Hagee fighting 1-year Marine tours in Iraq
ARLINGTON, Va. — Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee met Thursday with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to dissuade him from changing the current length of tours for U.S. Marines deployed to Iraq, officials said.
Rumsfeld is mulling whether to increase the service’s seven-month rotation to a full year, as it is with the Army.
“Gen. Hagee is firmly committed to keeping the seven-month rotations in Iraq and met with the secretary to discuss that,” Maj. Jason Johnston, Hagee’s spokesman, said Friday. “We were at Camp Lejeune [in North Carolina] on Tuesday, and then, and in every speech and talk since then, he has been adamant about continuing the seven-month rotation cycle.”
While Rumsfeld is leaning toward a standard between the services, there has been no decision on just what that standard might be, said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. That is why he is meeting with top leaders.
“The department is looking at what is the optimum length of deployment for Iraq, and whether or not there should be a single standard for a length-of-tour for both the Marine Corps and the Army,” Whitman said Friday.
Because Friday was declared a federal holiday for former President Ronald Reagan’s funeral, officials did not know if Rumsfeld made a decision Thursday following the meeting.
If deployment lengths are changed, it is not known if any changes would apply to Marine units already in Iraq, or impact those tapped to come in for Operation Iraqi Freedom 3, which is to begin this fall.
In early June, Hagee spoke to Marines in Rota, Spain, to quell rumors of possible Marine unit extensions. Rumors began circulating after a senior defense official, speaking with reporters in mid-May about changes in force numbers in South Korea, first brought up the possibility of an extension for Marines, saying department leaders are evaluating “what the optimal tour lengths for everyone ought to be. Whether it’s more than 12, less than 12, and so on.”
The official said the rotation tempo could change for Marines.