Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Friday, June 22, 2007

The All-Volunteer Army

"PAGGS" commented on my last post and referred our Army as an all volunteer Army. That's true, and is something most Officers will tell you is a good thing. The reality is that volunteers will simply perform better, and that is what any command wants.

However, there is another reality to the situation of many Soldiers in Iraq. First of all, many Soldiers are being "stop loss-ed." That means that their contract is due to expire at a certain time, and they plan to retire or get out. But the unit they are with is going to mobilize, so at a certain point before the deployment, a "stop-loss" is placed on the members of that unit, preventing their retirement. Thus, they are kept on active duty longer than they signed up for in the first place.

In addition, "rules" for the National Guard and Reserve have changed. For most of the war, the National Guard and Reserve were told they could only be mobilized for a total of 24 months. That is total, and not consecutive. Therefore, if you were deployed for 18 months, you could have a sense that you would only have another 6 months if you got deployed again. It gives the members of the Guard and Reserve a sense of control- and allows them to effectively pursue their civilian careers.

That changed in January.

There is no longer a limit, and a Reserve Soldier who has been deployed away from home for 15 months can be redeployed, for example, for another 15 months not that long after he/she gets home.

The Army recently changed active duty deployments from 12 to "up to" 15 months, at the same time that a study of combat stress study said the greatest factor for mental health issues was the length of deployments. The Marines typically deploy for 7 months, btw.

Now, according to the article I linked to, the length of deployments may increase again, and the Guard and Reserve may be used even more (is that possible?)

PAGGS also mentioned I want to avoid politics. I do. I can't make political suggestions on here. However, I can point out that no one has a solution. I haven't seen one politician running for President who offers any kind of workable solution.

One political party has candidates essentially saying "let's just keep doing what we're doing." Another political party has candidates essentially saying "let's totally stop what we're doing." (yes, I'm oversimplifying them both)

We need to take care of Soldiers. This current pace of operations combined with a small all-volunteer Army will not do that.

Part of what having an "all-volunteer" Army does is allows political cover. Politicians can say "well, they all signed up for this." But as the lengths and rules of deployment change, that saying becomes less true. And we recently had a US Senator suggest, twice recently, that we attack Iran.


Blogger Larry said...

One thing you may be over-looking.....
Currently, both "parties" are using the war for political platforms, and as a means to get elected. As of the writing of this, the congressional approval rating is 15 points BELOW the President's approval rating. What does this mean? The layman (me) thinks it means that not only are most mainstream conservatives disappointed in the progress promised by our current administration, but that far left liberals, as well as more moderate democrats are disapointed with the progress (or lack of progress) the newly democraic controlled congress has made.
Many of the newly elected congressmen campaigned on the promise of "WE WILL END THIS WAR AND BRING OUR TROOPS HOME!" yet have not been able to fulfill hat campaign promise.(did we really think it was as simple to end a war by changing who was in the house and senate?) Moderate republicans are also disappointed in the anticipated "quick turn around" and success that was "assumed" by the President's troop surge. These things take time, money, patience and, yes, sacrifice Both money, and unfortunate loss of life.
As Chris has pointed out before, many times, no other war or conflict was ever "get in, act, get out" Many years of policing, training, rebuilding, stabilizing, and PEACE need to come first.

I can't believe I am going to use an example from Trent Lot, but he said something the other night, on another topic that makes sense in this case as well. Regarding the border control/"Great Wall of Mexico" issue.... "We voted for the wall, we voted for the funding, but we (congress) are not the ones who have to build it. That is why it is not getting done......"

See the corelation? Congress voted for the war, voted to fund it, but don't have to fight it. NOW, congress has voted (or tried to) pass a resolution for a withdrawl, and no more loss of life, but also.....cannot do anything beyond this to bring our troops home or bring peace to the region. The military and the people of Iraq/AAfghanistan have to do this.

While in theory, it would be great if congress could simply say "OK, peace is now here...we voted for it" and bring everyone home, it is just as absurd as the President saying the same thing.

Patience people, patience....

Just my thoughts, I could be wrong.....

9:03 AM  

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