Mattis last February to raise standards for deployable troops across the four military branches, improving readiness and lethality.

The directive highlights two distinctions: for the first time, the Army defines deployability plainly in written form. And the directive marks a culture change that encourages greater accountability among Soldiers to maintain readiness and empower commanders.

"The culture change is particularly important," Calloway said. "We're not only defining the deployability and the directive, it's the first time we've ever put on paper what constitutes deployability."

The directive enables commanders to closely examine non-deployable Soldiers on a case-by-case basis.

"The first actions that senior leaders are taking is to ensure commanders understand their authorities; how to use them and that they are supported by senior leadership," said Diane Randon, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.

To be certified as deployable, Soldiers must be:

- legally, administratively and medically cleared for employment in any environment;

- able to operate in harsh environments or areas with extreme temperatures;

- able to carry and employ an assigned weapon;

- able to execute the Army's warrior tasks;

- able to operate their duties while donning protective equipment such as body armor, helmets, eye protection gloves and chemical or biological equipment.

Finally, Soldiers must pass the physical fitness test or be able to meet the physical demands of a specific deployment.

Soldiers who do not meet the standards of the new criteria, or Soldiers who become permanently non-deployable after the date of the new directive, will be considered unqualified to serve in any military branch. Soldiers who remain in non-deployable status because of administrative reasons have six months to meet the requirements or face separation.

Calloway noted that the new directive does not apply to all of the remaining 60,000, including those who remain in non-deployable status due to medical reasons. The general estimated about 70-80 percent of the 60,000 remain non-deployable for medical reasons, and another portion for legal reasons.

Wounded warriors who have continued active duty and those on certain types of medical profiles will not be subject to the new directive. Only commanders at the O-6 level and above in a Soldier's chain of command can waive one or more of the six requirements.

Exemptions to the requirements include ex-prisoners of war who were deferred from serving in a country where they were held captive, trainees or cadets who have not completed initial entry training, and Soldiers who are temporarily non-deployable because they received a compassionate reassignment or stabilization to move them closer to an ill family member.

To help Soldiers meet deployability standards, Calloway said, the service already has measures in place to reduce non-deployables and injured Soldiers beginning in basic training.

Soldiers must meet physical and psychological standards based on their desired career fields. The Army has also began to implement holistic health and fitness measures in its training.

"You can never get 100 percent on [reducing the number of non-deployables]," Calloway said. "But the goal is ... to get it as low as possible."

In the past, Calloway said Army leaders used a conservative approach to reporting non-deployables. By upholding stricter standards and holding Soldiers accountable to maintain qualifications for deployability will not only change culture but raise morale and enthusiasm to uphold standards.

In recent selection boards for officers competing to be battalion and brigade commanders, candidates were required to certify that they are deployable and had to pass a physical fitness test. Randon hopes Soldiers will see the increased standards at those levels of command as motivation.

"It really is a mindset of inspiring and motivating Soldiers to be accountable and to be classified as deployable," she said.