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Army to extend terms of about 7,000 troops

New policy seeks to avoid shortage

By Robert Schlesinger
Globe Staff / January 6, 2004

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WASHINGTON -- The Army is preparing to extend by a few months the service of roughly 7,000 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who were scheduled to leave the armed forces before their units return home in the spring, officials said yesterday.

"This is all about sustaining readiness, cohesion, and operational capacity of the units" in Iraq, said Colonel Elton R. Manske, who oversees Army retention.

Manske said that the Army would enact a "stop-loss" policy that prevents soldiers from leaving the service until their units return home, and for up to 90 days after that.

The military is scheduled to send home roughly 130,000 troops -- most of them from Army units -- from Iraq and Afghanistan in the spring, replacing them with 100,000 troops. The new policy would affect troops currently overseas.

Stop-loss orders allow the military to keep troops in service beyond the scheduled end of their terms.

The mandate is used to prevent troop shortages during war and other high-activity times. Currently, Army National Guard and Army Reserve members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are under stop-loss orders.

Troops preparing to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan in the spring are also barred from leaving the military within 90 days of their unit's scheduled departure.

Manske said that no soldiers' terms would be extended beyond the Army's 12-month service policy for Iraq. Roughly 7,000 who were scheduled to leave the Army before their units return to the United States in the spring will be extended by weeks or months.

Once the units have returned to the United States, soldiers will not be allowed to leave the military for up to 90 days while they go through Army exit procedures, such as career counseling. It is time the Army also uses to try to persuade them to reenlist.

Manske also said that the Army has allotted $63 million for bonuses of between $5,000 to $10,000 for soldiers who reenlist for three-year terms while they are stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Robert Schlesinger can be reached at schlesinger@globe.com

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