Deployments will delay Army’s dwell time goal
December 5, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va. — The deployment of extra troops to Afghanistan will delay the Army’s efforts to give soldiers more time at home, but it will not shorten the time between deployments that soldiers now have.
The Army had planned to give active-duty soldiers two years of dwell time for every year deployed and give reserve component soldiers four years between deployments. The increased time between deployments was made possible by the expected drawdown in Iraq from 115,000 to 50,000 troops by the end of August.
Now, with up to 33,000 extra U.S. troops expected to arrive in Afghanistan by fall, those plans for increased time at home will be adjusted, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers Wednesday during testimony about the Afghanistan plan.
"With this deployment and decision, we expect it to probably take a couple more years to get to a point where [the Army is] out to two-to-one," Mullen told lawmakers.
The Army expects that by 2011, 70 percent of active-duty soldiers will get two years between deployments and 80 percent of National Guardsmen and reservists will get four years, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Lee Packnett said.
Soldiers in high demand units — such as explosive ordnance disposal, military police, combat aviation and logistics — won’t reach those targets, Packnett said.
Most Marines should see more dwell time with the exception of "smaller, more critical, enabling" units, Mullen testified.
Officials have said the length of Army and Marine Corps deployments will not change and that the Defense Department remains committed to giving soldiers at least one year at home between deployments.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said that while the Defense Department is still committed to giving troops more time at home, it is "premature to make any definitive statements about dwell" until details of the Afghanistan deployments are finalized.
"Certainly, as we look at the sourcing solutions to fulfill the requirements that the president approved this evening, we will certainly be mindful of the stress on the force as well as the rotation of units and the amount of dwell that they’ve had," Whitman said Tuesday.
Packnett said he could not say whether a delay in the planned drawdown in Iraq could affect soldiers’ dwell time. The United States is expected to rapidly draw down after Iraq’s parliamentary elections slated for January, but bickering among Iraqi politicians means the elections are expected to be delayed until at least February.
Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander in Iraq, said he still believes U.S. forces there can be reduced to 50,000 by August. However, he said he has until April or May to ask for more time.
"If I had to, I would," he told reporters on Nov. 18. "Right now, I don’t expect that I will have to, but we’ll see. "