Armed Forces News

A query from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld asking why

the Army and Marine Corps combat tours in Iraq vary in length

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has placed the Army on the horns of a dilemma. Officials are

concerned on the one hand about a sharp decline in recruiting

and retention if the Army’s 12-month tours continue, and on

the other hand about maintaining troop strength in Iraq at

138,000 if the tours are shortened. The Army leadership

agrees that 12 months is too long, says Lt. Gen. H Steven

Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau. This suggests that

Army combat tour lengths should be cut to something like the

Marines’ seven-month stints. Officials say, however, that it

is too early to predict if or when the tours would be trimmed

or how the transition would be implemented.