FORT HOOD, Texas (Feb. 17, 2012) -- In an effort to address a downsizing Army, Army Directive 2012-03, Army Retention Initiatives, goes into effect March 1, the same day the re-enlistment window opens for Soldiers whose service contract ends in fiscal year 2013.

The directive, released from the Secretary of the Army John McHugh on Feb. 2 places additional restrictions for some mid-grade noncommissioned officers to re-enlist, as well as five additional events which will be cause for a Soldier's bar to re-enlistment.

"We will use the drawdown as an opportunity to shape our Army by ensuring that we retain only our very best Soldiers," the Secretary of the Army's directive stated.

"Here at Fort Hood, we echo that sentiment," Command Sgt. Maj. Arthur L. Coleman Jr., III Corps and Fort Hood command sergeant major, said Feb. 10. "In III Corps, our Soldiers need to have an expeditionary mindset. By that, I mean they need to be mentally and physically prepared to do our nation's business."

The directive requires commanders to "ensure that only the best qualified Soldiers of those eligible are re-enlisted" and that brigade-level commanders and above "will deny re-enlistment to those Soldiers not deemed best qualified."

"That's a big change, in itself," Sgt. Maj. Robert Sluss, III Corps command career counselor said of the new directive. "It places more emphasis for retention at the brigade level. The biggest thing is for the authority to deny re-enlistment to a qualified Soldier which is shifting down to the brigade commander's level."

"Tough decisions are ahead," stated a letter released to commands accompanying the newest retention directive, signed by the Secretary of the Army, Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno and Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler III. "Some fully qualified Soldiers will be denied re-enlistment. Commanders must carefully assess their Soldiers and ensure only our best Soldiers are retained to meet the needs of our Army."

"We direct every commander at the company/battery/troop level to counsel their Soldiers prior to re-enlistment," Coleman said. "It's during these counseling sessions that we can look a Soldier in the eye and tell them where they are deficient, whether it's physical fitness, marksmanship or a disciplinary issue. Each Soldier should know where they stand."

In addition to having brigade commanders make retention determinations of their troops, several new guidelines have been implemented by the Secretary of the Army's directive. In addition to re-enlistment qualifications already outlined in Army Regulation 601-280, or AR 601-280, Army Retention Program, the new directive states that "Soldiers in the grade of staff sergeant and above not currently serving on an indefinite re-enlistment contract will be considered unqualified for re-enlistment if their Official Military Personnel File contains one of the following:

• Relief-for-Cause Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report, or NCOER

• a "No" listed in Part IV (Army Values, attributes, skills, actions)

• a senior rater rating of 4 (fair) or 5 (poor) in Part V -- Overall Performance and Potential of an NCOER

• a Service School Academic Evaluation Report indicating a failure in an NCO Education System course

The directive states that "requests for waivers will be considered on a case-by-case basis," submitted through command channels to the U.S. Army Human Resources Command.

Commanders will also be required to initiate a bar to re-enlistment under the directive for the following reasons:

• loss of primary military occupational specialty due to fault of the Soldier

• a Soldier denied Command List Integration for promotion by the unit commander.

• an incident involving the use of illegal drugs or alcohol within the current enlistment/re-enlistment period resulting in an officially filed letter of reprimand; a finding of guilty under Article 15, Uniformed Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ; a civilian conviction; or conviction by court-martial

• two or more separate proceedings under Article 15, UCMJ, resulting in a finding of guilty by a field grade commander during the Soldier's current enlistment or period of service

• a Soldier absent without leave more than 96 hours during the current enlistment/re-enlistment period

Previously, Sluss said, a mandatory bar to re-enlistment was initiated for three things: failing two consecutive Army Physical Fitness Tests, or APFTs, failure to meet satisfactory progress in the Army's Weight Control Program or failure at an NCOES course

With downsizing on the horizon, going forward, Sluss said Soldiers should look at their military careers as serving on a team at any level.

"Every year, there are new members," he explained. "You must continue to perform and improve to remain in the starting lineup. Otherwise, someone my step up and take your position. If I'm Specialist Sluss, I'm thinking that I want to make sure that I'm doing everything I can do to remain competitive. If you do that, commanders won't have any questions about you when re-enlistment time rolls around."

He said Soldiers should look to improve themselves through their APFT scores, military and civilian education and display leadership potential.

"It's not enough just to show up for work and do the bare minimum," Sluss said.

"We're looking to keep the best. Re-enlistment is a privilege, not a right," Coleman said. "A Soldier is fully qualified if they score a 180 on their APFT, for example, but if a Soldier is doing the minimum, they're sitting on the fence. In the future, they might find themselves on the wrong side of the fence looking in."

Coleman added that it's not just the APFT, marksmanship, military and civilian education, discipline or leadership potential.

"We encourage commanders to use the 'whole Soldier concept' when assessing Soldiers," he said. "And Soldiers should be looking at the 'roadmap' in their chosen career field. Every branch has them, and they are available to download and review. There are many career enhancing moves a Soldier can make -- from drill sergeant school, air assault school or civilian and military education. Make no mistake about it, I sit on a lot of boards and these roadmaps tell a Soldier exactly what they need to succeed."

Provisions of the new retention directive will be incorporated into the next revision of AR 601-280 and will be rescinded upon the publication of the revised regulation.