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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Army National Guardsman Sue Defense Dept Over Stop-Loss Policy

Army National Guard Specialist David Qualls and seven of his comrades filed suit against the Defense Department over what they charge is the unfair extension of their active duty obligation beyond the term they agreed to. Qualls signed up with the Arkansas National Guard under the "Try-One" enlistment option which, according to the recruiting pitch, "lets you try the Guard for one year without additional commitment." His year was up in June but his commitment was extended into next year under the Pentagon's stop-loss program, which allows the extension of enlistments during war or national emergencies as a way to promote continuity and cohesiveness. This policy, invoked in June, will keep tens of thousands of personnel in the military beyond their expected departure. The case raises questions of legality, military effectiveness, and basic fairness.

Qualls is not the first to sue over this issue, but no one has won yet. The Defense Department has won round one of this, with U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruling that, whatever their recruiters might have told them, their enlistment contract allows the government to do this. The dirty little secret of military recruiters is that, regardless of the length of the initial active duty contract, everyone who joins the military incurs an eight-year obligation under Section 10145 of 10 USC. This fact is buried in the long enlistment contract and certainly not emphasized by recruiters, who are under heavy pressure to meet monthly quotas.

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