WASHINGTON — Starting this fall, all active-duty Army units will have two full years at home between deployments, and National Guard and reserve units will get four years between deployments, the service’s chief of staff said Wednesday.
In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. George Casey said Army officials are also hopeful that they can reach their goal of three years home between deployments in the near future, if drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan take place as scheduled.
“You’ve heard me testify in the past that that Army is out of balance,” he told lawmakers. “But we’ve made great progress. ... As an Army, we’re starting to breathe again.”
Army officials had promised the two-to-one dwell time ratio by last October, and predicted 30 months at home for active-duty units between missions overseas but the end of 2011. But the surge of 30,000 additional U.S. troops into Afghanistan early last year delayed those plans.
But Casey said he’s confident that by this October, all troops will see the extra time at home.
“All of our studies tell us that it takes 24 to 36 months to fully recover from a deployment,” he said. “We’ve worked very hard to get to this point.”
At the height of the Iraq War, soldiers deployed for 15 months and received only a year at home. Those extended tours ended in 2009, and officials have worked to increase dwell time, particularly as the U.S. pulled most of its troops from Iraq.
Army Secretary John McHugh also announced Wednesday that the last few troops affected by the Defense Department’s stop-loss program will leave active duty in the next few months.
The controversial program, which kept troops with critical specialties on active duty past their scheduled separation date, drew intense criticism from servicemembers and lawmakers for its heavy use from 2003 to 2008. About 150,000 troops from all four services were kept on duty for weeks or months through the program.
Lawmakers on the committee questioned whether plans to trim the Army’s end strength by 49,000 troops in 2015 could adversely affect both the increased dwell time and the end of the stop-loss program. But McHugh said those cuts, proposed as a cost-saving measure for the Defense Department, will not take place if they jeopardize force readiness or capabilities.