Column: The Pentagon should cap the number of combat deployments our troops can face

A testament to the fighting spirit of many in our military is their inability to say “no.”

From young 11Bs to seasoned JSOC operators, most professional soldiers would never refuse a combat deployment even if they could, and they can’t.

After all, they want to go forth as their forefathers have always done, believe in the mission and shoot bad guys — regardless of the number of times they’ve been in harm’s way or the toll it’s taken on them physically and mentally.

That’s why we cannot leave the decision up to them or anyone in their chain-of-command.

In my humble opinion, the DoD needs to limit the number of combat deployments our troops can face, for all branches of the service.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ deploy-or-get-out rule is the exact opposite of the position our military should take. We should limit combat deployments, not add more names to deployable-status rolls.

We’re exposing young men and women to far too much combat — hence the skyrocketing suicide rates and staggering amount of PTSD and TBI cases among active duty troops and veterans.

More than 20 kill themselves every single day.

Nowadays, if they’re not already deployed, our soldiers are doing work-ups for their next deployment. There’s no break and no end in sight. And as new conflict areas are created — Africa and Syria come to mind — in addition to our current war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, things are only going to get worse.

Too many of our best troops have already done enough — too much, if you ask me. It’s time to recognize that and put a stop to it. It’s time to re-prioritize our missions. It’s time to put the troops’ welfare first.

I have friends and acquaintances who have more than a dozen combat deployments — one has 18 — and  sadly that’s becoming the norm. Quite frankly, that’s too much to ask of anyone. It needs to stop while there’s still something human left of them. No one was built to handle that much running-and-gunning time.

Once they’ve reached X number of deployments — and the X-factor should be determined based upon the service member’s unit and MOS — they should be barred from ever seeing a war zone again. The rule needs to come from the top, and there should be no waivers accepted and no questions asked. Sorry, you can’t go.

If the DoD suddenly had fewer troops to send to the conflicts cropping up around the world, maybe there were be fewer conflicts cropping up around the world, or maybe our allies would finally be forced to send more of their troops.

Too simplistic you say?

Mea culpa.

It needed to be said, because the military is already showing signs that it’s close to breaking.

Currently, the Army is offering up to $90,000 in reenlistment bonuses for Special Forces and other specialties.

What does that tell you?

And just three days ago, the Army announced it failed to meet its recruiting goal of 76,500 new recruits for FY 2018. This is the first time in 13 years the Army has failed to meet this goal. The last time, in 2005, was during the height of the Iraq War.

Pentagon officials blamed the country’s robust economy for the failure, but I believe the problem goes far beyond that.

I think the word’s out; we’re asking far too much of our young men and women.

After all, this country has been on a constant war-footing for more than 18 years, and it shows no sign of abating.

It’s time to lobby our lawmakers to force the Pentagon to make this change, while we still have a military left.


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


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  3. Robert Stubbins on

    I’ve been saying this for years, all the soldiers who fought before knew their terms of enlistment . WWI, WWII and Korea you had points or the duration of the war but when you were done they weren’t sending you back . With Vietnam, Marines did 13 months and the rest of the armed services did 1 year and knew they weren’t going back unless they volunteered. Once you did did your time you were done . These re-deployments especially when our troops are restricted in the actions they can do to protect themselves due to Political Correctness ,it’s like playing Russian roulette with their lives,every time you send them into harms way it’s another pull of the trigger. How many times can you put someone in this position and not expect some type of reaction…………………

  4. I did not think or know about this …….
    Now I can’t believe I didn’t think of connecting the dots.
    Thanks for your insights. I will notify my state senators.

  5. Pingback: The Pentagon should cap the number of combat deployments our troops can face - TheDailyUS

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