From January 1, most US soldiers will be deployed for nine months, giving them more time at home between deployments, Army officials have announced.
Army Secretary John M McHugh signed a directive instituting a nine-month “boots on the ground” policy for deployed soldiers, providing more “dwell time” at home for soldiers and their families.
“Implementation of this change is based on the projected demand for Army forces, and remains contingent on global security conditions and combatant commanders’ requirements,” said Lieutenant Colonel Peggy Kageleiry, an Army spokeswoman.
Corps units and above, and individual augmentee deployments will remain at 12-month deployments, officials said, adding that the goal for the corps units is eventually to get to nine-month deployments.
Most augmentees — those with particular skills or those in low-density skill sets and grades — will remain on 12-month deployments.
This change in policy, to be implemented fully by April 1, will affect soldiers in all named operations, including Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation Noble Guardian in Kosovo and Multinational Forces Sinai in Egypt.
Reserve and National Guard unit tour lengths will be the same as active duty — nine months. In their case, though, officials noted, deployment and mobilization are two different issues. Even though these units may still be mobilized for 12 or more months, they will spend only nine months of that mobilization deployed.
It is clear to Army senior leadership that there are still issues tied to Guard and Reserve forces that will need to be worked out, Kageleiry said.
Soldiers deploying under the change in policy will not be granted environmental morale leave — known as R&R — but commanders will retain the option of granting emergency leave and leave for special circumstances, according to Army regulations and local policy.
“This policy will enhance operational success by reducing the friction that comes with having 10 percent of a commander’s personnel being away on leave in the middle of a deployment,” Kageleiry said. “Operational continuity is enhanced, and risk to the individual soldier is reduced by not having to move a warrior around on the battlefield to go on leave.”
Also, Kageleiry said, the reduced deployment length potentially could improve quality of life for soldiers and their families while continuing to meet operational requirements, and is an important step in sustaining the all-volunteer force.
The policy’s goal, officials said, is to reduce the amount of time soldiers are deployed and provide more time for them to spend with their families, depending on the needs of the combatant commander and the potential of decreased operations. Units deployed before the policy takes effect in January will continue to have 12-month deployments.
Currently, deployments have been for 12 months, with a goal of 24 months at home.
Kageleiry said the Army will continue to review how to increase the amount of time soldiers spend at home, depending on the amount of time they are deployed.
“We are constantly analyzing all range of policies to address the issues of the mission, soldiers and families,” she said. “We believe that the current operational environment allows us to adjust the deployment policy in a way that meets all mission requirements and better serve our soldiers and families.”