Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ft. Lewis news

The Ft. Lewis military community, among many, will be impacted by the deployment extensions announced by Secretary Gates recently.

10,000 from Fort Lewis have missions extended
Christian Hill

About 10,000 Fort Lewis soldiers serving in or heading to Iraq and Afghanistan will have their deployments extended three months under a new policy that the Pentagon announced Wednesday.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said all active-duty Army units deployed in support of the wars in those nations will serve tours up to 15 months, instead of 12 months, effective immediately.

The policy ensures that soldiers will be home at least a year before they have to deploy again, and Gates acknowledged that it is necessary to sustain forces stretched by the demands of the wars.

Olympia-area soldiers and families had heard rumors of an extension for weeks, but the announcement caught many by surprise. Unit commanders weren’t able to notify soldiers ahead of time because news of the policy was leaked to everyone at once, Gates said.

The policy affects two Stryker combat brigades from Fort Lewis: the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which was expected back from Iraq in late June or early July, and the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which recently deployed to the Middle East. Each brigade has about 4,000 soldiers.

It also affects the 864th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy), which is serving in Afghanistan, its third overseas deployment since March 2003.

“For the families and loved ones of the brigade’s soldiers, this is not easy news to swallow, and their reactions are predictably mixed,” said Maj. Robert Bennett, rear detachment commander for 3rd Brigade, which now is expected back in October. “It was not unexpected news. We had prepared for this announcement, and we are ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead.” ...

I have adopted a squad from the 864th through, along with my friends Val and Rob. Supporting them for another three months is a no-brainer for us. But my heart goes out to the soldiers, who just arrived in Afghanistan in mid-February, and especially to their families.

The soldiers will do their duty, because that's what soldiers do. And the families will cope, because that's what military families do. And they are proud to do it, just ask 'em. While you're asking, though, don't say anything dumb like "How do you live that way?". Trust me on this.