By Mrs Michelle Kennedy (Drum)January 19, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- When Soldiers prepare to leave active-duty service, they have to go through many steps to clear the installation. One of the many stops on their outprocessing checklist is a visit to Fort Drum's Reserve Component Transition Office.
"Every 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldier who's (leaving active service) has to come through our office," said Capt. John Pellerito, RCTO officer strength manager, adding that his office also helps division Soldiers stationed at Fort Polk, La.
Pellerito and his team of counselors sit down with officers and enlisted personnel to discuss their options for the "real world."
In many cases, when Soldiers enter the Army, they sign on for an eight-year commitment, with four years serving in the active Army.
"If they have an obligation remaining (when they're clearing), they have to go into the reserve component," Pellerito said, adding that Soldiers have the option of entering the Individual Ready Reserve, National Guard or Army Reserves. "We tell them about all the benefits and options of the reserve components."
If Soldiers opt to enter the Individual Ready Reserve, they can be called up to serve again at any time with no consideration of dwell time, Pellerito said.
"They can call people up from the first day (they join the IRR) to the last day when they get out," he said. "(Because) the IRR doesn't take dwell time into consideration, so we'll have (Soldiers) who come back from deployment (and go into the IRR) and get called up right away."
However, if Soldiers opt to enter the National Guard or Army Reserves, there's a stabilization period of about two years, Pellerito added.
"For the Army Reserves, (the stabilization period is) two years across the board in every state," he explained. "In the National Guard, most states (also offer) two years."
Another benefit of entering the National Guard or Army Reserves is the fact that under the military service reduction policy, the RCTO can cut their commitment time in half, Pellerito said. Soldiers will only have to serve two years of the remaining four years of their initial commitment. This reduction also almost guarantees they won't deploy.
"As long as they stay in their military occupational specialty, we can give them the two-year stabilization policy, and under the military service reduction policy, we erase the last two years (of their commitment)," he said.
"We're helping Soldiers out by (transferring) their service into the National Guard and Reserves," he continued.
Transitioning to the reserve component services allows Soldiers to continue receiving benefits while continuing to serve, Pellerito said. They are still eligible for health insurance through TRICARE Reserve Select, as well as dental and life insurance; they are paid to complete monthly drills; and they receive college benefits and other veterans benefits they earned while serving active duty.
In the past seven years, Pellerito said he and his team have helped more than 400 officers and thousands of enlisted Soldiers transition into the National Guard and Army Reserves.
"We're keeping them in boots, and they're keeping their benefits and aren't worrying about deploying," he said. "Our main job is taking care of Soldiers. We aren't recruiters; we're career counselors."