On April 11, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that tours of duty for the Army would be extended from 12 months to 15 months, effective immediately. In exchange for the extensions, soldiers would receive at least a year home between deployments. This rest time was intended to “provide some long-term predictability for the soldiers and their families…particularly guaranteeing that they will be at home for a full 12 months,” Gates added. Watch it:
But Gates has not kept his promise. Stars and Stripes reports:
The Army is sending a company of Europe-based soldiers back to Iraq before the unit has had a full 12 months of “dwell time,” or at-home rest.
Members of the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry, Company A, learned Tuesday that they are scheduled to head back to Iraq in November, just nine months after the 150-soldier company left the combat zone in February after a 13-month deployment.
A recent Pentagon report concluded that soldiers on extended and repeated deployments “were more likely to suffer acute stress, and that mental health problems correlated with higher rates of battlefield misconduct.”
When asked yesterday about this nine-month deployment, Gates simply replied, “I’ll be very interested in finding out more about that.” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman’s response was that “there are some people, just by the nature of transferring units and things like that may not end up with the full 12 months.”
According to Whitman, the 12-month rest period between deployments “is a goal,” not a guarantee.
GATES: This reality was a significant factor influencing my decision to recommend to the President that we grow the Army and the Marine Corps over the next five years by 65,000 and 25,000 respectively. As the next step, acting upon the recommendation of the Acting Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army, I am announcing today a new policy intended to provide better clarity, predictability, and sustainability in how we deploy active duty Army forces.
Effective immediately, active Army units now in the Central Command unit of responsibility, and those headed there, will deploy for not more than 15 months, and will return home to home station, for not less than 12 months. This policy applies to all units, with the exception of two brigades, currently deployed, that have already been extended to 16-month deployments.