The Basics of COAD/COAR: An Interview with COL Dickinson

Colonel Rick Dickinson, G1 Division Chief and Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO), U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command

Colonel Rick Dickinson, G1 Division Chief and Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO), U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command

By: Tracy Freedman, Warrior Transition Command Stratcom Division
We’ve received several comments from Soldiers asking about the COAD/COAR program. In response, we sat down with COL Rick Dickinson, G1 and Chief Human Capital Officer for the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command, to get answers to your questions.

Q: What does COAD/COAR stand for?

COL Dickinson: COAD is Continuation on Active Duty. COAR is Continuation on Active Reserve. The difference between the two is that COAD is for active component Soldiers and COAR is for reserve component Soldiers.

Q: What is the COAD/COAR program?

COL Dickinson: The COAD/COAR is an option for Soldiers who have been found unfit for duty due to a wound, illness, or injury that may make them unable to do their previous job in the Army. For example, an infantry Soldier who was hurt down-range by an IED and unfortunately loss part of his or her leg. The Soldier is no longer fit for duty as an infantry Soldier, but the Soldier could apply for the COAD program and continue to serve in the Army in another capacity if he meets all of the qualifications.

Q: What is the application process like?

COL Dickinson: It’s a little bit of a lengthy process. Most Soldiers who come into COAD/COAR are graduates of the Warrior Care and Transition Program (WCTP). While they are in the WCTP and are interested in continuing to serve in the Army, they should communicate that with their Triad of Care and their Triad of Leadership. It’s important that their Nurse Case Manager, doctor, Squad Leader, and Company Commander all understand that the Soldier has a desire to continue to serve [in the Army].  The Triad of Care and the Triad of Leadership will walk the Soldier through the application process. It’s important for Soldiers to know that applications require the endorsement from the First Colonel (06) in the chain of command—most usually that will be the hospital Commander. Sometimes, Soldiers prefer to use their former line unit Commander for that approval because of familiarity.

Q: What are the specific eligibility requirements for COAD/COAR?

COL Dickinson: COAD applies to officers on active duty list or regular Army enlisted Soldiers or Soldiers in the Active Guard Reserve. They have to have at least 15, but no more than 20 years of active federal service, they must be qualified in a critical skill or shortage MOS, and their disability must have resulted from combat or terrorism.

The requirements for COAR are very similar. Soldiers must have at least 15, but less than 20 years of service, qualify in a critical skill or shortage MOS, and their disability must have resulted from combat or terrorism.

There are exceptions to those rules, but the more exceptions you have in your application, the longer it takes [to process], and more scrutiny is placed on those applications.

The thing we’re working on now is the disparity between how enlisted Soldiers and officers in COAD are treated. Right now we have officers who routinely stay beyond 20 years. For enlisted Soldiers, the max is 20 years. We’re trying to give enlisted Soldiers a more equal footing, so if they are more senior NCOs, they can continue to serve 24, 26, and up to 30 years.

Q: What type of jobs do these Soldiers do if they are considered unfit for duty?

COL Dickinson: Sometimes the [COAD/COAR] Soldiers will do jobs that are just as ordinary as the job of any other Soldier. More than likely, they are not going to do what they did before, but having said that, we do have several Soldiers who are COAD who have deployed back down range.

A lot of [COAD/COAR] Soldiers have more administrative roles. We have to be very cognizant that these Soldiers have some sort of severe injury (amputees, burns, etc.), so these Soldiers have to be in a place where they can get healthcare if they need it. Also, we don’t want to put a strain on their bodies more than they’ve already had. Especially with prosthetic devices, you don’t want to put them in an environment that’s too austere or dirty because the prosthetics are very technically complex devices and we don’t want to damage them. I hate to use the word “desk-job”, but administrative jobs… are what they do for day-to-day work.

Q: What are the transition options for Soldiers who don’t qualify for COAD/COAR?

COL Dickinson: Unfortunately, not all Soldiers who apply for COAD/COAR will get accepted. We have approximately 300-350 COAD/COAR Soldiers in the Army. Not all of them are at the Warrior Transition Command. Some are out in the force.

If a Soldier applies, but is not accepted, it’s not the end of the world. As much as we’d like to keep them all, we just don’t have a place, because it does require a current job opening that meets the Soldier’s skill set. They can transition [out of the Army] like any other Soldier. We have a lot of former Soldiers that are now working as civilians throughout the DOD. My bottom line to them is to apply and seek other opportunities. If you don’t get accepted, there are a lot of other options out there.

For more information about COAD/COAR and other transition options, visit http://www.wtc.army.mil/soldier/transition_options.html.

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