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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Soldiers must finish tours regardless of contracts

Near the end of last year, a lawsuit was brought against the U.S. Army by eight soldiers challenging a policy that would extend their terms of active duty beyond contractual expiration. Commonly known as the stop-loss policy, it requires a soldier whose unit is to deploy during wartime to go with his unit and serve the full tour. Soldiers are notified 90 days before deployment. The catch is that if a soldier’s release date is to come after his 90 day notification, he will not be released according to contract, but instead will be deployed and serve.
If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, the effects could be horrific. Thousands of years of military institution and practice will be slapped in the face. Overturning the stop-loss policy would send the message to regular troops that once their contract expires, they can stand up and walk out. The stop-loss policy was created to prevent that and serve other purposes as well, including no draft.
The plaintiffs do hold a legitimate argument for the complaint. Spc. David Qualls, one of the soldiers involved in the lawsuit, explained that he is not against the war.
“My job was to go over and perform my duties under the contract I signed. But my year is up and it’s been up. Now I believe that they should honor their end of the contract,” Qualls said.
However, several issues weaken Qualls’ stance. First, as Lt. Col. Pamela Hart explains, the policy is written in the enlistment contract.
“It says that soldiers may be required to serve on active duty for the entire period of the war or emergency and for six months after its end,” Quall said. “The whole contract is quite explanatory in that if the military needs you during a period of service, war, that you as a volunteer soldier have an obligation to serve.”
Secondly, an enlistment contract is not a standard business contract. The purpose of military in the United States was perhaps best stated by Jack Nicholson: “(This) is the business of saving lives.” The contracts that soldiers such as Qualls have signed have stipulated certain tasks and duties; however, his job, such as all other soldiers, is to protect America. That job is not done.
That is not to say that the military should ignore all enlistment contracts until the war is over. It simply means that as long as one’s unit is in battle, he must fight alongside his unit. A piece of paper with a date and signature cannot be used as a reason to leave. To get up and leave in the middle of a fight can have no justification.
The final blow to the plaintiffs’ defense is the purpose of the stop-loss policy itself. The purpose is cohesion. “If someone next to you is new, it can be dangerous,” Hart said. “The bottom line of this is unit cohesion. This way, the units deploy together, train together, fight together and come home together.”
Replacing a large number of troops in the middle of a mission is dangerous. When men train together, they learn about each other, including each others’ personalities and even sleep habits. Support groups are formed. Daily duties become routine. People learn how to work off each other’s habits. Throwing 1000 new recruits into a unit that has been together for six months breaks all the routines and rituals that unit was accustomed to.
The army is not just an expendable, faceless or soulless mass. It is a society, with each individual playing his role and making a contribution. Though common duties can be performed by any soldier, the importance in the business of saving lives is not just the end result, but also the means to this end. Furthermore, having to watch many of one’s friends leave halfway through a tour while stuck for another year is difficult to handle.
The stop-loss policy is clearly a vital component to the efficiency and strength of the U.S. military. A soldier cannot simply say, “I’m out,” or file a suit against the military when his commanding officers give an order contradicting his interest. Qualls and the other soldiers should be given great respect for the services they have performed to protect America, but the courts cannot invite a potentially dangerous cascade effect by ruling in their favor.

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