News: JBLM NCOs soon to face force reduction measures
Story by Sgt. Mark Miranda
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – Almost half of the Army’s senior non-commissioned officers will be looked at for possible involuntary separation by boards that meet over the next several months.
These retention screenings called Qualitative Service Program boards will take place with senior NCO promotion boards, and apply to staff sergeants, sergeants first class, master sergeants and sergeants major. The boards will look for NCOs who are serving in consistently over strength specialties, or who serve in military occupational specialties with almost no promotion opportunities.
Within the Army’s active duty component, 64,500 NCOs, including those stationed at JBLM, will be screened. The QSP boards will start with the sergeant major board June 4, a master sergeant board in October, and the sergeant first class board in February 2013.
The sergeant major board will look at sergeants major and master sergeants for the Qualitative Service Program. The master sergeants board for sergeants first class and the sergeants first class board will look at staff sergeants.
In a March 13 memo signed by U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, an estimated 4,000 NCOs, most of them retirement-eligible, will be chosen for involuntary separation from active duty in fiscal year 2013.
“When you look at the memo it states sergeant first class through sergeant major. Basically we’re looking at overstrength [military occupation specialties, career management fields] and we’re also looking at Soldiers who’ve stagnated within their particular field, i.e., a staff sergeant who hasn’t seen any type of progression, one who hasn’t been promoted in eight to ten years, that doesn’t show any type of upward mobility,” said Sgt. Maj. John Pack, Headquarters Battalion, I Corps rear detachment Command Sergeant Major.
Several thousand Army Reserve NCOs also will be screened by the Active Guard and Reserve (Army Reserve) boards that meet simultaneously with the Regular Army boards.
Soldiers on the sergeant first class lists released mid-March, and promotable soldiers on other senior NCO lists won’t be screened by the upcoming retention boards.
The Enlisted Qualitative Service Program is a new force alignment campaign that combines the existing Qualitative Management Program with two new boards:
• The Overstrength Qualitative Service Program Board, a centralized selection process to consider staff sergeants and senior NCOs for involuntary separation when their primary MOS and rank exceed the Army’s 12-month operating strength goal for the MOS.
• The Promotion Stagnation Qualitative Service Program Board, a review process for considering staff sergeants and above for involuntary separation when the promotion timing objective for an MOS exceeds promotion pin-on rates, measured in years of service.
It will only be a matter of time before JBLM starts looking at NCOs that will be considered for separation.
“If you look at some of the steps that have been taken across JBLM by the brigade level commanders and battalion commanders, retention is a prime example. Within our battalion we’re actually making sure that substandard Soldiers or NCOs are not allowed to re-enlist. That’s based off the fact that the Army wants to retain the best. It doesn’t want to retain a mediocre or substandard Soldier,” Pack said.
Staff sergeants who are selected for involuntary separation by either of these boards can request voluntary reclassification to a shortage MOS; however, such requests must be received within 30 days of the soldier’s separation notification.
Soldiers who cannot be scheduled for reclassification training within six months of the notice will be involuntarily separated.
The Qualitative Management Program retention screenings will continue as an event-driven involuntary separation process for sergeants first class, master sergeants and sergeants major when derogatory information goes into their official personnel file.
“These are just variations on similar measures the Army used shortly after the Gulf War in the early 90’s,” said Staff Sgt. Nelius Rhodes, a human resources NCO with Headquarters Battalion, I Corps.
“With a requirement to draw down forces, the overstrength or promotion stagnation QSP and QMP proved effective before, and that’s why 15 year retirements are also on the table for discussion,” Rhodes said.
Currently, the overstrength Qualitative Service Program screenings have only been scheduled through the master sergeant boards that convene Feb. 13, 2013.
The first QSP boards will meet at the same time as the Active Guard and Reserve sergeant major board May 30, and the Regular Army sergeant major board on June 4.
Retirement-eligible soldiers who are in a QSP zone of eligibility can request voluntary retirement instead of being subject to retention review, and retirements must occur no later than 12 months after the date of the board announcement.
The mission of the QSP boards will be to select Soldiers for involuntary separation, according to a policy directive issued by Brig. Gen. Richard P. Mustion, the Army’s director of military personnel management.
Board members will be instructed to make decisions based on their assessment of a soldier’s potential for future contributions to the Army. In order to avoid the chopping block, NCOs should take the time to do what Pack refers to as a “gut check.”
“You have to come to work every day and give the best that you can give. You have to be proactive in seeking out those college courses and military correspondence courses and military courses that are not just something that will be an enhancement for you, but you have to ensure that you are taking things that are conducive to Army standards and Army lifestyle. Soldiers need to continue to do those things that they know will put them in that high tier category, i.e. scoring a 250 and above on the APFT,” Pack said.
“Do your best when you go out to qualify on your assigned weapon. When you go to a military school, instead of just sitting there taking the information, be proactive. Take an active interest in what is being taught and give feedback,” Pack added.
Documents in the QSP board files will include: performance, education, training and commendatory records in the official personnel file and an Enlisted Record Brief. It will also contain an official photograph and any letters submitted to the board president by the soldier under review.
Soldiers selected for involuntary separation will be notified by their chain of command, and will be discharged the first day of the seventh month after the board results are approved.
Soldiers separated under QSP will receive honorable discharges, and can transition to the reserve components, depending on National Guard and Army Reserve manning requirements.
Any NCOs who have, or will have, 18 years of active federal service on their projected release date will be allowed to stay on active duty until they qualify for retirement at 20 years of service.
Soldiers who are selected by a QSP board can request voluntary retirement, but such retirements must begin no later than the first day of the seventh month following approval of the QSP list.
Soldiers with six to 20 years of federal service may be eligible for full involuntary separation pay. Involuntary separation pay is calculated by starting with 12 times the monthly basic pay to which the soldier was entitled at the time of discharge, multiplying that by the soldier’s years of active service, then taking 10 percent of the result.
Tricare and medical treatment facility services will be available for 60 days after discharge for soldiers separating with less than six years of service, and 120 days for soldiers with six or more years of active duty.
“These are turbulent times for the Army. I think everybody kind of realizes that and there’s a lot of stress. Soldiers just need to be focused on being good at what they do. I think if we do that, as always our Army will prevail, our soldiers will prevail and we will continue to move forward,” Pack said.