12. December 2004 · Comments Off on My 2 Cents on Stop Loss · Categories: General, Military

My husband was active duty Army from 1987-1991. He was scheduled to be released from active duty in May of 1991. I remember talking to his mom earlier that year, and she told me that he might not get out in May because of the war (Desert Storm). She said it matter-of-factly, not with disdain, as she was extremely proud of his service. I didn’t hear the term “stop-loss” then, but I learned the concept. He did get released on time, without having to go to the desert. He was ready to go, and is still a little pissed that his unit didn’t go during Desert Storm, as they were ready. That’s what they trained for; that was their job. (He was field artillery.)

I joined the Air Force in 1994 under Delayed Enlistment, and left for basic training in 1995. I had planned to get out at the end of my first term, as I hated my unit, but re-upped for a chance to go to England, which was #1 on my first dream sheet. The week after I reported to my second duty station in the UK in March 1999, we started bombing Kosovo. My unit had several reservists and augmentees to help support, and several people there, including our commander, were stop-lossed. I can’t say I didn’t hear complaints, but I don’t recall any lawsuits.

In January 2001, I signed the Declination of Retainability (I forget the form name or actual title). At the end of my 3-year tour I would have had around 7 months left in the military, and didn’t care to tack on another 5 months just to go back to the states. I was done, plus I was being put in for Medical Evaluation Board for asthma to determine if I was medically fit to stay in. The powers that be decided I was. So there I was all set to get out. Then Sep 11 happened.

My first selfish thought as I watched that second plane hit live during my daily PT time was “Well, that’s it. I’m getting stop-lossed.” If I remember right, all branches implemented service-wide stop-loss immediately following, and then began releasing certain career fields as time went on. I know the Air Force and Army did. In January 2002, I began my job search. My release date was 29 Sep 2002. Around February, I was offered a job. Then I started looking into stop-loss effect on me.

I had enough leave saved to begin terminal leave in mid-July. However, it wasn’t going to happen while I was on stop-loss. So I looked into getting released. Essentially, I was requesting an exception to policy release from stop-loss. I did the paperwork, got the signatures, and waited. Two months after turning in the paperwork, it finally made it to the commander. The deputy sent word down that he wanted to talk to me about it. My NCOIC told me “He’s going to tell you they are recommending denial.” I knew before I started the paperwork that was a better possibility than approval. My incoming superintendent went with me, and sure enough, the colonel told me they were recommending denial, and wanted to tell me personally why. If I had been in their position, I would have denied me too…dammit.

I was understandably disappointed. My co-workers got concerned about me because I was quiet for 2 days. I got over it though. I respected the command for taking the time to explain to me one-on-one why they were recommending denial. Although there was no guarantee that my civilian job would still be there when I got released, it was likely not going to go away. After all, the odds of someone with a clearance and experience overseas walking in were slim. Besides, I raised my hand more than once, and knew before I raised it that first time that once I signed that paperwork, I belonged to the government. Sure I thought, “Dammit, I signed a contract, and I honored my end.” I never once, however, considered suing the Air Force, or the Department of Defense.

Given all that, when I saw this headline Soldiers Challenge Enlistment Extensions, I was sympathetic, yet appalled. As I started reading it, I thought the name sounded really familiar; like someone I went to high school with. When I saw he was from the Arkansas National Guard, I figured the odds were pretty good that it was who I thought it was. Our hometown newspaper confirmed he was indeed before I saw his picture in this article, Judge Nixes Troop Request to Stay in U.S..

According to the story in our hometown newspaper, SPC Qualls was in the regular army from 1986-1990. (I will not provide the link here as his home address is listed, and the story will be gone from online version on Dec 15. There are no online archives.) He was mentioned in this USA Today Op-ed Strain Begins To Show as Iraq Stretches Military Thin as being an Army veteran. To me, this begs the question “How did he not know about stop-loss before he joined the Guard?”

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