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Gen. Peter Pace addresses soldiers of the 173rd Airborne in Afghanistan

Gen. Peter Pace addresses soldiers of the 173rd Airborne in Afghanistan (Mark St.Clair / S&S)

Gen. Peter Pace addresses soldiers of the 173rd Airborne in Afghanistan

Gen. Peter Pace addresses soldiers of the 173rd Airborne in Afghanistan (Mark St.Clair / S&S)

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hands out coins to 173rd Airborne soldiers in Afghanistan.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hands out coins to 173rd Airborne soldiers in Afghanistan. (Mark St.Clair / S&S)

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — Rumored 18-month deployments?

Not according to Gen. Peter Pace.

And, he said while visiting troops in Afghanistan, tour lengths could return to 12 months by the spring.

“An 18-month tour has zero, zero, none, nada, squat, nothing, no … validity, OK? I want to make sure you got that,” the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a soldier with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

Pace visited Forward Operating Base Fenty as part of a week-long farewell tour in Iraq and Afghanistan before before he retires at the end of September.

Pace said plans are in the works for deployment lengths to go back to 12 months in the early part of next year, and “that over time — not tomorrow — but over time, units … will deploy for 12 months and be home for 24 months, and in that 24 months get family time, get full-spectrum training and be ready to go wherever the nation needs them to go.”

In fact, Pace said, if Afghanistan and Iraq remain the military’s focus, he and the other top brass will stick to a plan that will reduce 15-month deployments to 12 in early 2008, meaning the next active-duty rotations will be away from home for only a year, with more reductions to follow after that.

Of course, all this came with one caveat: “If some other nation around the globe does something stupid tomorrow, and we need to respond to it … all bets are off,” Pace said.

Also addressing the issue of the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Pace said, “We are going to see an increase of troop strength in Afghanistan to help the Afghan army before we see a decrease.”

Citing a need for more U.S. trainers to help the Afghan army, Pace said, “We’re going to need another brigade’s worth of troops, about another 3,000-plus troops to be able to have the number of embeds with the Afghan army that will really help them.”

After a few more stops in Afghanistan, Pace said he’s heading to Germany to address family members there, specifically those whose loved ones have been affected by the active-duty tour extension.

“The families serve this nation as well as anybody in uniform, and I want to make sure that we respect them in as many ways as possible, to include standing in front of them, thanking them and answering their questions for what I intend on doing,” Pace said.


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