Troops React To Forced Extensions With ‘Anger,’ ‘Frustration,’ ‘Collective Groan’

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced yesterday that all U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq would have their 12-month tours in Iraq extended by 3 additional months. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) called the policy “an additional burden to an already overstretched Army,” and warned not to “underestimate the enormous negative impact this will have on Army families.”

Now, newspapers are returning harrowing accounts from the ground, where U.S. soldiers reacted to the news with “muffled outbursts of anger and frustration laced with dark humor.” The Washington Post reports:

They found out by reading exasperated e-mails from their spouses, hearing somber announcements from their platoon commanders, seeing snippets of the secretary of defense at a televised news conference: The American soldiers who thought they were staying in Iraq one year would now stay 15 months. All of them.

From Texas to Baghdad and Baqubah to the Beltway, the reaction Thursday among U.S. soldiers and their families to the news of the mass extension was akin to a collective groan.

“It flat-out sucks, that’s the only way I can think to describe it,” said Pvt. Jeremy Perkins, 25… “I found this out today from my squad leader. I still haven’t told my wife yet. I’m just trying to figure out exactly how I’m going to break it to her that ‘Honey, uh, yeah, might be home before our next anniversary. Sorry I missed the last one.'”

Similar scenes of soldiers worried about their families and relationships were documented by the New York Times:

The soldiers wondered if their relationships back home could weather an extension and predicted that divorce rates in the military would spike. They muttered about three additional months of forced celibacy and fretted half jokingly about impatient wives and girlfriends. “Now a lot of cheating be going on,” said Sgt. Jonathan Wilson, 29. “I’m serious.”

Specialist Lawson had planned to take a vacation with his former wife, with whom he has two daughters, after he got back to the division’s home base in Schweinfurt, Germany. They were going to give the relationship another try.

“This has totally wrecked everything I had planned,” he said as he slumped on an empty explosives crate.

“Now I’m never going to get together with my ex-wife,” he said. “I’m scared that the longer it takes, more things could happen.”

The price that’s paid for a war without end.