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Commander restricts troop changes
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Whether it’s officially called “stop-loss” or not, it appears increasingly likely that 3rd Infantry Division soldiers who were planning to transfer to other posts, leave the army at the end of their enlistment or retire won’t have those options due to the escalation of U.S. involvement in the civil war in Iraq.
The division commander, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, has said, “For now it is necessary that we retain every soldier in the division. We will receive new personnel, but there will not be further departures without my approval.”
A Fort Stewart spokesman said the general’s decision was necessary because two of the division’s brigade combat teams expect to deploy to Iraq two-to-three months early as part of President Bush’s plan to increase U.S. forces in Baghdad by 21,500 soldiers.
The 3rd ID is the first Army unit to be sent for a third deployment in Iraq. The division is not calling the general’s action “stop-loss” because that is the term used for the service-wide measure authorized by Congress during the Vietnam War era.
That distinction may be become moot, with predictions coming from Washington that, as early as this week, the Defense Department will announce a similar freeze affecting 160,000 soldiers.
Military observers say the latest stop-loss orders will be announced after Congress is briefed and affected Army units are informed.
The new orders are an expansion of similar orders imposed Nov. 13 on more than 110,000 active duty soldiers whose units are preparing to go to Iraq and Afghanistan between now and May.
Ironically, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered that use of stop-loss orders be minimized, and has given the armed services until the end of this month to provide him with plans to curtail the practice.
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