Legislation saves leave days for long-deployed guardsmen
Published: May 25, 2012
WASHINGTON – One advantage to being a citizen-soldier? Having a home-state congressional delegation to leverage.
When more than 2,000 deployed members of the Minnesota National Guard found out the Pentagon had stripped them of up to 21 leave days with a policy change, they rallied their representatives.
They were serving in Kuwait as part of the Iraq drawdown, driving millions of miles escorting convoys out of the country, and many of the soldiers expected to earn a certain number of extra days off for every month deployed. It was part of a 2007 policy designed to make up for a lack of dwell time. It provided an increasing number of days off for each month soldiers were deployed beyond 12 months, 18 months and 24 months in a five-year period.
Minnesota's 1st Brigade Combat Team, many of whom spent 22 months activated from 2005 to 2007, thought they’d have four additional days for each month they served in Kuwait. At least until the Pentagon changed the policy halfway through their tour in October last year, slashing the number of days off all servicemembers earn when deployed overseas.
Almost immediately some of the unit’s senior leaders and other soldiers contacted Republican Rep. Bill Kline and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
They pressed the Pentagon about the change but were greeted with little more than a shrug. So Kline introduced legislation to force the Pentagon’s hand, and the bill, grandfathering in all reserve units already deployed when the change was made, was signed into law on Friday.
“Promises made should be promises kept, and I am committed to ensuring the government keeps faith with our troops,” Kline said in a statement. “The entire Minnesota congressional delegation worked together to guarantee our sons and daughters in uniform received the benefits they were promised and earned. Speed counts, and I am pleased the President swiftly signed this into law.”
The bill passed just as the Minnesota Guardsmen are returning home from Kuwait.