Monday, April 10, 2006

Junior officer exodus? 
That's what the New York Times says, true to form - and pins it on the Iraq war, despite the fact that retention rates among officers at the five-year mark are higher than they were at any time prior to 9/11. And that includes the boom times in the late 1990s, when the Army really was having trouble filling its captain's billets.

Don't miss Subsunk's comments over at Cori Dauber's.

Q and O weighs in, too...

As does TigerHawk.

My take? On a personal level, I haven't signed on to an additional six years' commitment, yet, even though the National Guard is offering officers a $10,000 accession bonus to do so at the moment. But the reasons have nothing to do with the war, or the current administration, or anything remotely political. The reason is that I'm working on a career change and I cannot predict the effect continuing to remain in the Guard will have on my full-time career - I may experience a change in my travel routine, time commitments, a relocation, etc. I cannot predict those things, and so I have not committed to an additional six years yet. The stronger the economy, the less likely I am to stay.

Look, sweetie, it's not you, it's ME! (Where have I heard that before?)

We lost a good commander after we came back from Iraq, because he wanted to go to law school. Again, it had nothing to do with the Army. None of my own lieutenants are leaving, though one came close when he had to adopt a young sister in law from an abusive situation. In the end, he decided to stay. But again, that stressor had nothing to do with the Army.

Anecdotally, we did lose one warrant officer with 23 years in service who decided to retire as a result of mission-related stressors. But in this case, the stressors had nothing to do with the war. This man left in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma, and the decision to mobilize the battalion whose soldiers lay directly in the path of the hurricane.

Indeed, in the Florida National Guard's case, my informal assessment is that it's the State mobilizations in hurricane relief that are by far the larger stressor on retention. But the hurricanes aren't going to stop coming, so Florida has a problem. Paradoxically, though, the hurricane mobilizations are good for enlisted recruiting, because local communities here in Florida get to see the Guard up close and personal in a positive and productive role.

In the long run, maybe it's a wash. I dunno.

If I do leave, it's not going to be because of the war, and it's not because I'm afraid of mixing it up with the moojies. I'd leave because there are times when I feel more like a compliance officer trying to comply with a gazillion regulations and requirements than like a field commander who trains units to fight and win in combat. And to be honest, I get less and less quality field time all the time.

Indirectly, though, the war has something to do with that, because one of my biggest stressors is the difficulty in obtaining spare parts and ammunition, and because of budgetary considerations, much of the available parts and equipment in good working order is routed overseas.

So that has an effect, too. But overall, I think when it comes to retaining officers, the economy and personal and professional considerations are to the Army what three is to one.

Splash, out


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