When Gen. George Casey stepped down as the Army’s top officer last week, he said his four years as chief of staff had been dedicated to rebalancing a force warped by 10 years of war. “We anticipate getting to a point by the end of this year where we will begin executing a more balanced and sustainable deployment tempo with a transformed, combat-seasoned Total Force, that, while still stretched by the demands and lingering effects of a decade at war, is ready to begin preparing for the second decade of the 21st Century,” he said in his goodbye letter to his troops (you can always tell when these guys are quoted for something they’ve written, rather than said – words like Total Force and Soldier are capitalized).
That “more balanced and sustainable deployment tempo” requires a minimum of three years at home — the so-called “dwell” — between year-long deployments, Army experts say. To keep PTSD and others woes of war at bay, at least two years at home are needed between combat tours. Lieut. General Eric Schoomaker, the Army surgeon general, told Congress a couple of days before Casey stepped down that there’s still a long way to go. “The Army, in 10 years of war, has never been able to achieve a two-year dwell,” Schoomaker said. “In fact, on average, it’s been at 1.3 years of dwell for every year of deployment.” As we’ve learned, problems skyrocket for troops with compressed dwell times, even several years after their final tour.