Army Offers 15-Month Enlistment Option
The Army has created a 15-month enlistment option. The shortest choice had been two years.
Army offers 15-month hitch (USA Today, p. 1)
The Army, faced with a severe and growing shortage of recruits, began offering 15-month active-duty enlistments nationwide Thursday, the shortest tours ever. The typical enlistment lasts three or four years; the previous shortest enlistment was two years. Maj. Gen. Michael Rochelle, the head of the Army Recruiting Command, said 2006 could be even worse than this year, a continuation of “the toughest recruiting climate ever faced by the all-volunteer Army.”
Recruits in the new 15-month program could serve in 59 of the more than 150 jobs in the Army, including the combat infantry, and then serve two years in the Reserve or National Guard. They would finish their eight-year military obligation in the Guard or Reserve, volunteer programs such as AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps, or the Individual Ready Reserve, a pool of former active-duty troops who can still be called to duty but aren’t affiliated with any military unit.
David Segal, a military personnel expert at the University of Maryland, said the 15-month enlistments are no panacea. Fifteen months, Segal said, is often not enough time to learn complex tasks in a high-tech Army.
Segal is right, as I’ve argued in relation to the idea of a military draft. My fear, however, is that the Army is using this as a bait-and-switch. Once someone has enlisted, regardless of the initial active duty commitment they’ve agreed to, they’re subject to an eight year obligation. While the recruiters might be promising them fifteen months and then time in the IRR, the Army could stop-loss them and keep them on active duty indefinitely.