California guardsman sues U.S. Army

The U.S. Army’s touted “Stop Loss” program is under attack. A National Guard sergeant from California has filed a lawsuit alleging the government cannot stop reservists from leaving the military after their enlistment period is up.

The suit names Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other military officials, but identifies the sergeant only as “John Doe.” It does say he served in the Marine Corps and the Army for nine years on active duty and three years as a reservist.

“This lawsuit seeks to stop the forced retention of men and women who have fulfilled their service obligations,” attorney Michael Sorgen said. “When their period of enlistment ends, they should be entitled to return to their families.”

Sorgen added: “It’s not that he’s a coward, he’s just had it up to here.”

The Army issued the stop-loss order to prevent tens of thousands of soldiers chosen to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan from leaving the military if their volunteer commitment ends while they are deployed. The Pentagon has counted heavily on reservists to fight the war in Iraq and Afghanistan because regular Army troops are spread too thin in numerous countries.

The lawsuit states: “The order violates Doe’s right to due process and the terms of his enlistment contract, and is contrary to law. The involuntary extension of Doe’s military enlistment constitutes a serious infringement on his liberty protected by the Constitution.”

The sergeant, who is from the San Francisco area, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for Northern Calif. He fought in the invasion of Iraq last year. He is married and has two young daughters. He seeks a release from service when his Army National Guard term ends in December.

Capt. Kincy Clark, the sergeant’s commander, is named in the lawsuit. He heads the 131-member Bravo Company of the First Battalion, 184th Infantry regiment, based in Dublin, California. The unit recently reported for duty and is expected to train for several months before shipping out to Iraq in February or March.

“We have some soldiers who are obviously not overjoyed about being deployed,” Clark said. “I have had to look them in the eye and say, ‘Hey, you are going.’” He said reservists know when they sign up that extension of their term of service is a possibility.

Attorney Sorgen said the extensions are a violation of the law because Congress did not declare war or a state of emergency. He said this is the first suit of its kind in recent years. A Georgia court ruled against a soldier after Gulf War I in a 1991 case.

Sorgen said his client is under treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and was temporarily excused from reporting for duty with the rest of his unit. The California National Guard had no comment.

Source: Reuters

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