Aug. 2014 Story: Nearly 20 Ft. Bliss majors pushed out of Army

Military downsizing affects Ft. Bliss soldiers

EL PASO, Texas -      At least 18 majors at Ft. Bliss have been told that they will have to leave the Army as the Pentagon reduces America's armed forces across the board.
     ABC-7 has learned there is help for officers forced to transition back into civilian life.

     It's a difficult process as the Army tries to shrink the number of soldiers from a peak of 570,000 down to about 450,000 in the next few years. Some officers are being told they no longer have a place in the service.

     "You know, these guys have served honorably for the Army, and for our nation, and they still have options," said Ft. Bliss spokesman LTC. Lee Peters. "I mean, they can join the National Guard, or the Army Reserve. They're also authorized a type of severance package to help them as they transition in the next phase of life."

     Officers with less than 15 years of service will not be able to take retirement, but those with 15 to 18 years in the Army will be allowed to retire under the Temporary Early Retirement Authority. Officers with more than 18 years will be able to take a full retirement, or stay in until they qualify.

     For all of them, there are a lot of programs and assistance available to make that transition to civilian life. The Army provides counseling to help them start a career, go back to school, or even open their own business.

     "One of the challenges for soldiers when they get out is trying to figure out what it is they want to do," said Amy Alarcon with the Soldier For Life Transition Assistance Program, "because especially here in El Paso, we have a lot of infantry. And they have a lot of wonderful skills that they have gotten in the military, but they're not exactly sure what they want to do."

     The Soldier For Life program offers a variety of services to help soldiers and veterans find success outside of the military. There's also funding, like the G.I. bill and the Hazelwood Act, to help in pursuing degrees and starting businesses.

     As for how the departure of hundreds of officers will affect the Army, there's mixed opinions on how fewer officers will affect the service.

     "I mean, I think it's going to have a huge impact on Fort Bliss. I mean, that's quite an impact," said one man on post.

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