By Army Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 29, 2009 - A new program that provides special pay for soldiers deploying past their end-of-service dates is set to take affect Sept. 1 for the National Guard. The Deployment Extension Stabilization Pay program replaces the "Stop Loss" involuntary extension program and pays a cash bonus of up to $6,000 to soldiers in units set to deploy who elect to stay in past their end-of-service date to deploy, said Col. Marianne Watson, Army National Guard personnel officer.
The bonus is not a lump sum payment, and the amount of the incentive depends upon when the soldier decides to extend his or her enlistment contract, Watson said.
The Army's Stop Loss program has been used since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to extend soldiers in critical jobs past the end of their enlistment contract to deploy.
"If you agree to extend from 180 days to 365 days [prior to the mobilization date] we're going to offer you $500 a month for each month that you're in a Title 10 [active duty] status," Watson said. For those who extend between 179 days and 90 days before the mobilization date, that rate drops to $350 for each month on active duty.
Soldiers who elect to take advantage of this program would have their enlistment contracts extended for the length of the deployment plus 90 days, Watson said. However, to qualify for the incentive pay, soldiers must make it through the Soldiers Readiness Processing at the mobilization station.
Soldiers who have an enlistment contract that expires during the deployment and choose not to extend it still may have to deploy.
"We would take a soldier who could serve a minimum of six months boots-on-ground, plus still keep or maintain 90 days of reintegration," Watson said. "So a Guard soldier would go to mobilization station for two to three months, they would go to the deployment theater and they would do a minimum of six months boots-on-ground. Then they could come back, up to three months early. "
To put it another way, Watson said, "anybody with a [contract expiration date] of mobilization day plus one year, we're taking to theater." But soldiers may rotate out of theater up to three months early, if need be, to have them take part in the 30-, 60- and 90-day reintegration programs prior to the end of their term of service.
"We said as a reserve component we still need to maintain that 30-, 60-, 90-day reintegration period," Watson said.
For unit commanders, the new policy provides a way to establish early-on their units' manpower needs for the deployment, Watson noted.
"The Guard program provides stabilization for units in the deployment window," she said. "Our goal is to stabilize the organization and lock in the formations for the commander as far out as we can, up to 365 days prior to the mobilization date."
For soldiers who extend their contracts past the mobilization plus the 90-day reintegration window, standard retention bonuses would apply.
Stop Loss affects just 1 percent of the Guard, and only for limited time periods, Guard officials said. The Army still retains the authority for future use of Stop Loss under extraordinary circumstances.
State personnel offices have more information.
(Army Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy serves at the National Guard Bureau.)