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Preston: Six-month deployments would be chaotic under current structure

FRANKFURT, Germany — Recent Army reports on shortening combat tours to six months will work only after more brigades are added to the Army’s inventory through transformation, according to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston.

Making deployments shorter right now would be chaotic for units tapped for back-to-back deployments, Preston said Thursday during a stop in Germany.

Soldiers would have little or no down time between integrating at home and preparing to deploy, Preston said.

“By the time they finish their block leave, they’d start right back into their train-up cycle — you know, getting soldiers trained, qualified, certified. It would be a very fast-paced, hectic operation,” Preston said. “It wouldn’t be very good for the soldiers.”

Preston said that with the way the Army is structured now, having yearlong deployments works better because units get at least a year at home before their next rotation. Future transformation is going to attach soldiers to units for longer periods of time to keep them in sync with deployment rotations, as well as add more brigades to lessen the load for everyone, he said.

“That’s why in the next two years, the number of the brigades that we’re going to grow [through transformation] is going to help prevent that back-to-back. That’s what’s going to get us out of 12-month-long deployments into something else.”

During a television interview with American Forces Network, Preston said more brigades and fixed duty stations would make it easier to shorten combat tours.

“We want to slow down the pace of operations for those families,” he said, adding that troops would be able to deploy for six months and come right back to their home station.

“Family stays in place, kid stays in school: That’s the stability we want to give to soldiers and families.”

He later told Stars and Stripes that this stability, plus the pressure that would be taken off units currently tapped for multiple yearlong deployments, is why transformation is so important.

The upcoming transformation will be the largest change in Army structure since World War II, increasing the Army from 33 brigades to 43 brigades by the end if 2006, with the option of going to 48 brigades by 2007.

Transformation specifically in Europe, however, is going to be spread out over a longer period of time, he said. This is to give not only the military, but also the civilian community more years to react.

“The president has set in motion the plan right now over the next decade for 60 to 70 thousand soldiers that are based overseas to move back to [continental U.S.] installations,” he said. “The reason why it’s spread out that long is that it’s going to be a very slow and very deliberate process.

“What we don’t want to do is make an announcement one day and then start moving soldiers the next. It takes much longer than that.”

Preston said European transformation concerns include issues such as housing, schools and entire community installations.


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