Tactical

Soon-to-retire soldiers still waiting for Army to fix ROTC admin error

Army leaders say they are “exploring” possible solutions to personnel file errors impacting potentially thousands of ROTC graduates, but officials have offered few specifics on what options they’re considering or when they plan to decide on a path forward.

Soldiers, meanwhile, remain in the dark, waiting to see if they’ll have to pay the cost for the Army’s paperwork errors.

In more than a dozen conversations with Army Times and comments posted to private Facebook groups, alumni of the Green to Gold Active-Duty Option program (G2GADO) accused the Army of dragging its feet on the matter — even as their retirement plans hang in the balance.

Anger and confusion began to surface in September, when U.S. Army Cadet Command’s (USACC) inspector general published an unexpected one-page guidance for soldiers noting that federal law “does not allow any of his/her accrued time period as a Cadet participant” in G2GADO to be counted “towards [regular Army] 20–year retirement eligibility/benefits and/or RC retirement eligibility points.”

The September USACC guidance baffled soldiers. It seemed, after all, to contradict nearly two decades of well-established — if mistaken — Army policy. Many active-duty soldiers joined the program with the understanding that the time they spent in school would count as time in service — the time spent in uniform used to calculate retirement benefits. Every soldier who spoke with Army Times said that their personnel files still logged the roughly two years they spent as active-duty cadets as serviceable time.

Brig. Gen. Hope Rampy, the Army’s director of military personnel management, told Army Times Tuesday that the branch has begun reviewing the files of past program participants to determine which soldiers might have been incorrectly awarded time towards retirement while in school.

Rampy said the Army is “considering any legal viable solution that has the least amount of impact” on already retired G2GADO alumni, including “no remedial action” for those who have already left the service. For program graduates still on active-duty, the Army is evaluating whether impacted soldiers “were aware” of federal regulations that prevented them from counting their time in school as time in service before they enrolled. Rampy added the Army is assessing the possibility of “relief” through the Army Board for Correction of Military Records.

Rampy did not clarify how a soldier’s awareness of the law might impact their retirement date or what relief the service might provide.

“It’s not about trying to find fault with the soldier,” she said. “If we have the chance to correct their record with little or minimal adjustment, we have to have proof.”

Broadly speaking, the Army’s personnel management office would not state outright whether or not the Army would reject retirement packets for G2GADO alumni or deduct service time from their records.

“There could be a couple of different courses of action or options that the Army decides to take, depending on what we’re able to discern from their files,” Rampy said. “There will be no action taken against those two populations, if any, until we reach a conclusion.”

Army officials said they aren’t sure how long it will take for that to happen.

In a Nov. 3 email to an inquiring officer shared with Army Times, an official with Human Resources Command’s officer retirements and separations branch said that “[HRC] will not approve a retirement, as an officer, utilizing the time the officer was a Cadet as that time is specifically excluded by [federal law].”

“I don’t doubt you,” Rampy said in response to a question about the Army already rejecting retirement applications from G2GADO alumni. “I just can’t confirm or deny it.”

The Army, until now, has largely kept soldiers in the dark since the bulletin’s release. Worried officers, leveraging their connections across the force, attempted to tease out hints about the Army’s intent over the past several weeks, but official direction has been scant. After running their concerns up the Army flagpole and getting nowhere, program alumni said they’ve resorted to contacting their senators and representatives in the hopes of rallying Congress to their cause. Rampy confirmed that the Army is communicating with legislators on the matter.

Army officials told Army Times that around 3,100 soldiers have participated in the G2GADO program since its founding in 2004. The program commissions around 400 officers annually. The Army would not provide an estimate of how many soldiers might have incorrect files, or how many files they are reviewing.

Meanwhile, soldiers on the cusp of the 20-year retirement mark have already begun bracing for an unforeseen two extra years of service.

“We’ve already put a hold on purchasing a house,” one soldier with their retirement packet currently under review told Army Times by phone in late November. They spoke under the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the press.

Housing plans are the least of the officer’s concerns. Their father and daughter were recently diagnosed with chronic illnesses. Two more years in uniform would, in their eyes, mean two years of being unable to adequately care for their loved ones.

Some of the G2GADO graduates who spoke with Army Times said they weren’t aware of USACC’s advisory until Army Times covered it.

Soldiers’ frustrations over the Army’s lack of communication on the matter were compounded by a sense that they’d been misled. In a few instances confirmed by Army Times, ROTC recruiters explicitly touted time in service accrual in G2GADO marketing materials. For example, a 2020 recruitment slideshow shared with Army Times from the University of South Carolina’s ROTC program, one of the country’s largest, lists “accruing time for retirement” as one of the active-duty option’s benefits.

Other G2GADO recruitment documents didn’t reference time in service at all. The official Green to Gold website appeared to make no mention of retirement until late September 2023. The G2GADO information packet linked to the page at that time (last updated that summer) also failed to mention it.

Some soldiers, given no explicit guidance, thought it reasonable that a program for active-duty soldiers promising “normal PCS entitlements,” “current pay and allowances,” and no separation from the Army — a requirement of other Green to Gold scholarships — would allow them to also accumulate service time.

An internal Department of the Army memo dated by officials to 2008 instructs HRC, in collaboration with USACC, to inform candidates of a 1964 federal statute prohibiting almost all ROTC cadets from accruing service time while in school. The law—10 U.S. Code, section 2106(c) — states “that for the purpose of computing length of service for any purpose, an officer appointed under this section may not be credited with enlisted service for the period covered by his advanced training.” Cadets simultaneously serving in the Reserves are exempt from this ban. Army Times was unable to confirm whether this stipulation was communicated across the service.

The 2008 memo also ordered that a requirement to inform prospective G2GADO cadets of this limitation be included in Army codes (AR 145-1). That change was made in April 2023.

G2GADO alumni aren’t the only ROTC graduates to be affected by botched recordkeeping. The Army has mistakenly awarded time in service to some former four-year cadets, only to strip away years’ worth of service points as they were poised to retire.

The service also told Army Times that it is “reviewing” how the Navy managed similar concerns with its G2GADO equivalent — the Seaman to Admiral-21 (STA-21) program. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2010 instructed the Navy to exclude time spent in the program from sailors’ service calculations.

The 2022 NDAA undid the change for sailors that participated in the program between fiscal years 2010 and 2014, allowing the 515 officers minted by the Navy during that period to count their STA-21 time towards retirement. Senators that pushed for the exemption argued that the sailors deserved service time because “it was only in September 2015 that the STA-21 official program site began notifying members that time spent in the program would ‘not count towards retirement.’”

Whether soldiers will be granted the same relief for the Army’s mistakes remains uncertain.

Jaime Moore-Carrillo is an editorial fellow for Military Times and Defense News. A Boston native, Jaime graduated with degrees in international affairs, history, and Arabic from Georgetown University, where he served as a senior editor for the school’s student-run paper, The Hoya.

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