Senior Army personnel officers, as well as top Army Reserve and National Guard officials, say the Army's ability to recruit and retain soldiers will steadily erode unless combat tours are shortened, to some length between six and nine months, roughly equivalent to the seven-month tours that are the norm in the Marine Corps.So, either we can meet recruiting and strength levels or we can meet the military needs in Iraq, but not both? Where does that leave us?
But other Army officials responsible for combat operations and war planning have significant concerns that the Army - at its current size and as now configured - cannot meet projected requirements for Iraq and Afghanistan unless active duty and reserve troops spend 12 months on the ground in those combat zones.
One factor, which senior Army officers disclosed last week, is how to preserve the ability to maintain the current level of American troops in Iraq at least through 2007, if longer tours of duty end up discouraging recruitment and re-enlistment.So if the "all-volunteer force is the issue," what's the solution? I'll leave it to the reader as an exercise.
"Our all-volunteer force is the issue here," one Army officer said. "The volunteer forces and their families - when will they draw the line? That's the question uppermost on our mind."