US Army forcing out thousands of senior non-commissioned officers

U.S. Army SSG Chad M. Theriault USA Provost Sergeant Senior Enlisted Advisor, HHC USAG Italy, left, gives a gift to U.S Army Master Sergeant Robert Y. Halstead, HHC USAG Italy, during his retirement ceremony at the Darby Community Club, Leghorn Camp Darby, Italy, May 13, 2016. (Photo by Elena Baladelli/released)

Senior noncommissioned officers will soon be leaving the Army by the thousands after new retention rules -designed to boost promotion opportunities for younger soldiers- go into effect.

According to the Army Times, the new policy was recently signed by Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning on May 26th and will be implemented to ensure the Army keeps its highest-quality soldiers as the force shrinks in size.

“We grew the Army, and now we have to get smaller, and this is the right way to do it,” said SMA Dan Dailey.

Previously, soldiers were promoted at a faster rate to meet personnel demands on a two-front conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, often as they bore the burden of back-to-back deployments in support of the War on Terror.

Now that the US Army is being reduced in size -a whopping 21% reduction from the wartime peak of 570,000 to 450,000 by FY18- certain policies need to be tweaked in order to prevent excessive staff-pooling in lower ranks.

“The promotion system inherently had to respond to the environment and the operational needs,” Dailey said, insinuating that returning to pre-2007 retention rates would be most beneficial for the army. “We have to get back to an Army that is an Army that can project readiness across the globe and prevent and deter war, and be ready to respond at a moment’s notice to respond to war.”

SMA Dailey says that returning to how things were before 2007 will reduce the need for Qualitative Service Program (QSP) boards, enhancing the screening for NCOs in overstrength occupations or those who have stagnated due to lack of promotion opportunities.

“QSP does right-size the Army in regard to numbers, but things like deployability, talent management, they’re harder to determine when you’re looking at files,” Dailey said.

With the new directive going into effect October 1st, the Army will be reducing the retention control point times ranging from 2-3 years for ranks of Sergeant First Class to Sergeant Major. Meanwhile, the Army projects increases in promotion for E-7 and E-8 ranks, respectively.

“It’s not about kicking people out or separating people,” said senior Army career counsellor SGM LeeAnn Connor. “It retains a quality NCO corps as we reshape our Army, and it supports a healthy, balanced promotion system for all enlisted ranks.”

Connor says that the Army must remain flexible during a troop drawdown.

“We have a choice to take risk in our senior population, that we know are a known loss, or we take a risk in our mid-grade NCOs, who are the future of the Army,” she said. “What we’re doing is we’re giving [mid-grade NCOs] more potential for promotion, more opportunities for continued service.”

While there is a tiered-timeline for each grade under scrutiny, soldiers will have a minimum of one year from October 1st before they will be required to retire.

“At a minimum, they’ll get a year from October,” Connor said. “Most people will fall in farther than a year.”

Nearly a decade since the troop buildup leading to the Iraq Surge, SMA Dailey says we’re at a point in history now where we’re in the inverse.”

“We were directed to make the Army smaller, which is historically consistent with every post-war era,” he said. “So I asked the team a few months back, let’s do an analysis on how we’re going to draw down the Army. We were focused and committed on doing a talent-based drawdown.”

Dailey says that as the Army shrinks, promotion rates will decrease, thus maintaining upward mobility. In order to do this, senior enlisted leadership who are retirement eligible must go.

“It’s the right thing to do. We’ve looked at all the numbers over and over. This was no small decision. This was eight months of running the numbers, running the projections,” he said. “I have a responsibility to fill the ranks of soldiers and noncommissioned officers with soldiers who are capable to fight and win in the complex world. We have to invest in the future. It’s a no-brainer. This personally affects people. We know that. But this is what we have to do, and it’s going to take care of our future noncommissioned officers.”

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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