Thursday, September 11, 2003

Reserve troops won’t be home for the holidays. And many will barely make it home for July Fourth, 2004.

As word that Reserve troops will spend one year on the ground in Iraq filters down to remote bases and police stations around Baghdad, many troops are registering shock.

“That’s all we’ve been talking about since yesterday,” Sgt. Charlie Spence said Tuesday afternoon while on duty at a police station in downtown Baghdad. Part of the 210th Military Police Company, a National Guard unit from Murphy, N.C., Spence said, “It’s good to hear a definite date. It’s not the date we wanted to hear.”

“It’s going to be an awful long time” he added.

The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq says the change is final.

“There has been some confusion, OK,” Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said in discussing unit rotations during an interview. “The confusion comes when you start talking to Reserve components and you say ‘one year,’” Sanchez said.

Activation time lines, whatever the length, have traditionally included the time it took reservists to mobilize and train for a mission, as well as the often lengthy demobilization process, he said.

“What has happened within this week is that it has been made one year on the ground, which is a significant change for the Reserve component. They have to mobilize, [spend] one year on the ground, and then [demobilize] after leaving the theater.”

The decision, according to military officials, leaves reservists in Iraq for a full year — plus, in many cases, months more in mobilization, train up and demobilization time.

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