West Point grads exit service at high rate
War's redeployments thought a major factor
WASHINGTON -- Recent graduates of the US Military Academy at West Point are choosing to leave active duty at the highest rate in more than three decades, a sign to many military specialists that repeated tours in Iraq are prematurely driving out some of the Army's top young officers.
According to statistics compiled by West Point, of the 903 Army officers commissioned upon graduation in 2001, nearly 46 percent left the service last year -- 35 percent at the conclusion of their five years of required service, and another 11 percent over the next six months. And more than 54 percent of the 935 graduates in the class of 2000 had left active duty by this January, the statistics show.
The figures mark the lowest retention rate of graduates after the completion of their mandatory duty since at least 1977, with the exception of members of three classes in the late 1980s who were encouraged to leave as the military downsized following the end of the Cold War.
In most years during the last three decades, the period for which West Point released statistics, the numbers of graduates opting out at the five-year mark were between 10 percent and 30 percent, according to the data.
The rising exodus is blamed on a number of factors, including the economic lure of the private sector. But interviews with former West Point superintendents, graduates, and retired officers pointed to another reason: the wear and tear on officers and their families from multiple deployments.