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ARLINGTON, Va. — The new Marine Corps commandant wants to give Marines more time back home between combat tours.

That may require increasing the size of the Corps or shifting forces from other theaters downrange, said Gen. James Conway, who took over the commandant post last week.

Asked if the latter option could mean using more Marines from places such as Okinawa, Conway said, “That’s one possibility.”

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Conway said both individual Marines and the Corps institution are feeling the stress of multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Conway said he is looking into a plan to give Marines two months off for every one month deployed. Right now, Marines spend roughly seven months in combat and then get a little more than seven months back home.

Under the new plan, a typical seven-month deployment would be followed by 14 months back home.

Currently, in units on their third deployment in the past five years, only about 10 percent of the Marines served with the unit for the previous two deployments, Conway said. That’s a result of the natural turnover in the Corps.

Conway said he is concerned about what will eventually happen to Marines who have already deployed and are now in supporting roles have to deploy again.

“When those folks start to go back, if we’re still doing the seven-month rotation, and that grind is still prevalent, then I think that we might lose some of those folks,” he said.

“I think that the families, the young Marines, sailors will say, ‘That’s just more than I’m willing to bear,’ and it could have some negative consequences for us in that regard.”

The grind also means the Corps is focused almost solely on counterinsurgency operations. Conway said units are no longer training as many Marines for other combat contingencies.

“What we’re looking for is when you do go, you have more time at home to balance both your training in preparation to return again … or your other types of training,” he said.


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