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DoD Tracks Military Deployments

By Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 1998 – DoD is watching how often military personnel deploy and how the tempo affects quality of life, the department's personnel chief said.

Rudy de Leon, defense undersecretary for personnel and readiness, said DoD's goal is for service members to deploy no more than 120 days per year. Some units deploy more than others, and DoD is trying to track them down to reduce their tempos, he said.

Each service sets its own personnel and operational tempo goals in line with DoD guidance and mission requirements. The most important aspect, de Leon said, is predictability for the service member.

"I think the biggest quality of life issue is time away from home," he said. "If we can put that predictability in, if our handshake is '120 days is the limit,' then I think we will have made a great stride for our people."

DoD recognizes certain units will always have high deployment rates, but it's working on offsets, de Leon said. One idea is to use reserve component personnel more often.

"We're looking at ways to use the National Guard and Reserve units to supplement the active duty force so that they're engaged, involved and bringing their expertise to some of the missions that we have overseas," he said.

De Leon noted that search and rescue units, for instance, have one of the highest operational tempos. Military and security police and electronic warfare units are close behind.

"With the tools that we've developed, we can see precisely how long they're away and also track when we need to bring additional units in to develop those skill sets so we're not putting all the burden on a few people," de Leon added.

De Leon said the tracking effort is just the first step. "We've gone from a force that was forward deployed to one that is more of an expeditionary force," he said. "We've got to make sure that as we transition to these new missions we're taking good care of our people and giving them predictability."

The Army tracks deployment tempo for units and individuals.

The unit rate is the average number of days in A one-month reporting period that personnel were "away from their bunks" for training, exercises and deployments. The individual tempo reflects deployment rates for specific skill categories such as infantryman, engineer equipment operator, medic and aircraft mechanic.

There are high-demand skills and high-demand units, said Col. Benton H. Borum, chief of Army readiness reports. Borum is in charge of collecting and reporting Army perstempo data. Each service reports quarterly to senior DoD leadership.

The Army has always monitored perstempo but adopted a new system seven months ago, said Borum. Units that are projected to exceed the Army chief of staff's 120-day goal receive Department of the Army level attention to ensure the high perstempo is necessary.

When deployments cannot be canceled or shortened, such as the Bosnia operation, the Army can authorize a unit to exceed the limit, Borum said. However, it also could assign reserve component units or soldiers, he explained.

The Air Force tracks both weapon systems and individuals.

"Based on knowing a person's skill and unit of assignment, we can sort data by any variable," said Col. Bob Baskett, chief, contingency and joint matters division. The Air Force system reviews data daily, weekly and quarterly, allowing the service to check for trends and to identify high-demand systems and skills.

"We know we will have weapon systems and people with certain skills who will readily exceed that [120-day benchmark]," Baskett said. Low-density, high-demand systems always stay AT high tempo levels, he said. Some include airborne warning and control systems, the U-2R and U-2S reconnaissance aircraft and the MH-60 helicopter used in special forces and rescue operations. Among individual skills, security forces have high perstempo, he said.

The Navy and Marine Corps have a six-month deployment goal.

The Navy offsets this longer deployment by keeping sailors in port two times as long as they've deployed, said Lt. Chris Rawley, fleet operations officer, chief naval operations staff.

The Navy has tracked perstempo by unit deployment rates since 1985. Last year, the Navy only had three exceptions to its six-month rule -- a ship, a submarine and a SEAL unit, Rawley said.

Some of the top deployable Navy units are airborne early warning units, surface combatants, submarines and SEAL units, Rawley added. The Navy is also tracking a new guideline. It hopes to keep at least 50 percent of its personnel in home port.

The Marine Corps mirrors the Navy with a six-month deployment and no deployment for two times the length deployed. The Marines measure perstempo by unit only.

Using the Marine Corps Training and Exercise Employment Planning system, the Marine Corps tracks deployment perstempo, which by Marine definition is the time accumulated by a unit away from the home station 10 days or more during a given period, said Capt. Sean D. Gibson, Marine spokesperson.

The Marine system captures past, present and projected deployment tempos for each unit, Gibson added. The corps has used the system three years.

Marine infantry battalions net the highest deployment perstempo followed by F-18 squadrons and some helicopter squadrons, Gibson said. Everybody in combat service support Roles also rank up there.

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