FORT SILL, Okla. -- The Secretary of the Army recently issued a new directive authorizing select individuals to apply for early retirement. This authorization is called Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA).

This is the not the first time the Army has enacted such a plan to reduce its numbers. If you are one of the Soldiers eligible to use this program, then you may be somewhat familiar with the Army's history of providing early retirement incentives.

Congress created the TERA program in 1993, just a couple years following Operation Desert Storm, to reduce service member manpower. This effort simultaneously gave those service members who were close to retirement the opportunity to retain the retirement benefits they had spent almost 20 years working for. That Army directive remained valid from 1993 until 2001.

Fast forward 11 years and two combat operations later and we now see a similar scenario launching the return of the TERA with the release of Army Directive 2012-25

You may be asking "Who is eligible for early retirement?" Noncommissioned officers denied continued service as a result of the Qualitative Service Program (due to being over strength or promotion stagnation) who are serving on active duty and who have completed 15, but less than 20 years of active service are eligible to apply for the TERA program. Additionally, officers and warrant officers placed at-risk for continued service by virtue of non-selection for advancement by promotion selection boards (passed up twice for selection to the next higher rank), who are serving on active duty, and have completed 15, but less than 20 years of active service are also eligible.

Any Soldier pending evaluation for disability retirement under 10 U.S.C Chapter 61 is not eligible for early retirement under this directive.

Early retirement under this directive is not an entitlement. If a service member meets the basic eligibility requirements, he or she must apply through Army Human Resources Command (HRC) for acceptance. The commanding general and the Army HRC are the approving authorities for this program. Soldiers who are approved will still receive the same retirement benefits they would have received had they retired at 20 years, however, the retirement pension will be less than what would have been received if they had retired at 20 years.

Soldiers considering the early retirement program should visit their retirement services office for a more detailed pension estimate. Soldiers approved for early retirement in the program will not be authorized involuntary separation pay. They do however remain eligible for transition assistance benefits until their separation date.

To receive more detailed instruction on how to apply for the TERA program, service members should review Military Personnel Message 12-239 located on the HRC website