Harvey: Yearlong rotations staying put (subscribers only)
Army Times is reporting that Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey was asked often about the length of Army tours to Iraq on a recent swing through Kuwait, Iraq and Germany.
His answer stayed the same — the current one-year rotations are not likely to change until the violence subsides in Iraq, largely because shorter deployments would expose more soldiers to the most dangerous periods of the tours.
He explained that the casualty rate is highest in the initial weeks and the final weeks of the deployment in theater.
“At the level of where we are in combat, I don’t think [shorter tours] would be a good idea,” he said. “We would be doubling the vulnerability period; we’d be putting the soldiers at a higher risk.”
This matches pretty much what a lot of folks have been saying all along. In last month’s Military Transformation Uplink, I noted that the Army was looking at six- or nine-month tours, but pointed out that many wonder “if six-month tours mean the unit leaves just about the time it’s settling in with the locals and really getting the lay of the land”, and Joe Katzman added that he wondered as well.
The article I linked to in the MTU states that the look at shorter rotations is “just beginning”, and that a lot depends upon the Iraqi military’s ability to take over for US forces. This is reiterated in the Army Times:
“When the theater stabilizes, when the security environment improves and as our role changes when Iraqi security forces take more of a lead and we’re more in an oversight role, then I think it’s viable,” Harvey told soldiers from Task Force Baghdad and Task Force Band of Brothers, as the soldiers working under the 4th Infantry and 101st Airborne divisions, respectively, are known.
“Depending on the number, we may even be able to extend their time in home station. It’s all condition-based,” he said.
For more discussion on this topic, see the message board for the Military.com article I linked to in the MTU.