Skelton: Long tours hitting Army morale

July 27, 2007 at 8:33 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 27 (UPI) -- Long overseas tours of duty are hurting U.S. Army morale, a House panel chief said Friday.

"The Department of Defense has established a goal that active duty service members should be deployed for one year with two years back in home station, the goal for our reservists and Guardsmen is five years between deployments. Unfortunately, the Services are not meeting that goal," Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, said Friday.

"The Army is actually deploying soldiers for longer periods than they have back at home station. This is a troubling sign since the time back at home station is used to reset, retrain, and re-equip forces," Skelton said. "It is also having an impact on morale of the troops and their families.

"Military families do not ask for much, but one thing they do want and need is predictability and stability in the time between deployments. The loss of dwell time back home is increasing the burnout among our troops and their families," the Armed Services Committee chairman said.

Republicans in Congress argue that Skelton's efforts to give U.S. troops a greater breathing space between their tours of duty in Iraq will backfire and increase stress among them rather than reduce it. But many military experts and retired generals are warning that the current system is breaking down anyway and that it is imposing too much stress on combat troops.

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