A big problem for any military is hanging on to the best soldiers. A large percentage of troops do their minimum engagement then leave; the ones who hang on a bit longer are the senior NCOs and commanders of the future, usually more dedicated and enthusiastic, and if they’re progressing up the ranks they’re probably pretty good at their jobs too. The problem is the same determination that makes them the people the Army wants to keep also means they’re likely to leave – not because they’ve had enough, but just because they want to broaden their horizons. Now the US Army has come up with a plan that, hopefully, will give them the best of both worlds – they can try something new without bringing their military career to a halt.
In fact, the plan was borrowed from the US Navy, who has been running their Career Intermission Pilot Program since 2009. As the name suggests, it allows eligible personnel to take a career break of up to three years in the Army version. It’s open to anyone of any rank in the US Army, Reserve or National Guard as long as they’re on active duty, so both officers and enlisted can benefit from it.
It’s obvious what CIPP does for the soldier – it gives them time to do something different, safe in the knowledge that they still have a career to come back to at the end of the program. What does the Army get out of it, though? Deputy Chief of the G1 Officer Division was quite clear; “We are not opening this to just anyone,” he said, “This is a retention program.” The Army is well aware that sometimes people it wants to keep have reasons for going somewhere else. It might be to fulfill a dream of earning a law degree; it might be to spend time with a young child, help their parents settle into retirement; it might even be an irresistible urge to spend three years as a roadie to a metal band. Whatever it is, it’s going to be something that isn’t compatible with active duty. The aim of CIPP is to let soldiers go and do those things without them having to walk away from their career.
Clearly there could be difficulties. The Army is a profession that needs a keen edge, and three years away from it will dull essential skills. The soldier’s return could be a challenging one. Personnel, training and equipment will all have changed when they come back and they’ll need time to adjust. There are benefits there too, though. Sometimes civilians do have ideas the military can benefit from, and there could be a lot of value in having a recently returned soldier who’s been exposed to them after already developing a military mindset.
CIPP is going to be targeted at the people who’ll benefit most from it and who the Army is most eager to retain, so places are limited; right now there are slots for 20 commissioned or warrant officers and 20 enlisted personnel to enter the program every year. That’s potentially 60 people away at any one time, but it’s also 60 people who might have been lost and will now return to serve on. It’s easy to attract new recruits, but anything that keeps career soldiers in has to be a good thing.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.