WASHINGTON—An Army Reserve officer who sought to resign his commission last year but was turned down has been granted an honorable discharge.
Capt. Bradley E. Schwan, a 30-year-old West Point graduate from Simi Valley, Calif., tried to resign twice in 2005 after fulfilling eight years of military service, but the Army Reserve refused, citing a shortage of officers because of the war.
Schwan sued the government to try to force the Army Reserve to allow his resignation. The case was still pending in federal court in Los Angeles when Schwan learned in June that he had been granted an honorable discharge, effective July 31. The decision was made by Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, who took over as Army Reserve chief in May.
Schwan said he was pleased to be granted a discharge that he believed should have been issued more than a year ago.
"It is a little bittersweet because the ambiguity in the law still exists for future situations like this to occur, and it was inconvenient, to say the least, to get to this point," he said. "The good news is that this seems to be a shift in policy—not just an exception for my case."
Schwan had argued that federal law requires military volunteers to serve no more than eight years during their initial terms of service. Justice Department lawyers argued that officers serve indefinitely, citing a clause in the 1952 Armed Forces Reserve Act that says officer commissions "are for an indefinite term and are held during the pleasure of the president."
Maj. Hillary Luton, a spokeswoman for Army Reserve Command in Atlanta, said Stultz "had reviewed the situation and decided that it was in the best interests of the Army and the best interests of the soldier to grant the discharge."
All other resignation requests from Army Reserve officers "are currently on hold, but they are not being turned down," while Stultz reviews current policy, Luton said.
Nearly 1,300 reserve officers have sought to resign since 2004. Of those requests, 880 have been approved, according to Army figures.
Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, former Army Reserve chief, issued a directive in 2004 saying that reserve officers who had completed eight years of service could resign if their career fields were at least 80 percent up to strength or if they had served in Iraq, Afghanistan or in a domestic security role since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Officers who demonstrated compelling personal hardships also would be considered, Helmly wrote.
Schwan, who was attending law school then, had served in Bosnia but met none of Helmly's criteria. He was also a military intelligence officer, a position that the Army said was in short supply. He had served six years on active duty before spending two in the Army Reserve.
In an interview on C-SPAN last month, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey called Helmly's resignation policy "unwise" and said it was under review. Harvey said reserve officers who served eight years or more would be allowed to resign in the "vast, vast majority of cases."
Officers with vital skills or those under "stop-loss" orders would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, Harvey said. The final authority to decide those cases would rest with the Department of the Army, not the Army Reserve, and the new policy would apply uniformly to active-duty and reserve officers, Harvey said.
"Stop-loss" orders, which require service members to stay in the military temporarily beyond their original discharge dates, usually are imposed because of a combat deployment or a personnel shortage. They can remain in effect for as long as 18 months.
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
Need to map