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DoD Seeking Feedback from Exiting Troops

By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 14, 2000 – DoD officials want to know what motivates service members to leave the military, so they’ve decided to ask.

All of an estimated 135,000 service members leaving active duty between April 1 and Sept. 30, 2000, are being asked to fill out a 16-page survey, said Army Col. Jeff Perry, a personnel manager with the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

“This is one of the toughest recruiting and retention environments in the history of the all-volunteer force,” Perry said during an American Forces Information Service interview. DoD wants to determine what motivates people to stay or to leave.

In 1999, DoD surveyed roughly 66,000 active duty troops on their satisfaction with military life. “This survey is focusing on those individuals who have made a decision to separate from the military,” Perry said. Individuals who receive other than honorable discharges or who are administratively separated are not part of the survey.

The survey, which should take about 20 minutes to complete, is broken down into eight major areas, ranging from demographic information, such as marital status, education level, and length of service, to amount of deployment time.

“We’re looking at the process they went through, how they made the determination to leave the military. Was it influenced by family members? Was it a job opportunity? Is it that they’re going to use the benefits of the Montgomery GI Bill?” Perry said. “We’re also looking at what their perception of civilian employment is. Do they think the benefits are better? What have they heard about it? Are they going to join the National Guard or reserve [component]? Do they still want to keep their affiliation with the military?”

Some questions from this survey are identical to questions on the previous active duty survey. Perry said officials hope to compare answers and learn how people who decide to remain in military service and those who chose to leave view different motivators, particularly operation tempo.

“How big of a factor is tempo on the decision to stay or leave?” he said, and added officials hope to compare how much time each group spent away from home.

Even though survey completion isn’t mandatory, Perry said he hopes departing service members will complete it out of concern for their comrades who stay in uniform.

“These are individuals who volunteered to serve in the military; they served honorably, and we’re asking for one last, small bit of work from them. How they respond will allow us to go back and address these issues for those individuals who are still on active duty,” he said. “If there has been a problem they’ve identified, we’d like to know about it to be able to go back and address those issues.”

He said that by completing the survey, departing service members “literally have the ear of the secretary of defense and Congress.”

Congress mandated the survey in the fiscal 2000 budget, and DoD owes them a report by Dec. 31, Perry said. After that, he said, DoD officials plan to “take this data and propose some changes” to address these issues.

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