When my husband and I decided the Army would be his career, we gave the lifestyle our all. We are an Army family through and through – and we have the t-shirts, car decals, home decorating items, and emotional scars to prove it.
So when military leaders start talking retention boards for the officers and denied reenlistments for the enlisted folks I start feeling pit-in-my-stomach-kinda-want-to-hurl nervous.
Because what they are talking about isn’t some theory about what force levels should be and it’s not a “someday we may not be in the Army anymore” discussion with my husband.
It’s a real "you may not have a job anymore" kind of thing.
It’s real people I know being handed pink-slips with a “thank you for your service,” and then shown out the door and into civilian life. It’s all of our family plans and dreams being given the axe because Uncle Sam just doesn’t need us anymore.
During the Great Recession the military felt like the only safe place for employment. “At least we won’t be getting fired!” I’d say.
Not anymore. And it feels incredibly arbitrary and unfair.
The Army, for example, has got to get rid of about 25,000 people. And not all of those are going to leave on their own, so many of them have to be cut.
And the cutting is not pretty. It happens for officers, for example, through retention boards using nothing but personnel files. And while those do paint a semi-good picture of a soldier’s strong points, they aren’t the whole story.
What if the last person to give you a performance review just didn’t like you as a person, so they didn’t rank you very well?
What if it’s between you and cutting another guy – and THAT guy is the son of an important Army General officer?
This is how good people - valuable people - get canned, and the sucky officers stay.
The same story goes for enlisted soldiers in many ways. All it takes is your commanding officer having a bad taste in his mouth for you and BAM! ... reenlistment denied. Don't have a plan? Better get one.
(Even writing this is making my stomach churn.)
For us the decision about whether we get to stay or go is happening in the spring – the same time it is happening for many of our close friends. And you can feel the tension. You can see the worry on their faces.
Because these are people who don’t have a back-up plan for after the Army … because they weren’t really expecting there to BE any “after the Army.” They've talked about their pie-in-the-sky forever retirement home. They've discussed what beach they'll lay on in their free time. But just like for me, the Army is all they’ve ever known and it is all they were planning to know during their pre-retirement years.
When I talk about military transition, I am used to talking about people who want to retire or people who have to get out because of injury. I am used to talking about someone else.
I am not used to talking about me.
But that's what denied reenlistment and retention boards mean. They mean that "transition" is something that I may personally have to face. They mean that there is an unknown for me, too.
And it's freaking me out.
I suspect I am not the only one. I suspect that I am just as worried as you are. Admit your fears for me and take our poll. Do personnel cuts worry you? When you're done, check out below how other people are feeling.