CAMP VICTORY, Iraq (Army News Service, July 3, 2008) -- About 1,200 U.S. Soldiers are re-enlisting in a mass ceremony at al Faw Palace at Camp Victory on the outskirts of Baghdad July 4.
Gen. David Petraeus, the Multi-National Forces-Iraq commander, will be swearing the Soldiers into their next term. The ceremony in Iraq is one of numerous mass re-enlistments this week across the Army to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the all-volunteer force which began July 1, 1973 with the end of the draft.
Some Soldiers may want to re-enlist while in Iraq for the chance at their pick in duty station or for the tax-free bonus. Others do it for more personal reasons.
"I knew I was going to stay. I had already made up my mind about four or five years ago," said Staff Sgt. Dimas Estrada, an air and missile defense operations sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th Mountain Division.
Estrada said the chance to re-enlist while serving in Iraq is a significant event. He comes from a long line of Army veterans, but his father, who served in Iraq during Desert Storm, had also re-enlisted there.
"I was going to re-enlist when I got back," said Estrada, a Phoenix native, stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y. This is Estrada's forth re-enlistment, having already served 12 years.
Serving his country for only three years thus far, Spc. Jeremy Giddings, of Watertown, N.Y., also had an important decision ahead of him.
"I've been considering reenlisting for at least the past year," said Giddings, a member of a battalion security detail for Headquarters and Support Company, Division Special Troops Battalion. "I realized I wanted to stay in and make a career out of it. Besides, you can't beat the benefits," he said with a smile.
However, with the benefits, comes the possibility of deploying again, but this had no affect on Giddings' decision.
"I expect at least two or three more after this," he calmly said.
This was something that Estrada took into account though.
"I had to really think about it at first," he said. "I know I'm going to deploy again, but I don't have much time left (until retirement). It's a good thing for my kids. My family, after all, is secure - not just financially. I feel that my family is safer with me being in the military," he added, mentioning the presence of military police on post (at Fort Drum).
Many Soldiers have many reasons for reenlisting and these reasons differ whether back in the U.S. or in Iraq. For Giddings, this is a decision that would have the same outcome no matter where he's at.
"This is just one of many (reenlistments) to come," he said, making it clear that no matter where he hung his hat at night, this was one decision that was already made up in his mind.
(Spc. Sophia R. Lopez serves with Multi-National Division-Central PAO in Iraq.)