Thursday, May 10, 2007

Stars & Stripes: Army Families Quiz Pentagon on Extended Iraq Duty

Based on what is actually in this story from the Stars & Stripes, and what I'm reading between the lines, I don't get the sense that there is deep or widespread support from military families over in Germany, for the part of the Bush and Cheney surge that will extend the time the families' loved will be deployed in Iraq, with their "dwell time" away from the war diminished.

It breaks my heart to read about American families having to bear an incredible price for the failed war policies of the Bush administration, while their rather skimpy benefits, aren't always easy to obtain from the Pentagon. An extra $1,000 per month for the extension for each soldier sounds like a pittance, given the risks our troops face.

And talk about fuzzy Bush and Cheney math. Interesting that the family members who turned out for the town hall talk think 15 months really means 18 long, deadly months refereeing a civil war. If anyone should know about the military math of this administration, it's the friends and families of our troops.

As of May 11, there are 620 days to go before Bush leaves office. If only we had a exact, legally-mandated date of return home for our troops in Iraq. I mention that only because I needed something positive to think about connected to Bush.

From the Stars & Stripes of May 11:

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — By the time Drueanna Newman’s husband is finished with his extended tour, 27 of his last 36 months will have been spent in Iraq.

So when Capt. Randall Newman finally comes home, she asked, what’s being done to guarantee he gets his 12-month “dwell time”?

At a town hall-style meeting Thursday in Kaiserslautern, which dealt with tour extensions and the new 15-month deployment plan, Drueanna Newman came prepared with a list of questions. Dwell time, or at-home rest, was at the top of the list of things she wanted to ask about.

Newman, whose husband is with the 618th Movement Control Team, highlighted the case of a company of soldiers out of Baumholder who are heading back to Iraq after only nine months at home ...

About 200 soldiers and family members attended the town hall meeting, which was part of a weeklong tour through Germany by Army human resources officials from Washington.

Soldiers and family members raised questions ranging from frustrations about money lost on booked vacations because of tour extensions to programs that will help children cope with having a deployed parent.

One soldier wanted to know what the impact of longer tours will be on his wallet. When tours are extended beyond 12 months, soldiers now receive an extra $1,000 for each month of the extension. With a 15-month tour, he asked, will soldiers have to wait until month 16 for the extra money, or will 366 days still be the trigger?.

Dingle said 366 days will still be the trigger ...

In response to a question about whether more could be done to coordinate the dwell time of spouses who are both soldiers, Dingle said: “We need to be realistic about what we can commit to. We’re an expeditionary Army.”

For some family members, there are fears that tours of up to 15 months will turn into extended 18-month deployments ...

With the Army’s stated plan to grow by 60,000, there will be more flexibility in the future, Dingle said. For now, though, deployments must be driven by the needs of commanders on the ground.

“I know that’s probably not the answer you want to hear,” Dingle said.

While that wasn’t the answer she was hoping for, Newman said she thought the town hall meeting was productive and that many of her questions were answered. She was less positive about whether her husband will get the dwell time he is due ...

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