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An increasing percentage of U.S. troops have done combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past two years, spreading the burden on forces strained by multiple deployments, USA Today reported Monday.

Citing Pentagon records, the paper reported that through June, 57 percent of active-duty soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors and Coast Guardsmen had served in or near Iraq and Afghanistan, up from 50 percent in 2006.

The Army, which shoulders most of the combat duty, has shifted many soldiers to specialties needed for the fight, including infantry, military police and intelligence, USA Today wrote.

In 2006, 58 percent of active-duty soldiers had served combat tours. That compares with 68 percent this year. About 10 percent more are in training and soon will be eligible for a combat deployment, Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Anne Edgecomb told the paper.

Soldiers who have not served in Iraq or Afghanistan might have medical problems, or they have specialties useful in other parts of the world, she said.

The percentage of soldiers who have served multiple deployments has jumped as well. Today, 31 percent of soldiers have been to war zones more than once, up from 20 percent in 2006, the paper noted.


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