Sylvia Moreno writes in The Washington Post about Lance Cpl. Marty G. Mortenson, who was killed during his third tour by a roadside bomb:
He had spent his 20th, 21st and 22nd birthdays in Iraq. Before he left on his last tour, he told a friend in California: "It's like three strikes, you're out. I have a feeling I'm not going to come home." A generation ago in the Vietnam War, grunts had to survive 13 months and then knew they were going home for good. But the nature of an all-volunteer military has changed deployments and expectations for America's troops. With the military's numbers at their lowest level in modern history, no draft to bring in new recruits and no end in sight to the U.S. deployment in Iraq, more American troops are likely to be going on multiple tours. The Army has sent multiple units to Iraq for second tours. The Marines, which deploy units for shorter stints [i.e. seven months], are embarking on third tours.
The lack of troops affects the long term military planning as reported by Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt in The New York Times:
The Pentagon's most senior planners are challenging the longstanding strategy that requires the armed forces to be prepared to fight two major wars at a time. [...] The concern that the concentration of troops and weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan was limiting the Pentagon's ability to deal with other potential armed conflicts was underscored by Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a classified risk assessment to Congress this spring. But the current review is the first by the Pentagon in decades to seriously question the wisdom of the two-war strategy.
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