Army extends single soldier tours in Europe, Japan to three years

Paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade prepare to exit a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during Exercise Rock Spring 19 at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 6, 2019. The Army recently increased tour lengths for single soldiers moving to Europe and Japan from two to three years.


By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 12, 2019

STUTTGART, Germany — Single-soldier tours in Europe and Japan will increase from two to three years in a move designed to save money and boost the combat readiness of overseas units, the Army said Tuesday.

The policy change took effect June 1 and applies to all single soldiers who receive unaccompanied travel orders after June 14, the Army said in a statement. The change will affect 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers each year.

“The Army has no plan to expand this policy to other locations at this time,” the service said.

The Army is aiming to reduce turnover and improve unit stability with the move. The change will also relieve pressure on the Army’s logistical network, which was overwhelmed with permanent change of station moves that frustrated many military families waiting for household goods shipments.

For single soldiers, longer tours could hurt morale for those uncomfortable abroad or be an opportunity for soldiers who embrace being overseas.

Sgt. Adam Lee, an engineer with the Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment, said that he would welcome the additional year.

“I think most of my soldiers wouldn’t have a problem with it,” Lee said from Vilseck, Germany, referring to an additional year. “That would give you less time back home with your family, but it would give you more time to make connections with your unit, and feel at home here in Europe.”

The policy revision does not apply to soldiers on accompanied tours, who typically serve three-year assignments.

The change is expected to reduce the amount of new soldier training that must be conducted by component units, the Army said.

The Navy also has extended various tours for similar reasons. In May 2018, standard tours increased by one year for Japan, Guam and Spain. Incoming sailors at those locations are now serving up to four years. First-term sailors assigned to sea duty in Japan, Guam or Spain also are required to serve up to four years at their new commands.

Stars and Stripes reporter Martin Egnash contributed to this report.

Twitter: @john_vandiver