UPDATE: "Senate GOP leaders block Webb dwell-time plan." - from Army Times:
"A Senate proposal to guarantee combat troops more time at home was derailed Wednesday by a procedural roadblock thrown by Republicans.
Fifty-six senators supported the plan offered by two military veterans — Sens. Jim Webb, D-Va., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. — that would promise service members returning from deployment as much time at home as they had spent in a combat zone, unless they volunteer to return early.
With Republicans threatening endless debate, known in legislative terms as a filibuster, supporters of the Webb-Hagel amendment needed to muster 60 votes to stop the talking and bring the plan to a vote. They fell four votes short.
Webb said he was disappointed but won’t give up. “We are going to continue to focus on this,” he said.
The intent of the guaranteed time at home, known as “dwell time,” is “to protect our troops,” he said.
Hagel also vowed to try again with a modified amendment. “If we cannot get this right, I am not sure what we can do,” he said.
Once again, the Republicans prove they don't really support the flesh and blood men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan - only a concept of anonymous troops who will further the Bush administration's morally bankrupt political agenda.
ORIGINAL POST: A recent editorial in the Military Times says the U.S. Army is nearing its breaking point:
Many soldiers have deployed three, four and more times to Iraq, Afghanistan or both. But you won’t hear much in the way of complaints, because a shared sense of honor and duty overrides most self-interest.Webb's son is the only child of a U.S. Senator serving in Iraq.
Yet there is no escaping the fact that the Army is nearing a breaking point.
In the fifth year of war in Iraq, when deployments should be winding down, combat tours instead are being extended.Time between deployments, meanwhile, is unchanged. So today, soldiers can look forward to 15 months in the war zone for every 12 months at home.
Fifteen-month deployments mean some soldiers can expect to miss two Christmases, two anniversaries, and two of the same child’s birthdays in one war tour. It means more mental health problems for soldiers, more stress on families and less support for the mission at home.
This is bad policy.Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., plans to introduce legislation to mandate that deployed troops get a month at home for every month deployed. So if a deployment does have to last 15 months, soldiers wouldn’t have to go back for another 15 months.
Better still, it would undermine justification for those longer tours and push the Army to revert to 12-month war stints. Army planners ditched the 12/12 model to support a surge of forces in Iraq.
Longer tours are appealing because, on paper, they let a smaller Army do more. But in reality, they threaten the very strength of our Army. A recent mental health survey of combat troops conducted under the auspices of Multi-National Force-Iraq found that mental health issues increase in direct relation to the length and frequency of deployments and the amount of combat experience soldiers endure.
The mental health of returning soldiers is an increasing concern, as this Washington Post story details:
U.S. troops returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer "daunting and growing" psychological problems -- with nearly 40 percent of soldiers, a third of Marines and half of the National Guard members reporting symptoms -- but the military's cadre of mental-health workers is "woefully inadequate" to meet their needs, a Pentagon task force reported yesterday.
The congressionally mandated task force called for urgent and sweeping changes to a peacetime military mental health system strained by today's wars, finding that hundreds of thousands of the more than 1 million U.S. troops who have served at least one war-zone tour in Iraq or Afghanistan are showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety or other potentially disabling mental disorders. . . .
The task force found that 38 percent of soldiers, 31 percent of Marines, 49 percent of members and 43 percent of Marine reservists reported symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression or other problems, according to military surveys completed this year by service members 90 and 120 days after returning from deployments.