101st Airborne could get more time at home
Posted: Monday, January 31, 2011 8:01 pm
By KRISTIN M. HALL
The Associated Press
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) — Soldiers returning to Fort Campbell from Afghanistan this year may get twice as much time between deployments as troop numbers in Iraq and Afghanistan drop.
Since 2003, many units of the 101st Airborne Division have averaged about year off between deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. But the commanding general of the division told The Leaf-Chronicle last week that infantry units could expect to see two years off after this deployment.
Maj. Gen. John Campbell told the newspaper that many of the units could see their time at home doubled due to the decrease of troops in Iraq. Still he said that some specialized units, like the two aviation brigades, may not get a full two years because they are in high demand in Afghanistan.
Maj. Gen. Frank Wiercinski, the acting senior commander at Fort Campbell while the division is deployed, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey has been trying to extend what’s called dwell time at home for all soldiers.
“We are going to see that with some our units,” he said on Friday after hundreds of more soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team returned home.
That time at home is critical for the recovery of soldiers after a tough deployment, said Maj. Dave Sircy, the rear detachment commander for 3rd Brigade.
“Now is the time to take care of these soldiers and reintegrate them with their families,” he said Friday.
He said Fort Campbell has improved the services for soldiers and families once they return and every asset they could ask for is being provided to make their return successful.
But many families know that the nature of the Army means there are no guarantees while the country remains in two wars.
Maria Dismuke, 30, waited in the cold with her 16-month-old son, Michael, for her husband, Staff Sgt. Shaun Dismuke, who was finishing his fourth deployment. Michael was wearing a shirt with his picture that said, “My Hero, My Daddy.”
“2009 was the first year he was not deployed,” Maria Dismuke noted.
He’s spent more than 10 years in the military already and he’s got orders to move to a new unit at Fort Drum, N.Y., which could mean another deployment soon.
“We’ll be leaving in the next few months and I am hoping he’ll have some time at home with his family,” she said. “Not just for the family’s sake, but for his, too.”
Sarah Hutchins, 26, waited in the plane hanger for her husband, Spc. James Hutchins, 26. The Army soldier covered his 1-year-old daughter, Sailor, with kisses and hugs after being reunited with his family.
Their family is also planning a move soon to Fort Benning, Ga., so she wasn’t sure he’d get to enjoy a full two years at home. If he does continue with the Army, deployment will always be a possibility.
“With a new baby and another one on the way, I don’t know that we have a choice,” she said.
The Army specialist who was just minutes at home said that he’s already expecting that he will need to prepare for another deployment.
“I have mixed feelings about it,” he said as he cradled his daughter in his arms. “I’m an infantry man so when I deploy, I get to do my job. The only bad thing is the time away from my family.”
Mandy Gleason hopes that this first deployment for her brother, Spc. Dustin Lamoreux, will be his last. “The first one was bad enough, we don’t want anymore,” she said.
Lamoreux hopes to put the tour behind him for about a month while he takes his leave. As for future deployments, he’s hopeful for a long break until his next one.
“We’re supposed to get two years, so I hope that stays true,” he said.
The local communities near Fort Campbell in Tennessee and Kentucky could also benefit if the division is given more time between deployments.
James Chavez, president of the Clarksville Area Chamber of Commerce, said the local economy has diversified in recent years, but there is a still a noticeable difference for businesses when thousands of soldiers are gone.
“It will be interesting to see with two years at home how it affects the community,” he said.
The significant impact of a longer dwell time, Chavez said, is not necessarily building up the economy, but strengthening the families affected by so many deployments.
“The No. 1 thing is that moms and dads can be with the kids and not miss the things they miss during deployments,” he said.
Published in The Messenger 1.31.11