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Another top Army official has pledged that troops downrange will not be held longer than the already-extended 15 month tours they currently serve.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston made the promise during a visit to soldiers at various combat outposts in the Baghdad area, according to U.S. military accounts of the visits earlier this week.

“[Preston] explained the deployment will not exceed 15 months, ending any rumors of an even longer extension,” a news release read.

“(Secretary of Defense Robert) Gates announced active-duty units deployed to the CENTCOM area would not be deployed longer than 15 months and those units will have a minimum of 12 months’ dwell time back at home station,” Preston was quoted as saying.

“The message I want to leave to you is the secretary of defense and our leadership have announced that soldiers would not be deployed for longer than 15 months. And that is exactly what that means.”

Preston is the service’s top enlisted soldier.

A similar pledge was made earlier this month by Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the deputy commander of Multi-National Division–Baghdad and the 1st Cavalry Division. Brooks, speaking on a videoconference with families of deployed servicemembers in Texas, said “no units who are currently deployed will be extended beyond 15 months, period.”

Throughout the war in Iraq, several units — varying in size from battalions through whole divisions — have been extended for differing lengths of time.

But on April 11, the Pentagon announced that all active-duty Army units in the Central Command area of responsibility would be extended to 15-month tours. The rationale behind that move was to allow all units a 12-month dwell-time period back at their home stations.

All soldiers serving the new 15-month tours will receive a $1,000-per-month extension bonus for serving more than a year in theater, according to Pentagon officials.

The extensions affected troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, the Horn of Africa and a number of other African and Middle East nations.

According to Army policy, the extension bonus kicks in on the first day of the month, so soldiers who spend even one day past the 12-month requirement will receive the $1,000 payout.

Among the units Preston visited this week were the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment at Combat Outpost Cleary, and the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment at Patrol Base Murray. Both units are part of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.

Preston also updated the Army’s progress on transforming its combat units.

So far, Preston said, 40 of a planned 48 reshaped brigade combat teams have been fielded. Another two should be ready by the end of next year, he said.

“Until the BCTs are ready, though, Preston said soldiers will continue to deploy for 15-months,” the news release read.


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