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Commentary: Lt. colonel writes plea to help 'pink slip' soldiers

Jul. 14, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Now more than ever, the Army needs more meaningful transition services for its soldiers, writes Lt. Col. Amanda Rossi.
Now more than ever, the Army needs more meaningful transition services for its soldiers, writes Lt. Col. Amanda Rossi. (Army)
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[Editorís note: The following is a letter to the editor.]

The reduction in force in the Army ranks has historical precedence. The Army grows to fight a war and when the war is over ó the Army shrinks. This is no different than what occurred after the First Gulf War and others, except now we are turning our service members out into a less-than-ideal economy that does not seem prepared to absorb them within the labor market.

It isnít just young officers that will be thanked for their service and asked to leave. Noncommissioned officers will be told to do the same. Young troops with young families will struggle to find pay and benefits equal to that of what they have enjoyed in the military. Itís going to be hard for many.

The drawdown is going to happen and is happening. Thereís no political will to reverse the decision. Thereís not likely to be any substantive political outrage over sending pink slips to the battlefield. Clearly no one considered the effects of the doubling down of transitioning from the battlefield to home while simultaneously transitioning from Soldier to civilian. We did a poor job of preparing our troops and their families for the reality of what was to come. Now all we are left with is how well we take care of our transitioning troops. We need to get at least that much right.

Now more than ever, our transition services need to be robust, comprehensive, and meaningful to the separating Soldier. Now is not the time to skimp on transition support to separating troops. Troops must be given the time, flexibility, and freedom to transition ó and that requires more than two weeks of concentrated effort before separation. The resources and support staff must be sufficient to provide the needed transition services and must be able to surge with the surge in separations. Commanders should be required to support transition services and should be held responsible to track and report advanced and timely attendance of their separating troops at such transition activities. No troop with only two weeks left to separation should be walking into the transition office for the first time. Our elected officials, by way of legislation that has necessitated the reduction, also have a responsibility to accelerate the much-needed improvements within the VA in order to support these newly minted veterans. Itís time to stop abdicating that responsibility to political sound bites and time to execute something of substance that will have a meaningful impact on the lives of those who gave much to this nation ó while they are still living.

Lt. Col. Amanda Rossi, is an Army Strategist with U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is a prior-enlisted soldier and has served in the Army for 24 years.

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