The Army Is Reducing Soldiers' Reenlistment Options

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Staff sergeant receives oath of enlistment.
Maj. Gen. Pat White, commander, 1st Armored Division, administers the oath of enlistment to Staff Sgt. David Dixon, Company B, 123rd Brigade Support Battalion, at the 1 AD Headquarters on May 9, 2018. (Staff Sgt. Felicia Jagdatt/U.S. Army photo)

The Army is tweaking its retention program for next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, reducing soldiers' reenlistment options. 

The service is shrinking its Reenlistment Opportunity Window from 15 months before a soldier's contract expires to 12. The ROW is exactly what it sounds like -- the time a service member has to decide whether to continue serving in the military. 

The move comes after the Army suspended a rule in 2015 that generally barred soldiers from reenlisting 90 days prior to their separation. Under that rule, soldiers technically had a 12-month timetable, since they could not reenlist during the final three months. After it was suspended, troops had the full 15 months to reenlist.

But with the latest change, they're back to having only a year. 

Sgt. Maj. Tobey Whitney, the Army's senior career counselor, told Military.com in an interview that a 12-month window can be easier for soldiers to track, adding that the majority of contract extensions happen as troops get close to their scheduled exit from the force, making a longer period unnecessary. 

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"It makes it more simple," Whitney said. "We looked at the analytics: The vast majority reenlisted way less than 12 months from [their contract expiring]."

He added that the data is examined frequently to inform policy changes, which can take years of back and forth among Pentagon officials.

However, the new policy is in effect for only a year and could change again in October 2022, the beginning of fiscal 2023, according to a memo obtained by Military.com. 

In another change starting Friday, soldiers will no longer be offered so-called  duty station “stabilization” through contract extensions, which usually range from one to two years and allow soldiers to continue serving at their current installation. Instead, soldiers will have to go through the reenlistment process.

Such extensions were a tool for soldiers to stay at their current base for a short period of time. For example, a soldier might choose to extend for a year for medical reasons or to wait until the next school year to move their child.

Finally, the Army is changing its Career Status Program, in which midlevel noncommissioned officers can sign onto indefinite service, eliminating the regular reenlistment deadlines while still allowing soldiers to request a discharge or take a break from service. Previously, only staff sergeants or higher with 12 years in uniform were eligible; the service is now expanding that to those with 10 years of service. 

Whitney said all the new ROW guidance will be updated in DA PAM 601-280 on Friday. 

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

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