Extended tours disappoint and irk isle military families
Some families do not like a new Pentagon policy that extends deployments by three months of Hawaii-based soldiers who will be going to or are already in Iraq.
More than 7,000 Schofield Barracks soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division will spend three months in addition to their standard 12-month deployment in Iraq, under the policy announced yesterday in Washington.
Families were displeased with news that Hawaii-based soldiers who face deployment to Iraq or are already there will have to wait an extra three months before coming home.
"I really don't like it," Ashley Cruz, 19, whose husband will be deploying in November, said at McDonald's restaurant in Wahiawa. "I don't think they should be there at all. They need to pull everybody out."
Cruz is expecting their first child in August, and the Arizona couple just arrived in Hawaii a couple of months ago. She's made a couple of friends so far and plans to stay in Hawaii.
The Pentagon announced a new policy yesterday in Washington that will result in the more than 7,000 Schofield Barracks soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division spending an extra three months in Iraq.
The soldiers, the majority of them assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team that left here last summer, are among the 15,000 troops affected by the policy announced by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Under the policy, all active-duty Army soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan will serve 15-month tours, three months longer than the usual standard deployment.
Yesterday's announcement covers all of the Schofield Barracks soldiers in Iraq, including Mixon's headquarters unit. The Pentagon's announcement does not affect the Marines Corps, the Air Force, Navy or the National Guard and Army Reserve.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the deployment extensions are a "difficult but necessary interim step" to stabilize Baghdad.
Celina Malone, 22, said she'll take her 1- and 3-year-old daughters home to Georgia when her husband leaves Schofield for his first deployment.
"We're going to miss him bad, but watching the kids missing him is worse," she said. "He's going to miss out on a lot."
Daughter MacKenzie Malone, 3, piped up: "I don't want him to get hurt."
But 22-year-old Spc. Mike Malone Jr. will leave his family sooner than November. He's off to California in July for training, returns in October, then deploys in November.
Hawaii Air National Guard Capt. Rosemarie Ader, 33, said she may volunteer to serve in Iraq to spare others who have deployed multiple times.
"My brother-in-law has been there three times and my sister has three kids," she said. "If I can bring a husband or a wife home, yeah, I'd like to do my part in the war."
Ader said the lengthier deployment is not fair to people like her brother-in-law, an Army ranger in the infantry, who is already slated to go a fourth time after his return in August.
Amber Marcotte, 21, whose husband deploys in November, is expecting their first child in August. "He's going to miss the first year of our baby," she said.
"I'm just waiting for him to get it all over with," she said.
PAULINE JELINEK; The Associated Press
Last updated: April 11th, 2007 01:47 PM (PDT)
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.
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 tours.
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 said.
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.
Soldiers will get an extra $1,000 a month for the three extra months they serve, he said.
Without changing the standard tour length to 15 months, the Army would have been forced to send five brigades to Iraq before they completed 12 months at home, Gates said.
Some units' tours in Iraq had already been extended beyond 12 months by varying amounts. The new policy will make deployments more equitable and more predictable for soldiers and for their families, Gates said.
"I think it is fair to all soldiers that all share the burden equally," he said.
There are currently 145,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and when the buildup is completed by June, there would be more than 160,000, officials are calculating.
Washington state media reports:
Seattle Times - Ft. Lewis to feel the strain of longer Iraq tours
Seattle Post Intelligencer - Soldiers' war tours extended
Most at Fort Lewis resigned to 15-month separation
Tacoma News Tribune (Tacoma, WA - Fort Lewis) - Longer combat tours announced today will hit home at Fort Lewis
The Olympian (Olympia, WA) - Two Fort Lewis brigades affected by tour extension
The Columbain (Vancouver, WA) - Ft Lewis Strykers will have their Iraq tours extended by 3 months
Tri-City Herald (Mid-WA, Richland, Pasco, Kennewick, WA) - Gates announces longer tours in Iraq
Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA) - Gates extends deployments 90 days in Iraq, Afghanistan