Army Tours Extended to 15 Months

Wednesday Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Army deployments will be extended three months, taking them for being overseas for 12 months to now 15 months.

The extension is effective immediately and will affect the 3rd Infantry Division.

The deployment change has caught some by surprise, but not all. "I don't think it's going to be a complete surprise to the 3rd Infantry Division families," said US Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA Dist. 1). "I have spoken to Gen. Lynch [division commander Maj. Gen. Rick  Lynch] about this in times past about the possibility, and as I understand it they have been informed most of their troops may be overseas longer than 12 months."

Congressman Kingston said the plan is not just to extend the deployments, but to keep the troops home longer. "Ultimately what the Army wants to do is not just 12 months there and 12 months here, but 12 months there and 24 months home," said Congressman Kingston.

However, not everyone agrees with Defense Secretary Gates' decision. "I think the shorter time they're over there the better," said World War II veteran Charlie Hearn.

Hearn said extending the deployments is just too much. "They're missing their families. They have problems like everyone else and I think it's a big pressure on the family."

Jimmy Ray with the Chatham County Veterans Council agrees this extension will be tough on the family, but feels it's necessary. "As soon as they get a chance, they're going to blow something else up," said Ray.

Ray knows the road ahead won't be easy, but that the families have the support they need here at home. And home is exactly what Congressman Kingston says Defense Secretary Gates is working toward. "We want to turn the corner in Iraq so we can get the Iraqi army stabilized so we can have all our folks back home," said Congressman Kingston.

The extension is a part of President Bush's plan to increase the size of the Army by 62,000 soldiers and the Marines by 27,000.

The extension applies to all active-duty Army units with the exception of two brigades who are already serving in Iraq for 16 months.  The extension does not apply to the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Army National Guard or Army Reserve.

Reported by: Christy Hutchings,