Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., talks with members of the media during a news conference in the 1st Cavalry Division's headquarters building last year at Fort Hood, Texas. (John A. Bowersmith / Killeen Daily Herald via AP)
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Deployment lengths will drop from 12 months to nine months in about two years, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey, who also predicted a quicker increase in dwell time than originally projected.
Casey, who made his remarks during an April 15 visit to Fort Polk, La., pointed to the drawdown plan President Barack Obama announced on Feb. 27, which calls for an end to the combat mission in Iraq by August 2010 and a withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq by 2011.
Obama's plan also includes keeping a transitional force in Iraq of up to 50,000 U.S. troops who would train and advise Iraqi forces.
"When that [plan] is executed, we will actually get better dwell rates in 2010 and 2011 than I thought we would originally," Casey told local reporters from the Fort Polk area following a meeting with soldiers. A transcript of the media engagement was provided by Casey's office to Army Times.
Nine months of boots on the ground, Casey said, would mean 24 to 27 months at home, compared with the 12 months most soldiers get now.
"We're not going to get there, I don't think, in the next two years, but shortly after that I think we'd be able to do something," Casey said. "Right now, the volume of the deployments is just too fast, too much."
By this summer, there will be four brigade combat teams in Afghanistan, double the number of combat troops that have been in that theater at any time since October 2001.
At the same time, 12 BCTs will be on duty in Iraq, for a total of 16 BCTs deployed for 12-month rotations.
Thousands of support troops, such as aviation, medical, engineer, logistics and military police, will also be needed in both theaters.
The Army, Casey has said, is "out of balance" and stretched.
Deployments were on a 12-month schedule until early 2007, when a surge of 30,000 troops was sent to Iraq to help quell a rise in violence and tours were extended to 15 months. The Army reverted to 12-month deployments beginning in August.
"We know 12 months is too long to sustain repeatedly, and we know that six months is too short for the operational environment," he said, adding "so once we get demand down to about 10 brigade combat teams, we're looking to revert to nine-month deployments," Casey said.
Soldiers and their families, he said, have been under too much stress, and dwell time has tended to remain at 12 months or even less.
"If the drawdown gets executed as planned, we get to almost two-and-a-half years of dwell average between deployments for soldiers and families. That's about where we need to be," he said.