Longer tours a blow for morale, Pacific soldiers say
TOKYO — U.S. soldiers stationed in the Pacific weren’t particularly excited this week to learn that downrange tours for active-duty soldiers have been extended to 15 months.
“I think it sucks for morale,” said Spc. D. Neal, a South Korea-based soldier. “As soldiers you do what you got to do, but I think [Army officials] could do better than that.
“A lot of those soldiers have wives and families.”
Pentagon officials said the new 15-month rotation schedule is needed to sustain the current level of combat operations without cutting into soldiers’ dwell time. The new 15-month rotations are effective immediately for all active-duty units already in and those headed to Central Command, which includes Iraq, Afghanistan and a number of other African and Middle East nations.
Spc. Trecorius Jordan, also based in South Korea, agreed the plan will hit hard for soldiers who “are trying to get home to their families.”
Staff Sgt. Johnnie Smith, with the 1st Battalion of the 1st Special Forces Group on Torii Station, Okinawa, said the extended tours might be the best course of action overall for the service, but he wonders about the individual. His brother-in-law, a soldier, was killed in Iraq in February.
“What’s the psychological impact on a person for staying that long?” Smith asked.
Army officials this week said the longer CENTCOM tours will ensure soldiers and units get a full year at home for rest, reset and new training before redeploying downrange. Sgt. Ramon Sepulveda, with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th Support Group on Okinawa, said that’s an important promise.
“A year at home guaranteed is a good thing,” said Sepulveda, who was in Iraq for the initial invasion with his previous unit. “Even though 15 months is a long time, having certainty is better.”
Pfc. Christy Mahoney, based in South Korea, said all soldiers should be prepared to make some sacrifices.
“They may have families, but we made that decision to serve our country,” Mahoney said. “If you join the Army what do you expect?”
The extended deployment schedule does not affect Marines, airmen, sailors and reservists serving downrange.
Megan McCloskey, Jimmy Norris and T.D. Flack contributed to this report.