I have to admit that even cynical, jaded, disgusted me is surprised that more of a stink has not been raised about this:
The military announced Wednesday that most active duty Army units now in Iraq and Afghanistan and those sent in the future would serve 15-month tours, three months longer than the standard one-year tour.
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, who announced the change at a news conference at the Pentagon, said that the only other way to maintain force levels would have been to allow many soldiers less than a year at home between combat tours.
Mr. Gates said the problem was evident even before President Bush ordered an increase in troops for Iraq this year. Officials said the change became inevitable as the numbers of extra troops that were needed — and, most likely, the time the extra forces would have to stay — increased.
“This policy is a difficult but necessary interim step,” he said. “Our forces are stretched, there’s no question about that.”
This is beyond a big deal, and the impact this will have is enormous- on morale, on readiness, on equipment, on mission performance, and on families. You will hear talk about how this will make things more “difficult,” but it is far beyond making things a little more difficult.
I don’t think people appreciate the mental toll this is going to have on our guys and gals on the front lines. They wake up every day, face unspeakable horrors, and there are but a few things that keep them going- their buddies, their since of mission, and the notion that in 42 days and a wake-up, they are out of this shithole and on their way home. Tacking on another three months is enormous, and not because they are cowards (really, the thing that makes them so brave is that they are afraid, as anyone with a brain would be, but keep going out there every damned day), but because it takes away the hope, instills a degree of cynicism, and erodes trust.
And that isn’t even taking into consideration the maintenance rotations on the gear. Or the juggling that will have to be done again in a few months should we not bring more brigades online. Or the flight from the Guard and Active Duty that this sort of thing inevitably will increase.
This tour extension is big- bigger than just three months.