Chiefs Continually Examine Differing Combat Tour Lengths
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 4, 2006 The service chiefs continue to examine how long servicemembers should serve in Iraq, but for now they are satisfied the tour lengths are about right, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Jan. 3.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, who was flying back after leading a weeklong USO trip to the U.S. Central Command area of operations, said the service chiefs have examined the policy carefully over the past two years.
Iraq tour lengths are different among the services. Airmen generally are deployed for four months. Marines and sailors serve about seven months. Soldiers generally spend a year with "boots on the ground." Pace said he hadn't heard complaints about tour lengths from the troops, but he had been apprised of concerns.
"It boils down to the way that each service employs its force, and how best then to assure that they get the most out of the people they have," Pace said.
For example, the Marine Corps is tied to Navy ship deployments, and that drives their six- or seven-month deployment. "When the Marines do the math, they figure they can get the most out of Pfc. Pace in six- or seven-month deployments inside a normal four-year commitment," Pace said.
For the Army, with brigade rotations and the heavy commitment of reserve component forces, officials deemed a year was the proper length of service.
"The Air Force works with a lot of guardsmen and reservists blended into their units," Pace said. "So as they look at it, a four-month rotation works very well."
Pace said that the differing tour lengths are confusing and frustrating to those on the ground. "But in Washington, it makes sense for each of the services to be doing what they are doing, but that doesn't mean we won't keep looking at the situation," he said.