Some soldiers taking permanent change-of-station orders to Europe or Japan will get an extra year living abroad.
Under a new policy, published June 6, soldiers who have no dependents and are not married to other service members will have their tours extended from 24 to 36 months, the Army said in a service news posting. Tours for soldiers accompanied by dependents will still be 36 months.
The policy will apply to PCS orders cut after June 14, the Army said, adding that soldiers already on unaccompanied tours for 24 months or less at these locations are also encouraged to request an extension, according to the published memo detailing the order.
The new policy is estimated to effect 3,000 to 5,000 troops. It’s an effort to boost readiness and reduce moves.
“You won’t have the turnover,” Mary Sturm, who handles overseas and enlisted assignment policy for the Army’s G-1 personnel office, said in the release. “Anyone staying in one location longer is going to provide a little more stability.”
The Army hopes the longer stays abroad will eliminate turnover across the chain of command and across occupational specialties.
“That enables the crews to actually work together for a longer period of time,” Sturm said. “You’ll get to utilize the skills you learn, rather than move on to the next location.”
The new policy applies to troops heading to:
- Germany: All locations except Donaueschingen
- Italy: All locations except Mt. Venda
- Belgium: All locations except Betrix
- Japan: All locations except Akizuki Kure, ltami (Sapporo), Kumamoto, Kuma Shima, Kyoga-Misaki, Okuma, Osaka, le Shima, Seburiyama, Sendai and Shariki
The Army isn’t planning to expand this policy to other locations, officials said in the release.
Army Secretary Mark Esper said in February the service intends to make 36 months standard for both continental U.S. tours and most tours overseas to cut down on PCS moves, and he said soldiers should be able to stay in one location for more than three years.
The deputy commander of Army Futures Command said in March that scaling back on permanent change-of-station moves is a goal of the service.
“I think one of the biggest harms to readiness is three letters, and it’s called PCS,” Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley said at AUSA’s Global Force Symposium. “Now, there’s a certain requirement to move soldiers around, but it’s not because you’ve been there too long.”
Moving service members around every few years can be beneficial in plugging attrition across units, as well as keeping new troops rotating in and out of units to gain varied experiences and keep leadership from stagnating.
However, solders sometimes complain that by the time they get the hang of a new leadership role or unit operations, they’re already preparing to move to the next duty station.
“Because although cross-fertilization is good, I’m not sure the argument is more compelling than the fact that you’re losing readiness by PCSing,” Wesley said.
Military Times Pentagon bureau chief Meghann Myers contributed to this report.