It's raining pretty heavily here today, keeping me at least temporarily out of the gym. I want to spend the free time that the weather has afforded me updating my current situation in regards to employment, my participation in the military, my future, etc – as there are at least some interested parties out there.
However, I want to do so in an organized matter that highlights my current struggle to return to the Active Duty Army. This particular portion of today's entry may be of benefit to many readers with a common desire to return to the military, and may serve to answer some questions they may be encountering; ones that I have already struggled with.
As I have journeyed to return to the Army as an individual that is considered “Prior Service”, having already completed time in the Army, I have noticed that there are many other Army applicants out there in a similar situation as mine. And most of them, like me, are discovering difficulty in returning to the service despite their genuine desire and, probably, best effort.
As I discuss my current status in regards to the military, I intend to do so in a highly resourced manner, providing evidential links to all information that I am providing. This, in turn, may be helpful to many other interested prior service applicants out there.
Those who are trying to get back into the Army have surely found that there are many rumors floating around regarding our options. And those options, unfortunately, are few and far between. I believe that I have a pretty good understanding of what is the ground truth in regards to prior service recruitment as of now, and would like to share, so my experience can be beneficial in assisting others attempting to return to the Army after a break in service.
But I do not want any other applicants left to rely on my word alone, so, as stated above, I intend to link to the sources of all my information. I hope that this serves as beneficial to all interested parties.
But, first, I want to update those readers more familiar with me personally as to what I have going on in life.
My Ongoing Saga...
To save from rehashing on much that has been shared here before, I will pick up my story at the point about two weeks ago when I transferred my Individual Ready Reserve Army obligation to a drilling Army Reserve Troop Program Unit.
Previously, while working with my Active Duty recruiters in an effort to explore any opportunities that I may have to return to the Army, I was referred to the Army Reserve where more opportunities exist for prior service soldiers.
By working with an Army Reserve Recruiter, I very easily transferred to a Reserve unit, Centcom's J2 Detachment 6 in Orlando, Florida. There, I am slotted for a military intelligence duty position, of which I am not yet qualified. I will have to complete the requisite Army schooling for this particular military intelligence job to become able to fully participate in the operations within my new Reserve unit.
To better understand my unit's role within the United States Army requires some knowledge of relevant Army acronyms. The military designates many of its departments via an acronym that roughly equates to “PITS”, although there is more to the acronym, but these are details that I am going to save to prevent further confusion.
“PITS” stands for Personnel, Intelligence, Training, Supply. With this in mind, one can easily recognize that the J1 section of Central Command (or “Centcom”) would deal with personnel issues, J3 with issues pertaining to training, and J4 with supply. J2, the department for which I work, deals with Centcom's Intelligence gathering and analyzing operations.
I drilled with Centcom J2 Detachment 6 last weekend, and had an incredible experience. The soldiers working there are of the highest professionalism and proficiency. While at drill, I volunteered for a Physical Training test, scored a 296 out of 300 possible points, and had an otherwise outstanding time. To say that I was impressed by the unit would probably be an understatement.
Despite my satisfaction with the experience, my preference had been, and remains, to return to Active Duty. Before moving on to my experience regarding that desire, I should briefly comment on other factors presenting their selves within my life.
I had finally secured a job interview outside of the military, which I had much difficulty in doing previously. The position was with the General Nutrition Center, in a retail capacity. While I was excited about the opportunity as I am passionate about physical fitness, I had to pass on the interview because I have come to find that I will be otherwise engaged throughout the coming month of May.
My Reserve unit is sending me to training in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin next month. The training is what the Army calls its “Warrior Leadership Course”, and is a necessary school for soldiers holding my rank of sergeant. The course's purpose is to instill in sergeants the necessary skills needed to lead junior soldiers, which is the primary purpose of sergeants whom, in civilian terms, are basically team leaders at the most junior level.
For a good portion of the coming month of May, I will be attending this course. This is beneficial to me in many ways; certainly one of the most important is the pay I will receive which, trust me, is badly needed right now.
On the subject of my current financial difficulties, I can point out that I recently had to sell my truck, leaving me with no reliable transportation of my own. It was a miserable decision to have to make, but one that freed my cosigners of the difficult burden I was causing them to bear because of my inability to consistently meet the requirements of the vehicle's loan.
On a brighter note, having completed my undergraduate degree and my Law School Admissions Test, I was accepted to another law school. This institution, the Kent College of Law of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, was my preferred choice of all law schools that I applied. While I was excited to receive the acceptance, I have long since decided the career path I most want to follow is one that leads me back to the Active Duty Army.
Because I preferred, and continue to prefer, to return to the Army, I have concluded that, despite great opportunities to attend law school presenting their selves, I would have to delay enrollment in order to, instead, pursue the option on which my heart is set.
The Difficult Path of Prior Service Applicants Attempting to Return to the Active Duty Army...
I have discovered that, when I share the difficulties that I have encountered in my attempt to return to the Active Duty Army with those outside of the military, they have some trouble in understanding a basic fundamental principle of Army recruiting. The Army prefers fresh recruits with no military experience to those of us considered Prior Service. There could be many reasons for the military's preference, but none of them are consequential to my current concern. The bottom line is that the Army is extremely limiting in what it offers in terms of enlistment options for individuals whom were once in the Army, but had since left.
When a prior service applicant desires to return to the Army, he or she can only do so if the applicant meets very stringent demands of what is currently needed within the Army. For example, if an applicant had previously attained the rank of sergeant, in order for he or she to return to the Army, there must be a need within the Army for that particular rank.
Moreover, there must also exist a manning necessity within the Army for the job type that the applicant previously maintained in the military. In my case, for example, I was a sergeant with the job of 13F, or “Fire Support Specialist”. The manning requirements of the Army currently dictate that there is no shortage of 13F sergeants and, therefore, no demand to recruit previously qualified applicants of this type.
There are, however, demands for other ranks and other jobs. The Army Recruiting Command recently published message number 10-089 (which you can read about in full detail on the Army Reenlistment Facebook page accessible HERE). This message details the current needs of the United States Army in regards to Prior Service recruiting.
Section 8.D. of that message states:
"Applicant's in pay grade E-4 and above who holds MOS 18B, 18C, 18D, 18E, 18F, 37F, 42R, 46Q, or 46R can request an exception to the Business Rules. Send exception request thru GCR as a grade determination."
My rank, sergeant, is grade E5. In layman's terms, the above stated portion of the Recruiting Command message dictates that prior service soldiers in my grade can only return to the service if they are fully qualified in the job positions of 18B-F, 37F, 46Q and 46R. Other portions of the message indicate that the Army is not willing, currently, to retrain prior service applicants qualified in other positions in these needed proficiencies.
So, basically, should the prior service applicant maintain a grade greater than E4 and not maintain any of the above mentioned job positions, they are not currently needed by the Army and will not be accepted for enlistment.
The Active Duty Army, however, has greater need for more junior soldiers. Should a prior service applicant hold a grade between E1 and E3, nearly all MOS are available for enlistment and, from my understanding, the Army is willing to retrain these more junior soldiers in a new duty position required by the Army. So, for example, had the prior service applicant previously been in the grade of E1, with nearly any MOS, he or she may enlist in to the Active Duty Army and continue in their previous duty position or accept retraining in a new one.
Previously, prior service applicants with a grade higher than those desired by the Army's Recruiting Command would circumvent these restrictions by having their recruiter conduct what is known as an “administrative reduction”. Basically, the applicant would turn in his or her higher rank, and accept a lower grade between E1 and E3, so as to become a more desirable applicant for purposes of rejoining the military. However, because the manning requirements of the Army have been met for the current fiscal year, the Recruiting Command has restricted recruiters from this ability.
Again, we must reference message 10-089. The relevant section, 4, states:
"The purpose of this message is to announce new guidance on Prior Service (PS) enlistments into the Regular Army (RA). Administrative reduction is no longer authorized to fill a vacancy."
For all practical purposes, even if the applicant is willing to do so, he or she may no longer voluntarily give up rank so as to attain enlistment opportunities.
The bottom line is that prior service soldiers must hold both the grade and job proficiency needed currently by the Army to even be considered for enlistment.
The Army's Recruiting Command alters these rules often, some times even on a daily basis. However, since the recruiting demands of the Army have been met for the current fiscal year, no doubt due to the nation's deem economic outlook, there is little chance that these stringent requirements will be loosened until the new year turns over, fiscally, in October.
Judging from that criteria alone, my prospective chance to return to the Active Duty Army is not very good. However, I have pursued my release from my Reserve Unit, and obtained it, because I believe I may have a very slight, but yet non-zero, chance that I could bypass the restriction against administrative grade reduction.
While my recruiter may no longer be authorized to lower my grade in order to make me more susceptible to Army recruiting demands, there is no regulation that I am aware that will prevent my Reserve Unit from doing so. This is a decision that I am contemplating now, and one that I will have to discuss with many relevant parties before pursuing.
However, it seems possible that I could request that my Reserve Unit reduce me from grade E5 to grade E3. I would then reenter the Active Duty enlistment process more characteristically suited for what the Army desires with this lower grade. Whether my Reserve Unit would be willing to do so, and whether my Active Duty recruiter would even be willing to deal with such a mess, are two questions that I still have to encounter and overcome.
In this regard, it is my intention to email pertinent parties to include my Reserve Unit, my recruiter, and contacts in the Army's Recruiting Command. My purpose will be to demonstrate my understanding of the Army's prior service recruiting criteria. Perhaps armed with this knowledge, I will demonstrate that I am taking steps beyond the typical interested prior service applicant. Along with my recently demonstrated ability on the Physical Fitness test, recommendations from my Reserve Unit, and a willingness to accept lower rank (should I decide this is desirable), I may characterize my passion in such a way to demonstrate a genuine willingness to take the extra step required to become desirable by the Army.
At this point in the recalling of my adventures in pursuit of returning to the Active Duty Army, we have pretty much returned to present day. I look forward to updating interested parties via this medium and hope sharing my struggles here have helped those in a similar situation with a common desire, and future updates will help to do the same.
I appreciate your willingness to follow along.