Although the U.S. Department of Defense plans to halt using "Stop Loss"
within the next two years, the practice is still in place. In September, 12,204
soldiers were affected by Stop Loss (kept on active service despite scheduled
retirement or discharge). About the same number will be affected each month for
another year. Use of Stop Loss peaked in 2005, at 15,758 troops a month. The
lowest number held was in May, 2007 (8,540), but climbed back to 12,000 a month
because of the demands of the build up for the Surge Offensive in Iraq that
year. But there are still 151,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and 32,000 in
Afghanistan ( being increased to over 50,000 in the next year). In other words,
the 2007 "Surge Force" that went to Iraq, and recently returned, is
now headed to Afghanistan. Thus the continued use of Stop Loss.
Stop Loss is
critical for maintaining the combat ability of units headed overseas. Because
of retirements, schools, leave, expired enlistments and so on, military units
today can have over twenty percent of their troops away, or about to leave, at
any one time. To keep units headed overseas up to strength, the U.S. Army began
using the "Stop Loss" rule six years ago. This meant that troops
could not retire, and if they were at the end of their enlistment, they had to
stay in the service until their tour of duty in Iraq was completed. The main
reason for this policy was to save lives. The majority of people stop lossed
were NCOs (usually squad and team leaders about to be discharged, or senior
ones about to retire) and technicians. The NCOs were critical in combat, the
glue that held units together.
Replacing these leaders just before a unit ships out to a combat zone,
leaves troops with unfamiliar replacement leaders, which leads to mistakes, and
also halts scheduled transfers from a unit so affected. The Stop Loss has been
applied separately to active duty and reserve units, causing some morale
problem in Iraq when reserve units were under Stop Loss and active duty units
were not. So far, nearly 100,000 active duty and reserve troops have been hit
with a Stop Loss order, and served another few months, or as much as a year.
War II, troops were in "for the duration" (of the war.) Historically,
that was the exception, not the rule in the American military. During the
American Revolution and American Civil War, troops served fixed enlistments and
left when their six months, two years or whatever were up.
government was wary of issuing a "for the duration" order for the War
On Terror because of the potential political backlash, and the difficulty of
attracting recruits for an all-volunteer force. During the Korean and Vietnam
war there was a limit of 13 months service in the combat zone and enlistments
were rarely extended involuntarily. Iraq was another one of those wars where
the government feels it can get away for a little "for the duration
lite", which is what Stop Loss is.
has been part of the enlistment contract since the 1970s. Basically, troops
take on an eight year obligation when they enlist, even if the specified period
of active service is only four years. Normally, the rest of the obligation is
served in the IRR (Individual Ready Reserve), which usually requires no contact
with the military. Thus, at the end of three or four years, troops receive a
document saying they have been "released from active service." Four
or five years later, they get their discharge. It's just another example of why
you should always read the fine print.