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ARLINGTON, Va. — Marines already in Iraq and those bound for the next rotation in the Middle East will continue on the current seven-month deployment cycle, according to a Pentagon spokesman.

During a Thursday meeting with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee made a “good and compelling” case to keep the seven-month rotation, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Monday.

Rumsfeld was curious as to why the Marine Corps deployed its units for seven months, while the Army for 12 months, he said.

“Any time you have two services approach what is essentially the same problem in different ways, it’s worth taking a look at it and making sure it makes sense to do it that way,” Whitman said.

“Seven-month rotations will be the way we will be doing business,” said Corps spokesman Maj. Jason Johnston.

The Corps, with just more than 176,000 active members and about 39,000 reservists, is stretched thin because of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti and the Horn of Africa. About 25,000 Marines are deployed to Iraq.

When the Corps was tapped last year to contribute forces to stabilization efforts in Iraq, the plan called for two rotations lasting seven months each. Manpower officials have said the Corps operates best on six-month rotational cycles, giving the service “the greatest flexibility in meeting our global requirement,” said spokesman Capt. Dan McSweeney.

Deploying Marines to Iraq for seven months instead of the traditional six was done with “flexibility built in,” McSweeney said.

“You don’t want to have an entire unit come in all at once. This allows for time to share information and an understanding of the area of responsibility” between inbound and outbound units and their leaders, he said.

Members of the I Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters element, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., are the exception, and will be in Iraq for 12 or 14 months, he said.

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