Army denies R&R canceled during rotation
BAGHDAD — The Army is not canceling the Rest and Recuperation program for troops in February and March — misinformation that seems to have made its way around the country, from commanding officers telling their troops to public affairs telling the media.
“There are far fewer troops that will be eligible, yes, but we’re not canceling the program,” said Gary Jones, a spokesman for Army Forces Central Command in Atlanta.
Eligible troops are those deployed on 12-month orders. Typically, they get a chance at the 15 days of R&R leave around the six-month mark. So troops just arriving aren’t eligible. Same goes for those redeploying. If they’ve reached the 11th-month mark or their units are getting ready to go home, they’re not going on leave, Jones said.
“It’ll be severely cut back, but only because there will be fewer troops eligible,” Jones said. “We’ve got a lot of folks there. … But if three soldiers are there and eligible, those three will be flown out on R&R.”
“We’re looking at seeing those numbers go back up again in the May-June time frame,” Jones said.
There are roughly 140,000 troops in the region, with 123,000 of those in Iraq.
Some soldiers on the ground had mixed reactions to the erroneous information about cancellations.
“Just like the stop loss, it helps us out,” said Sgt. Lavour Dancy of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Polk, La. Without it, Dancy wondered whether troops would be ready to roll home if leave wasn’t put on hold.
“Are the guys going to be back in time to help us out to transition back to the States or wherever?”
Dancy faced the sad duty of burying a grandmother during his leave. But even so, he said it helped to get out of Baghdad.
“It was good seeing my wife and two kids. I just hope the units coming in will be able to experience what we experienced; a mental break.”
Spc. Jimmy Nena, also of the 2nd Armored Cav, took leave to Fort Polk. He faced more joyful circumstances.
“I had a baby. I went back in November. Everybody who went home said it was a real nice break.”
The environmental leave, or Rest and Recuperation program, was started in late September. Troops had complained of ambiguous tour lengths and no chance to see loved ones. The plan allowed soldiers to use 15 days of their annual leave as a break from Iraq. Troops in Afghanistan have a similar system.
There are still other venues in the region for troops to chill. Short-term passes to Qatar and the Army’s rest area in Baghdad should still be available, said Spc. Giovanni Lorente of the coalition press center.