About Double Dwell Time
|November 21st, 2006||#1|
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Double Dwell Time info
November 27, 2006
New top Marine proposes doubling time at home between deployments
By Gidget Fuentes and Gordon Lubold
Racked up multiple Iraq tours? Barely home but packing your seabag for another round? Your new top boss just might be getting you a longer break.
The new commandant of the Marine Corps wants to "right-size" the Corps to give units more time at home between deployments, he wrote in a Nov. 13 all-hands message.
In a message called "Passing the colors" released to all Marines the day he became the 34th commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Conway wrote that he wants to bring the service back to a 1:2 "deployment-to-dwell ratio" -- so if a unit deploys for seven months, it would be at home for twice that time -- 14 months -- before deploying again overseas.
To do it, the Corps will need to follow through on a commitment his predecessor made earlier this year to boost the Corps' permanent end strength by 5,000 Marines.
Since early 2004, when the Marine Corps made its first return trip to Iraq following the spring 2003 invasion, most battalions, squadrons and other units that have gone into Iraq have deployed in what's known as the "7-7-7" rotation. Units deploy for a seven-month combat tour and return home, only to go back again seven months later.
So a Marine or sailor in an infantry battalion might do at least two or three combat tours in Iraq during a three-year assignment to that battalion.
The rotation of troops in the other services varies. Many Army units rotate to Iraq on one-year combat assignments, with at least a 12-month period at home before redeployment.
Despite talk in Washington about possible eventual reductions of troops in Iraq, some combat veterans see that the continuing combat operations, especially with security concerns in Iraq's western province, will require a large force of Marines on the ground.
"The problem about the Marines in Iraq is that we've made [them] a second land army," said one retired infantry colonel, who returned last spring from his second tour in Iraq.
Conway, who led the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based I Marine Expeditionary Force into Iraq in 2003 and through heightened combat operations in Anbar province in 2004, included that goal of extended dwell time in his first all-hands message issued to all Marines.
"Marines, the next few years will be tough," he wrote in AlMar 50/06. "We are engaged in a complex war that will not be over soon; however, it is a war we must win!"
Conway's predecessor, Gen. Mike Hagee, who retired the day he handed the Corps over to Conway, had a similar goal to extend the time combat forces -- and, in turn, the Marines and sailors in those units -- have at their home base before they might be ordered back to Iraq or, in some cases, a six-month unit deployment to Japan.
To understand what the Corps is up against when it comes to giving leathernecks a little more time at home, you have to do a little of what some Marines like to call "beer math."
The Corps has 24 active-duty infantry battalions. At any time, there are about nine battalions in Iraq. Another nine are theoretically at home, having just returned from a deployment and getting ready to go back. That's 18. Add units that are turning over in-theater, otherwise known as "right-seat, left-seat," and that eats up more of the 24 battalions. On top of that, the Corps needs one battalion to deploy for each of its Marine expeditionary units -- of which three are theoretically deployed at any time.
Although the Corps has nine Reserve infantry battalions, the service must navigate more restrictions when it comes to calling up reservists, effectively taking many of those battalions off the operational planning table.
"Increasing the number of battalions is on the table," said one retired senior officer who is familiar with the issues confronting the Corps. The officer was referring to an initiative begun earlier this year by Hagee called the Capabilities Assessment Group. At the time, Hagee called for a permanent increase of the Corps' end strength to 180,000, up from its traditional 175,000. The group's job is to lay out the need for the 5,000 extra Marines, and what units they would fill.
The retired officer said the Corps is probably considering adding three to six battalions, but that will depend on answers to several questions, such as:
*How fast can new Marines be recruited?
*How many recruiters would be needed to do it?
*Are there enough barracks to house them?
*And is there enough equipment for those new Marines?
"All those questions come into play," the retired officer said, adding that the Bush administration and Congress will have the final say, not the Corps or the Defense Department.
The long-term costs incurred to recruit, train and pay Marines has long been one of the concerns about permanently increasing the size of the Corps. Personnel costs eat up more than 60 percent of the service's overall budget. If the Corps bought four more battalions -- say, three infantry battalions and one regimental headquarters -- it would require about $1 billion in startup costs and another $1 billion each year.
"It's realistic," the officer said. "I think if you're going to have more work for them to do, you're going to have to have a bigger force."
Lt. Col. T.V. Johnson, a spokesman for Conway, said the dwell-time concept is still in development and had little additional information to provide Nov. 17.
Easing the stress
Since the Iraq war began in early 2003, most of the Corps' infantry battalions have done operational combat tours in Iraq or the Persian Gulf region. Several, such as 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, and 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, have completed three deployments. Some battalions, such as those belonging to Hawaii-based 3rd Marines, have operated in Afghanistan, as well as Iraq.
Implementing a 1:2 "deployment-to-dwell" ratio won't mean that every Marine would be assured at least 14 months at home. For example, a battalion or squadron returning home from a deployment typically may see a one-third turnover of personnel, taking on new-joins and seeing combat veterans separate from service or move to another assignment. In some cases, some Marines volunteer for or end up in a unit that is in the deployment rotation cycle.
As the Iraq war has stretched on, however, and units have returned to Iraq for their second or third tours, the time between deployments has shrunk to just a few months due to the heavy operations tempo.
An extended time at home will surely be welcomed at many units, where the current "7-7-7" leaves little time for leathernecks to rest, recuperate and recharge their batteries.
What often happens, several combat veterans noted, is that after a few weeks back at home, they often have had to jump back into an intense trainingcycle -- whether it's beefing up their own skills or training new-joins for seven months -- with little time off to spend with their families and friends.
"Once you get back, and you take your two weeks, leave and... return back, you jump right back into the battalion training cycle," said one master gunnery sergeant who racked up three combat tours in Iraq -- in 2003, 2004 and 2005 -- with his infantry battalion.
Time spent in the field working with their small units and going to the desert at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif., for the intense "Mojave Viper" security and stabilization operations training mean many days and nights away from home.
Those seven months at home only provided him "maybe two months" to spend with his family and friends, the master gunnery sergeant said.
It was a bullet he and his men had to bite.
"But you knew the mission we had," he said. "We had to get all the people trained and ready."
Conway, in his message, also said the Corps' focus areas will be to "rededicate ourselves to our core values and warrior ethos," improve quality of life and "achieve victory in the long war."
He also wants to "provide a naval force that is fully prepared for employment across the spectrum of conflict."
Conway noted that his priorities will be more fully described in the Commandant's Planning Guidance, which will be released soon. He tasked all commanders with reviewing the guidance with their Marines, sailors and civilians within 30 days.
|November 21st, 2006||#2|
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Beer math goooooooooooooood.
"The purpose of fighting is to win. There is no possible victory in defense. The sword is more important than the shield and skill is more important than either. The final weapon is the brain. All else is supplemental." - John Steinbeck