Air Force Halts All Outs

Air Force personnel who thought they'd be retiring or leaving service won't be - at least for the time being.

The Air Force has issued a "Stop Loss" order due to the ongoing air campaign in the Balkans. As of June 15th, airmen working in critical areas such as combat positions will be required to remain available for duty through December.

Acting Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters and Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan announced their decision Thursday to implement Stop Loss, suspending normal separations and retirements for people in critical career fields effective June 15.

Peters and Ryan emphasized that they plan to keep disruption of the lives of Air Force men and women to a minimum, and to avoid adverse effects on promotions. According to a release, the Air Force will hold up only separations deemed critical to preserving mission capability.

"We do not take this action lightly," said Peters. "Stop Loss is designed to preserve the critical skills essential to support our missions in Europe and Southwest Asia, while remaining prepared to meet another major regional contingency. Stop Loss will also allow us to keep our training base intact, so that we will be able to reconstitute our forces quickly when Kosovo operations cease." Peters also acknowledged the toll taken on the total force.

"We are acutely aware that ours is a volunteer force and that this action, while essential to meeting our worldwide obligations, is inconsistent with fundamental principles of voluntary service," he said. "We also know that this action will adversely affect the lives of airmen and their families. We have done our best to minimize this disruption by limiting the career fields to which Stop Loss will apply."

Stop Loss will affect 40 percent or approximately 120,000 of those now on active duty. Slightly more than 6,000 individuals who have requested and received permission to separate or retire from the Air Force between June 15 and Dec. 31, 1999, will be required to remain in uniform as a result. Stop Loss also temporarily blocks changes of status of members of the Air Guard and Reserve that would allow a member to leave units at risk for call-up.

Twenty-three percent of Air Force specialty codes have been identified as the critical skills needed to perform the mission. By law, Stop Loss may be used temporarily to suspend voluntary separations (to include discharges and resignations), retirements and promotions of members of the armed forces only while a presidential call-up or mobilization is in effect.

"We take Stop-Loss seriously and are working hard to ensure the lives of our Air Force members, their families and their civilian employers are not disrupted any longer than is necessary to meet our national commitments," Ryan said.