At least 48 Army captains serving in Afghanistan are among nearly 1,200 captains who have essentially been given pink slips forcing them to leave the military as part of the Army's drawdown, service officials said Wednesday.
In addition to the 48 in Afghanistan, another 39 captains deployed overseas were also on the so-called captains' "hit list" for separation from the service in seven to nine months, the officials said.
A senior Army official defended the move to tell captains in Afghanistan that they had been chosen for separation rather than wait until their tours in the combat zone had ended.
The official said that the seven or nine-month clock for transition out of the Army started running when they were selected for separation and it was better to "give them the maximum amount of time" to prepare for civilian life.
"I believe it was the right thing to do," said the senior official, who spoke on background on the condition he was not identified.
Another round of officer separations was set to begin in the first week of August when pink slips start going out to officers with the rank of major, a second Army official said.
The selection process for separation began with an extensive records check to turn up those with marks against their careers – "anything from an extra-marital affair to a DUI (Driving Under the Influence)," a senior official said.
The officers were being ordered to leave the military as part of the Army's plan to reduce the size of the force following the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and amid budget cutbacks. The current strength of the Army was 513,800, and that number must be reduced to 440,000-450,000 by 2019, a senior official said.
The Army was trying to meet the lower numbers by recruiting fewer troops but the projections were that involuntary separations were still necessary, a senior official said.
"We won't be able to achieve those numbers" without issuing the so-called "pink slips," the official said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at email@example.com