Staff Sergeant Thomas Miller's days in an Army uniform are numbered.
"I'm retiring Christmas Eve," Miller said.
His retirement date is a year and eight months behind his original plan.
"I was supposed to be a civilian in April of '08," he said.
His commander saw it differently and ordered Miller to stay in under the stop loss policy.
"At first it really ticks you off," Miller said.
Simply put, stop loss is a military force management tool that prevents warriors from leaving the service, or extends a mission to strengthen troop levels with experienced soldiers.
Miller fit the profile. He enlisted at 17, serving three tours overseas. He served as a sniper group leader with the 82nd Airborne, most recently assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. Miller thought he'd retire after 20 years in expecting to start a family with his wife without the risk of another assignment in the line of fire.
"I was on my way out. I already had my phase 2 physical," he said. He went on to explain he already had a job waiting upon his retirement. "They just came down one day and said, you aren't going," he said. He found himself back in Iraq for 12 months with a newborn still at home.
"On the Army side, when they employed stop loss it was for a unit deployment reasons and to be sure the units were manned at the percentage level they needed to be manned based upon Army doctrine," said Col. Brian Binn (Ret). Binn is now President of Military Affairs for Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.
Binn expects stop loss will benefit the local economy within the next year based on a recent decision from top commanders.
The Department of Defense is awarding a financial bonus to military personnel affected by Stop Loss going back to the September 11th attacks in 2001. The back pay boils down to $500 a month for up to 12 months of stop-loss commitment: Potentially, a $6,000 payday.
"That will continue to spur the economy a little bit here. It's not huge, but every little bit counts," he said.
"We've seen some positive signs with the economy and some of that is due to some of the growth at Fort Carson and just more people spending money in our community," Binn said.
The Army reported more than 13,000 in its ranks were serving stop loss duty in early 2009, but more than 180,000 servicemen and women can take advantage of the back pay offer.
On the eve of his life away from the Army, SSG Miller is now searching for employment like so many others affected by the suffering American economy. The job he had lined up prior to his extended duty is gone. Miller knows exactly where his bonus dollars will go.
"It's probably the worst time in the world to get out of the military," Miller said. "The money we got right now because of stop loss is basically going to be used to sustain us until I can get a job,"
Miller considers the extra pay a nice gesture, and the least the Army could do after his nearly 22 years of service.
Although his next steps are uncertain, he is sure of what he has.
"We're still here," he said. "I still have my wife, I've still got my kid, I've still got my limbs. I'm happy."
His future is his own, and his decisions will be fully his to make.
Plans are underway to eliminate the current use of stop loss by January of next year, but military leaders will keep the authority to use the policy again under extraordinary circumstances.
Service members, active, reserve or retired, have a year to apply for the bonus, and must provide documented proof they were stop lossed with their claim. Family members of deceased service members should contact the appropriate military service for assistance in filing their claim.
Those in the Army can e-mail questions to this address: RetroStopLossPay@CONUS.Army.Mil
Members of the U.S. Marines can send questions to:
The U.S. Navy has also provided an e-mail address to which Navy servicemen and women can send their questions. Send e-mail to: NXAG_N132C@navy.mil
For more information relating to the Air Force Stop Loss Pay, click on the link below.