FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 11, 2012) -- The Army is now six weeks into Phase 2 of this fiscal year's re-enlistment window, open to Soldiers whose expiration of term of service falls between Oct. 1, 2011, and Sept. 30, 2012.

The first phase ran from October of last year to January, said Staff Sgt. William Cunningham, career counselor for the 192nd Infantry Brigade. The second is expected to close at the end of September, though the date is still tentative.

Cunningham said these are the shortest re-enlistment windows he's seen since he joined in 1997, and it reflects the Army's goal of 26,000 separations from service in the next three years.

"The Army as a whole is in a position that they haven't been in for the last five to six years," he said.

With the proposed drawdown of 70,000 active-duty Soldiers by 2017, the pace at which Soldiers will be re-enlisting will slow, Cunningham said. "With that in mind, all eligible Soldiers in the re-enlistment window should see their career counselor now to go over their options and ensure they have a 'seat at the table' before the opportunity goes away."

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler said the Army is committed to making these cuts responsibly and professionalism will remain one of the determining qualities for Soldiers who wish to remain a part of the downsizing force, the Army News Service reported Feb. 24.

"For me, there are three criteria to identify professional Soldiers: competence, or the ability to do your job and do it well; character: the understanding that a Soldier acts on behalf of the nation, rather than his or herself; and commitment: which is a personal calling to serve in the Army and the nation, before all else," Chandler said.

Cunningham said while Soldiers could previously think in two- to three-year increments for re-enlistments, it's now essential to have a broader view.

"I think Soldiers need to think more long-term as far as what they need to do in the military," he said. "They need to go to the schools. They need to get degrees. They need to stay out of trouble. We want to keep the best. They need to make themselves competitive."

Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, the Maneuver Center of Excellence commanding general, conducted a mass re-enlistment ceremony for 82 of the "best" Tuesday outside McGinnis-Wickam Hall.

"Re-enlistment is a privilege, not a right," said command career counselor Sgt. Maj. Luis Rivera. "Only the best deserving Soldiers will remain as part of this superb Army team. Soldiers need to take timely actions if they truly want to continue this journey. They must continue to seek self-improvements professionally and personally. The Army wants to retain the best Soldiers to become tomorrow's senior leaders."

For those in the grade of staff sergeant and above who are not serving on an indefinite re-enlistment contract, there are some special considerations they must meet for re-enlistment, Cunningham said. They will be deemed unqualified if their official military personnel file contains one of the following:

• Relief for cause NCO evaluation report,

• "No" marked in part IV of an NCO evaluation report, which deals with the Army values,

• Rating of a 4 (fair) or 5 (poor) in part V of an NCO evaluation report, which deals with the senior rater, or

• Service school academic evaluation report indicating a failure in an NCO course.

Another major change with the new re-enlistment requirements is the denial and approval authority for a fully qualified Soldier," Cunningham said.

"Previously, denial of re-enlistment of a fully qualified Soldier, whose performance didn't warrant a bar to re-enlistment, had to go to the DA level for approval," he said. "Now, the approval and denial authority rests on first brigade or O-6 level commander in the Soldier's chain of command. At the DA level, you just have somebody looking at your records who doesn't know you. (They're) just seeing a number. Your command knows you."

With it being easier to deny a Soldier re-enlistment, since the decision now rests at a lower level of command, counseling is particularly vital, Cunningham said, "from the squad leader on up."
He estimated most Soldiers have nearly a dozen counseling sessions throughout the year, including at least one by their commander supplemented with several others by their career counselor and squad leader or section sergeant.

Sessions start within a month of a Soldier's arrival at a unit.

"Soldiers need to have some initiative," Cunningham said. "Don't wait for somebody to come to you. Take care of your career. When it all boils down to it, it's a personal responsibility because it's your career. It's your profession."

Cunningham said the retention office mans an informational booth once a month at the PX. Its next visit will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 1. The booth is staffed by a Reserve component counselor, Special Forces counselors and others who can offer guidance on re-enlistment.

For more information on re-enlistment requirements, contact your unit career counselor or retention NCO.