Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Pentagon's Solution to Combat Stress: Extending Troops' Deployments

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Noah Schachtman on the Pentagon's extended deployment propaganda campaign:

You have got to be kidding me. Check out this pure-propaganda pronouncement, from the Pentagon's official news organ, the "American Forces Press Service":
Extended Deployments Should Lessen Army Stress, Commander Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2007 – Extended overseas deployments affecting soldiers serving in Afghanistan and other locales overseen by U.S. Central Command should help to alleviate the stress on the Army, a senior U.S. officer in Afghanistan told Pentagon reporters today.

“I’m absolutely confident that that’s going to work and that’ll manage the pressure and the stress on the force,” Army Col. Martin Schweitzer, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, said during a satellite-carried news conference.

All active U.S. Army units already operating within U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, including Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa, or en route there “will deploy for not more than 15 months and return home for not less than 12 months,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced April 11 at a Pentagon news conference.

The change automatically increased the length of soldiers’ overseas tours in those areas from 12 to 15 months...

The 15-month deployments are needed to ensure that the Army retains the capacity to sustain the deployed force, Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said April 13 from Baghdad during a teleconference with Pentagon reporters.

The tour extensions will provide more predictability and stability for soldiers and their families, Odierno said, noting the policy “will ensure 12 months at home station between rotations.”

Schweitzer acknowledged difficulty in measuring how the extended deployment affects individual soldiers under his command. However, he expressed strong support for the personnel decisions made by senior defense department and Army leaders.

The Pentagon’s civilian and military leaders “put a lot of rigor and analytical analysis into this (tour extension) to determine what is best for the service and what is sustainable,” Schweitzer said. ...

There are two possible interpretations of "Army stress" you could tease out of this pronouncement. The idea that longer tours will help with either is just silly.

This first is that longer tours will somehow ease pressures on the the service, institutionally. Traditionally, the Army has tried to give its troops two years at home for every year in combat. Which means deployed units should only make up about a third of the force; the other two-thirds should be at rest or in training. But with the Iraq war dragging on so long, that hasn't been possible. "Today half the Army's 43 combat brigades are deployed overseas, with the remainder recovering from their latest deployment or preparing for the next one," Time recently reported. Now, you're telling me that more time in Iraq somehow help correct that imbalance? That doesn't even pass the laugh test.

"Army stress" could also be interpreted as the burdens that soldiers and their families face, as they head off to war, again and again. That's the kind of stress Gen. Odierno seems to imply will be helped by soldiers spending an extra three months in a warzone. Again, that's a downright laughable position to take. As Phil Carter, an Iraq vet, recently noted:

There's a finite limit to the amount of time that men and women can withstand combat. British historian Richard Holmes pegged this figure at approximately 60 days of sustained combat. In Iraq, we often wondered what our finite limit was, given the stresses of our advisory mission and the frequent attacks on our compound in downtown Baqubah. You can... only... hit so many improvised explosive devices, before you burn out and need to go home.

1 comment:

Chief said...

Someday one of your posts will make me mad enough to use some four-letter type, old Sailor words. This post on “extended deployments” came close to me being ‘mad’ enough. The Pentagon’s and the general’s rationale is way beyond not being laughable. The SES (Senior Executive Service) and Generals only care about their next promotion. By the time they’ve been promoted to ‘general’ they have more than enough time to retire. They have no moral character, absolutely none.

This extension to 15 months will break the back of the National Guard/Army Reserve. The gov’t is going to have to offer a heck of a lot of more incentives to get kids to enlist. As far as retention rates for the active force, well of course they look good. If you had 12 – 15 years toward a nice retirement after 20 years of active service, would you re-enlist? I know I did.

But if I had been single with no children to be responsible for, I most likely would not have re-enlisted.