By Fred W. Baker IIIDecember 21, 2007
WASHINGTON (AFIS, Dec. 20, 2007) - The Army's assignments branch is reaching out to Soldiers who have not deployed to combat in an effort to take some of the strain off of those who have deployed more than once.
More than half of the current 522,000-plus active-duty Army force has deployed to combat, said Army Maj. Gen. Sean J. Byrne, commander of U.S. Army Human Resources Command, in Alexandria, Va. Nearly a third are pending deployment, are in a deployable unit or still going through their initial training, he said.
Only 7 percent, or about 37,000 Soldiers, have not deployed and are not scheduled to deploy, Maj. Gen. Byrne said during a teleconference with Internet journalists and "bloggers." Those soldiers hold "institutional" slots in the Army at training posts, such as drill sergeants, or in recruiting commands, he said.
Now, the assignments branch is tracking and monitoring those Soldiers and, when it is practical, will swap them out with other soldiers due for second or third deployments.
"We are working to identify those Soldiers who have not deployed and deploy them when it makes sense," Maj. Gen. Byrne said. "As we move these soldiers into deploying units, those who have deployed can subsequently move out. They can take a break."
Byrne emphasized that managers will not slot Soldiers for combat simply because the Soldier has not deployed, but that assignments managers will match skills, experience and training with deploying positions.
"Deploying a Soldier is much more complex than simply deciding that he or she is to deploy. So we're reaching out to those who have not deployed, but we're trying to do it as smartly as possible," Maj. Gen. Byrne said. "We don't place people in jobs they're not trained for. It does the Soldier no good, and it clearly does the Army no good."
Rank plays a factor in assignments, as there is a greater need for lower-ranking officers and enlisted Soldiers. As soldiers are promoted, fewer slots are available. Soldiers' military specialty also makes a difference. Some specialties are needed stateside more than overseas. Others are in higher demand in combat than in the United States.
"This is a tough issue. We're doing everything we can to have equity throughout the force. We're doing everything we can to move people out of formations that have deployed more than once, give them a chance to take and break and move the folks into the formations," Maj. Gen. Byrne said. "We just want to do it right."
He said there is no specific percentage that Army officials want to get down to as far as those who have not deployed. It's more an effort to make combat deployments equitable across the force. In fact, some Soldiers may never deploy simply because their job is more critical in the United States rather than overseas, he said, citing specifically intelligence and some medical assignments.
He said those Soldiers still are supporting the global war on terror, but are "doing it where their skills and experiences are needed the most."
"Quite often the impact on the battlefield is not always commensurate to the proximity of the battlefield," Maj. Gen. Byrne said.
The HRC commander said he didn't believe those who have not deployed are avoiding the assignments. Instead, he said many times it is a matter of timing training, assignments and deployments.
"I hear far many more stories about those Soldiers who want to go back a second time or a third time and be part of the team. And I hear very little about those who don't want to deploy," he said. "There are a lot of Soldiers who have deployed and they are fighting to get back into the fight. We try to do the right thing for the individual and the institution."
Infantry, aviation, engineer, transportation and field artillery jobs are the most frequently deployed to combat, Maj. Gen. Byrne said.
Soldiers wanting combat tours should contact their assignments branch, he said. They also can state their preference on the Army's Web-based assignments program.
(Fred W. Baker III writes for the American Forces Press Service.)