Troops happy about shortened combat tour decision
April 12, 2008
BAGHDAD — Troops already downrange say they are happy with the decision to shorten deployment times even though the decision won’t apply to them.
President Bush announced Thursday that troops deploying to Iraq and other areas in Central Command — including Afghanistan — will spend 12 months there instead of the 15 months they do now. The change will not take place until August, and it will not affect those units already deployed or scheduled to deploy before the summer.
Spc. Sean Benton, a soldier with 526th Brigade Support Battalion at Camp Liberty, said the decision is a good one because it will relieve stress and benefit soldiers, even if he’ll still be here for 15 months on this deployment.
“It feels like an eternity over here,” he said.
Staff Sgt. Aldrick Scott, a 526th section sergeant, said the shorter tours make for a better rotation that will help stave off complacency, which sets in when soldiers spend too long in one place. He said he also likes the idea of spending more time at home. “I’ll spend every bit with my son and daughter,” he said.
No one at Liberty said they were upset that the change applies only to units deploying to Iraq later, but some soldiers did say they care more about the frequency of rotations rather than the tour length.
Sgt. Glenyatte Walker noted that Fort Campbell units have been deploying every other year. Sgt. Keeouka Shaw, a fellow 526th soldier, added that much of the short time back home is taken up with training for the next deployment. Troops who are frequently deployed should be paid more than those whose time at home is longer, she said.
Said Walker: “Twelve months is reasonable due to taking three months just to get settled. But this every other year thing …”
In April 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates extended all active-duty Army tours from 12 months to 15 in response to the growing strain of fielding enough troops for Iraq and Afghanistan while ensuring a full year between deployments for units.
Previously, individual units were extended — or deployed earlier — to meet the needs of commanders on the ground. In one infamous case, a unit that had already arrived back home in the States was called back to Iraq for an extended tour.
Military leaders are still worried about how repeated deployments and the long-terms requirements of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will mesh.
Most troops, though, are just happy to see a reduction. Spc. Daniel Norton, a soldier with 2nd Battalion, 31st Engineer Regiment, thought of all the time he’ll spend away from his wife and had just two words for the shorter tour length: “Pretty wonderful.”