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Some 'Stop Loss' Soldiers to Return Early

Army Master Sgt. Duff E. McFadden - Army News Service

CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq , July 13, 2010 Hundreds of soldiers will leave their units in Iraq and return home early over the next two months to help meet the president's mandated troop strength of 50,000 in the country by Sept. 1.

"Many of these soldiers are part of Stop Loss," said Army Col. Charles E.A. Sexton, commander of the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. He is keeping a promise to soldiers in his unit who involuntarily had their service extended in order to deploy.

"These soldiers have served honorably, while having their service obligation extended beyond their original separation date in order to meet the operational needs of the deployment," Sexton said.

"This early redeployment is an opportunity to allow these soldiers to separate from the service at a time closer to their original separation date," he explained.

Not all of the soldiers returning home early were affected by Stop Loss, however. The force cap also allows commanders the opportunity to redeploy soldiers who will attend professional development schools, assist in the unit's reintegration, or who have family emergencies, medical issues or complex family needs.

"The decision to send a soldier back early is one the command takes very seriously," Sexton said. He added that the operational impact of sending a soldier home early must be carefully considered so that the mission can continue.

Army Sgt. Drake Harris, Forward Support Company, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, was to separate Sept. 26, 2009. The Prescribed Load Listing, Maintenance Control noncommissioned officer in charge planned to start school at the University of St. Louis in September. But he said he has no regrets about the Stop Loss extension.

"I've been able to save a lot of money and pay off a lot of bills," said the 23-year old St. Louis, Mo., native. "I've also researched other schools, even the ROTC program at St. Louis. I've looked into the new GI Bill and everything it offers. If I had gotten out in September, I wouldn't have been able to research everything as thoroughly as I have."

Harris is scheduled to redeploy to Kuwait in early August, well ahead of the rest of his brigade.

Harris and Army Sgt. Jacob A. Wilson received the Stop Loss news during brigade-wide training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., last July.

"I have no regrets about this deployment and I haven't been disappointed with it," said Wilson, a maintenance squad leader who is on his third deployment to Iraq. "I don't feel bad about Stop Loss, or for being sent home early. I don't have any bad feelings about it at all."

The concept behind the military Stop Loss program was to sustain cohesive operational forces that train and serve together throughout their deployments, as well as keep soldiers with certain skills needed within those units.

First used in the 1990-91 Gulf War, authority for Stop Loss has existed since 1984 (Section 12305, Title 10, U.S. Code). It enables the president of the United States to involuntarily extend or retain servicemembers beyond their established separation date if they are deemed to be essential to the national security of the United States.

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