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WüRZBURG, Germany — The 1st Infantry Division has announced that rest-and-recuperation slots for its soldiers have been cut by nearly 85 percent for the period May 1 through June 15.

In an unsigned “talking points” memo distributed this week to rear detachment commanders, the division said it had expected to be able to send 80 soldiers per day home to the United States or Europe for 15 days of midtour R&R under a program begun last September. That comes to a total of 3,600 soldiers.

But Combined Joint Task Force 7 told units in Iraq two weeks ago that it would be sharply cutting back the R&R slots for all units because of “operational requirements in theater,” according to the 1st ID memo.

“These requirements caused a strain on theater air transportation assets, limiting our ability to send Soldiers on R&R,” the memo continued.

Following a query from Stars and Stripes last Friday, the task force was unable to make a spokesman available to discuss the impact of cutbacks on units other than 1st ID. But according to an article in the latest edition of the Desert Voice — an Army command publication circulated on bases in Kuwait — the total number of R&R slots available to all troops was cut from 470 per day to 85 per day for May 1-June 15.

The article also said instead of flying troops home on chartered aircraft, they will be given tickets for commercial flights. When charter flights do resume, the stateside hub will shift from Baltimore to Atlanta. Dallas also might become a hub.

The 1st ID’s share of R&R slots is 612 for the full six weeks, or fewer than 14 per day. It expects to receive its full 80 slots per day beginning June 15 and continuing through Nov. 30 — when the division’s R&R window closes — according to the memo. Soldiers may not take R&R during their first three months or last two months in Iraq, according to Department of Defense policy.

The division had hoped to send most, if not all, of its soldiers home for the 15-day leave. The May and June reductions now mean only about 65 percent will get it, the memo predicted.

But the division also has leased space at a resort hotel on Lake Dokan, a large reservoir in the mountains northeast of Kirkuk. The division has leased the hotel and intends to offer its soldiers four-day passes there, as well as to Qatar through the Fighter Management Pass Program.

“Our intent is for every Soldier to have the opportunity to participate in the R&R, FMPP or Lake Dokan pass program,” the 1st ID memo said.

Ruth Hubner, who heads the Family Readiness Group for the 1st ID’s 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, said she’s gotten little reaction from the spouses in her unit.

“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet,” she said.

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