Army extends tours for National Guard, reserve soldiers in Middle East

Sept. 17, 2003, midnight | By Katherine Zhang | 20 years, 9 months ago

Troops to come home months later than expected

The U.S. Army has extended the service of many National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers, including several local units, in Iraq and surrounding countries, according to The Washington Post.

The new order requires 12-month tours in Iraq or surrounding countries for the soldiers, who will be returning home one to six months later than expected. The Army decided to extend the tours due to concerns that the recent reliance on the National Guard and Army Reserve in the war against terrorism will have a negative impact on recruiting, said the Post. Furthermore, a shortage of active-duty soldiers and security concerns in Iraq require that a large number of soldiers be kept in Iraq for as long as possible, Army officials said.

"Because of the dynamic situation in theater, we had to take a look at our overseas forces to make sure we were maximizing their deployment opportunity," said one Army official who wished to remain anonymous.

Retired Army Major General William L. Nash, currently a senior fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the extension is likely to have further negative impact on recruiting and retention for the National Guard and Army Reserves. Another concern is that the uncertainty about the length of their tours will have an adverse impact on the troops' morale, according to the Post.

The order only applies to the troops who are already in Iraq and will not affect those being deployed in the future. The large number of deployments has yet to have unfavorable effects on recruiting and retention, Army officials said. "[The new order] is going to help us give some predictability and therefore some stability to Army Reserve soldiers," asserted Army Reserve spokesman Steve Stromvall.

Currently, 122,000 Army personnel are serving in Iraq, according to The Washington Post, and another 12,000 troops have been stationed in Kuwait. The Maryland National Guard has more than 300 soldiers in Iraq with orders for a one-year tour that may be extended to two years.

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Katherine Zhang. Katherine Zhang likes French baguettes, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, bookmarks, fresh boxes of rosin, Brad Meltzer novels, and of course, "JAG." In her free time, Katherine enjoys knitting, playing the violin, and reading - especially legal thrillers and books about people in faraway places and long-ago times. … More »

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