On the recommendation of Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and Chief of Staff of the Army General George Casey, and with President Obama's strong support, today I am announcing a decision to temporarily increase the active-duty end strength of the Army by up to 22,000. That is a temporary increase from the current authorized end -- permanent end strength of 547,000 to an authorized temporary end strength of 569,000 active-duty soldiers.
I came into this job in 2006 with the belief that we did not have enough forces to properly support the extended pace of combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. Shortly after taking office, and mindful of the decision to surge additional forces into Iraq, I recommended and the president and the Congress approved a permanent increase in the size of the Army of 65,000 and the Marine Corps of 27,000. At the time, it was judged that these increases would sustain the projected level of deployments and lower the stress on the force. At the same time, I directed that the Army continue to reduce the size of the nondeployable or institutional part of the force.
Bumiller notes the numbers in Iraq as approximately 130,000 and the numbers "expected in Afghanistan" as 60,000. Walter Pincus' "Soldiers Question the Defense Secretary About Long Deployments" (Washington Post -- be sure to check out AP's Heather Ainsworth's photo) covers a Fort Drum townhall Gates held on Friday:
A private first class in a support battalion, scheduled to go to Iraq, asked whether, if troops don't complete their 12-month tour in that country, they will be transferred to Afghanistan before coming home. Gates said he didn't know for sure but he hopes such soldiers would be brought home "because there is a different kind of training that goes on for Afghanistan compared to Iraq." He said the units that will go to Afghanistan to bring the total to 68,000, as authorized by President Obama, had already been identified, and thus would not include those on their way to Iraq.
Gates said he hedged his answer because "there may be some specific specialties or specialized units that might be transferred" from Iraq to Afghanistan but any increase before the end of this year would not be "a lot."
An artillery sergeant asked about the likelihood that Army deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan would be shortened to nine months or even six months. Gates said that Casey, the chief of staff, "would really like to do that," noting that Marines are spending seven months deployed and seven at home, Navy personnel are alternating six-month stints, and Air Force tours are even shorter.
Rotating the Army's much larger number of troops in Iraq with a less-than-one-year deployment would create an unacceptable logistics problem, he said. He said a question he had with shorter rotations amid a counterinsurgency is "Do we cut our capability -- because we cut our experience level by the shorter tours?"
Last Thursday, a US base in Basra was attacked with mortars. On Friday, the US military announced the deaths of three soldiers. KARE 11 (link has text and video) covers the Basra memorial service for Daniel Drevnick (Woodbury, Minnesota), James Wertish (Olivia, Minnesota) and Carlos Wlicox (Cottage Grove, Minnesota). Military Families Speak Out Annie McCabe raises the issue of sending the national guard overseas, "I think it's a misuse of the national guard." She also notes, "Obviously, it's too late for those three families -- it's too late for a number of families. And we're going to lose more before this is over." The report notes:
Each of the soldiers was serving his first tour of duty in Iraq. Of the 1,000 members of the 34th "Red Bull" Infantry Division currently serving in Basra, 310 are on their second or third deployment, and 20 are taking their fourth tour of duty.
And that fifteen members of the Minnesota National Guard have died in Iraq since the start of the Iraq War. The US military announced another death on Sunday in Anbar Province. That was one of two deaths, from the same region, the other wasn't noted by the US military and it was of an Afghanistan War veteran. Sig Christenson (San Antonio Express-News) reports on the two deaths, noting that both were from New Braunfels:
Lance Cpl. Brandon T. Lara, 20, was killed over the weekend in an attack in Anbar province.
Retired Army Reserve Lt. Col. Raymond Trejo Rivas died Wednesday in San Antonio after battling to recover from head injuries suffered nearly three years ago. He was 53.
Their deaths bring to 49 the number of troops from Bexar County killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are the area's first war deaths this year.
"It really came as a shock," Rivas' wife, Colleen, said Monday. "It was not expected."
Teri Figueroa (North County Times) notes Brandon T. Lara's death and, "In the six years since the invasion of Iraq, Camp Pendleton has lost 345 troops, second only to the 484 from the Army's Fort Hood in Texas, according to icasualities.org, and Twentynine Palms has lost 115 troops."
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