Courtesy of Jordan Sherwood
Wednesday March 29, 2006
Four and a half years after Sept. 11, 2001, defense specialists are increasingly concerned about the toll of repeat combat tours on the U.S. military's effectiveness, individual ground troops and their families.
Military experts say experienced troops are better prepared for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that multiple tours could eventually wear down America's ground forces.
"It's very clear that repeated deployments of individuals is going to have a negative effect," said military historian Richard Kohn, chairman of the curriculum in peace, war and defense at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Common sense tells us we're approaching the time for the ground forces and the reserves and National Guard in which people simply are going to leave the service.
James Hosek, a Rand Corp. military specialist, said no definitive studies have been completed, but that early data suggests repeated tours could hurt the Army, and recruiting and re-enlistment rates.
"We're in uncharted territory with these repeated lengthy deployments of volunteer troops, so it's a real unanswered question," he said.
The Army's active duty, reserve and National Guard are behind their recruiting goals, although re-enlistment in the Army and Marines remains steady, in part, because of larger tax-free signing and re-enlistment bonuses.
In World War II and the Korean War, when troops were in for the duration, units were permanently stationed in the war zone and fresh troops were rotated into those units. The same practice applied in the Vietnam War, when tours lasted a year.
Since the draft ended in 1973, Pentagon policy has kept units together during training, deployment and the return to their home bases on the theory that it makes them more cohesive.