WASHINGTON – The Army would like its enlisted Soldiers to remain on station for at least 36 months, and career managers are aiming to see that they will, said a director from Human Resource Command.
In late 2012, senior Army leaders “asked us to look for ways to increase unit readiness, stability and predictability for Soldiers and Families,” said Col. Robert Bennett, director, Enlisted Personnel Management Directorate.
Keeping Soldiers on station for a longer period of time would accomplish those goals, said Bennett, who said he met with leaders in his directorate to go over options and implementation of the plan.
There are exceptions
The increase in time-on-station is affecting most, but not all of around 432,000 enlisted Soldiers. There are multiple exceptions to the effort to keep Soldiers on station for 36 months.
The most important of those exceptions is deployment, Bennett said. If there is a need for Soldiers to deploy, then the mission comes first, he said.
The Army also has several high-demand career field positions, such as recruiters and drill sergeants. If the Army needs Soldiers to fill those positions, that too would be a reason to move a Soldier to a new location before they complete 36 months at a duty station. Special duty positions such as in the intelligence community or at the White House Communications Agency, for example, are also exceptions.
Professional development of Soldiers is also an exception, Bennett said. For example, if a staff sergeant gets promoted to sergeant first class, he or she might be moved to fill a billet that is more commensurate with their increased rank and ability to lead.
Soldiers with special needs children might also be exempted from the time-on-station effort. For example, Bennett said, a Soldier may get a compassionate reassignment to a location with better support for their special-needs child.
Soldiers assigned to Korea will continue to serve there for one year, not three. But existing policies for Soldiers assigned in Germany, Hawaii and Alaska remain unchanged; those Soldiers are already locked into three-year tours.
Finally, in the past, Soldiers have been offered the opportunity to choose a new duty station as part of a reenlistment option. The previous requirement for first-term Soldiers reenlisting was 12 months on station, Bennett said. That has now been increased to 24 months for priority 1 and 2 assignments, which include some units that are deploying, warrior transition units, ROTC cadre and other special assignments that have “senior leader emphasis.”
Re-enlisting Soldiers who choose follow-on assignments that are not priority 1 or 2 will likely have to remain on station the full 36 months before getting their location choice, Bennett said.
Tours return to normal
Prior to 9/11, three-year tours were the norm. It was overseas contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that had Soldiers moving from one installation to the next with less than 36 months at one duty station. But as operations draw down, the Army’s goal of 36 months is pretty much being met right now, Bennett said.
Now, things are becoming more stable and predictable, and Bennett said he thinks Soldiers and their Families as a whole are appreciative of that.
On top of that, a reduction in permanent-change-of-station moves helps the Army save money, Bennett said.
“We want to make everyone happy,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s about Army requirements. That’s the driver.”