TROOP STRENGTH BLUES….Tours of duty are being extended for reserve troops:

With U.S. forces stretched thin in Iraq and the Bush administration still searching for additional international peacekeepers, the Army has ordered thousands of National Guard and Army Reserve forces in Iraq to extend their tours in the country to a year, months longer than many of the troops had anticipated, Army officials said yesterday.

….The order comes after months of concern inside and outside the Army that an over-reliance on Guard and Reserve forces by the Bush administration in the war on terrorism could adversely affect retention and recruiting. Some officials have expressed concern that this could break the Guard and Reserve system, which augments the active-duty force with critical engineering, military police, civil affairs and psychological operations specialists.

I don’t know if this is entirely rational, but I feel worse for the reserve troops than I do for the regulars. It’s hard on the families of both, but at least the families of the regular troops know what they signed up for. The families of the reserve troops, on the other hand, never expected to lose both their spouses and their incomes for periods of over a year. It must be hellishly tough on them.

I also wonder when (if?) we’re going to see this have an effect on recruitment and retention. I’ve been hearing about this for at least six months now, but haven’t yet seen any figures to back it up. How often does the Army report on this kind of stuff?

One other note: this has been coming out in dribs and drabs, but so far we’ve seen the following: (a) keeping the 3rd ID in country after scheduling them to return, (b) rotating officers and senior NCOs out of their units, (c) extending the tours of regular troops, (d) appealing to the UN in order to get more foreign troops, and now (e) extending the tours of reservists. These are all risky moves, and when you put them all together they indicate that there must be a serious sense of panic about troop strength and force protection among the Army brass. I wonder how bad it really is?