When Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced in April that he would be extending US Army deployment in Iraq from 12 to 15 months, he also offered a guarantee that the extensions would allow troops a full year of home leave between war zone deployments. But with the announcement this week of 35,000 troops scheduled for deployment by the end of the year, it appears that a number of soldiers are having that guarantee shorted.
Stars and Stripes reports that members of the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry, Company A, learned Tuesday that they are scheduled to head back to Iraq in November, just nine months after the 150-soldier company left the combat zone in February after a 13-month deployment.
Gates had announced last month that active-duty US Army force deployments in Iraq would be extended from 12 months to a maximum of 15 months, with a guaranteed 12 months at home base between deployments.
Gates said the new 15-month maximum deployment, 12-month minimum home base scheme would give soldiers "a more predictable, reliable" timetable for planning.
“What we’re trying to do here is provide some long-term predictability for the soldiers and their families about how long their deployments will be and how long they will be at home, and particularly guaranteeing that they will be at home for a full 12 months,” Gates said during the press conference announcing the extensions.
On Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, tempered the DoD's commitment to an absolute 12-month home leave rule. Rather than a guarantee, Whitman said, the 12-month dwell time between deployments “is a goal, to have units and individuals to have an appropriate amount of time for recovery and for stability purposes at home station and to be able to be with their families.”
But asked late Wednesday about the situation, Stars and Stripes reports Gates said he could not explain why the Army was sending back the company from Germany just nine months after its last Iraq deployment.
“I'll be very interested in finding out more about that,” Gates said. “We just need to find out about that, because I made it clear that people would have 12 months at home.”