Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I Don't Even Know What to Say

About this.

A friend of mine sent me an IM today asking if I'd heard about the SecDef's announcement. I'd been busy with moving, and then trying to catch up on some rest today, so I hadn't heard. So when I asked her what was up, she sent me the link to the story.

My response?

Shit! I'm sorry, but this just pisses me off. I'm going to try to do more than just bitch and rant here, but I really got a burr under my saddle about this one. I don't usually complain about the Army. Yeah, there are some things that aggravate me, like my husband's current assignment, but for the most part, I'm pretty happy with my husband's career choice. It's tough sometimes, but the benefits generally far outweigh the negative aspects.

WASHINGTON — Beginning immediately, all active-duty Army soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan will serve 15-month tours — three months longer than the usual standard, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday.

It was the latest move by the Pentagon to cope with the strains of fighting two wars simultaneously and maintaining a higher troop level in Iraq as part of President Bush's revised strategy for stabilizing Baghdad.

"This policy is a difficult but necessary interim step," Gates told a Pentagon news conference, adding that the goal is to eventually return to 12 months as the standard length of tour in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What, a year-long tour in Iraq or Afghanistan isn't long enough? Now soldiers are going to typically spend 15 months deployed? I know there have been occasions when for one reason or another a unit's deployment has been extended for an additional three months, but for the most part, the standard deployment for Army units for OEF/OIF has been 12 months.

This part bugs me:

He said the new policy does not affect the other main components of the U.S.
ground force in Iraq: the Marines, whose standard tour is seven months, or the
Army National Guard or Army Reserve, which will continue to serve 12-month

Maybe somebody out there with more insight or intel than I have can enlighten me on this. Why is it that (according to this article) the Army is the only service whose troops are going to feel the effect of this? The Army already has longer deployments than the Marines (7 months as mentioned here) and the Air Force (not mentioned here, but typically 6 months from what I understand). I don't really begrudge the members of these services and their families shorter deployments, but is there not any way for the other services to fulfill some of these additional requirements?

Gates acknowledged that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are making life
difficult for many in the military.

"Our forces are stretched, there's no question about that," Gates

He said the new policy also seeks to ensure that all active-duty Army
units get at least 12 months at home between deployments. He said it would allow
the Pentagon to maintain the current level of troops in Iraq for another year,
although he added that there has been no decision on future troop levels.

I'm so happy that Gates can acknowledge that the forces are stretched. That's quite an understatement, don't you think? And as far as the policy seeking to ensure that all active-duty Army having at least 12 months home between deployments, how long have they been saying that? A year isn't long enough. The 90 days soldiers are required to remain with their units following a deployment isn't always enough time. But that's a whole other soapbox that I won't get onto right now. So as for this new "termporary" (I'll believe that when I see it) policy ensuring some kind of predictability, I don't buy it. After all, if the Defense Department decides a unit is needed back in Iraq or Afghanistan before their year home is up, they're going to go.

There's one more thing about this article that I want to specifically address:

Soldiers will get an extra $1,000 a month for the three extra months they serve,
he said.

I'm very happy that soldiers are going to be compensated in some way for additional time they're going to be deployed. But there's a bigger picture here, and I can almost guarantee that soldiers who have had their deployments extended in the past are going to wonder whether they'll see any of these benefits.

I remember there was a time when the Army was tracking deployment days for soldiers. I couldn't remember what the numbers were, but I remembered that there was compensation for soldiers who had extended or multiple deployments. I also remembered that this was suspended after the attacks on September 11, 2001. When the Army went into Afghanistan and, later, Iraq, the majority of deployments were for a year. So I did some searching, and found this website and then compared it to this one. According to both of these, if soldiers were deployed more than 400 days in two years, they would receive $100 per day in excess of the 400. So I did the math, and determined that even with the $3000 extra that soldiers would be receiving for the extra three months they are deployed, they're still losing $2500 of what they would receive under the old system. As my husband told me, it's better than nothing, but why the extra three months anyway?

I know I'm not looking at this completely rationally. I can freely admit that. I'm looking at this as a wife whose husband will more likely than not deploy again in the future, since the Army is his career. I have friends whose husbands are currently deployed or who will be deploying soon. Does this new timeline affect them? If and when my husband deploys again, I'm looking at our having to survive 15 months instead of 12 - him in a combat zone, the kids and me going about our daily lives without him. An entire year without him is more than enough, much less 15 months.

Are these decision-makers considering the effects on soldiers as individuals? Do they know what a difference just one month can make, not to mention three?

And last but not least, I'm sure this will be used as yet another example of how "Bush is evil." And, frankly, I'm sick of hearing it. We need to look back farther than the current administration. After all, if the military hadn't undergone the cuts (in personnel and budget) that it did nearly a decade ago, perhaps we would have been more prepared for this war.

Just something to think about.

And one more husband's current job is stressful enough as it is. How do you think this will affect recruiting?