Extended Tour of Duty (2007)
From Phillip Carter's "Broken Arrow" seen on Slate:
The combat-stress literature suggests there's a finite limit to the amount of time that men and women can withstand combat. British historian Richard Holmes pegged this figure at approximately 60 days of sustained combat. In Iraq, we often wondered what our finite limit was, given the stresses of our advisory mission and the frequent attacks on our compound in downtown Baqubah. You can drink only so much chai with Iraqi leaders, and hit so many improvised explosive devices, before you burn out and need to go home. The soldiers and Marines fighting high-intensity operations in Ramadi probably had a different limit than my team, as did the troops assigned to staff duty in the International Zone or on major forward-operating bases.
To a senior Pentagon official studying a set of PowerPoint slides in the Pentagon, the question may seem academic. But to men under fire, it is anything but. Keeping units in combat for longer than a 12-month tour may push many troops past their breaking point, endangering both their lives and the mission.
Today's Army and Marine Corps is more family-oriented than other forces fielded recently by the United States. My deployment affected my family far more than me. I knew when I was safe and when I was in harm's way; families can only guess, piecing together what they get from CNN and sporadic e-mails from their loved ones. Extending soldiers' tours crushes the hopes of their families, who pin so much on a fixed return date. Soldiers have always received "Dear John" letters, but it's different now, because so many troops have spouses and children—and because today's troops are getting "Dear John" e-mails and phone calls in real time. Extending these tours creates enormous strain for military families. And shortening these families' time together between deployments all but guarantees family issues on the next rotation. Problems at home quickly become problems in Iraq or Afghanistan, forcing combat leaders to take time away from their mission to advise soldiers about family matters.
And do you think The Commander Guy cares?
Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I'm working on two time-consuming projects over the summer. Something's got to give, and I'm afraid I won't be updating here as much as I'd like. But I'll try to post when I can.