While the jury is still out on the Red Bulls and their GI Bill benefits (the inside word is that everyone will get it), the Pentagon has finally implemented a new benefit announced almost 8 months ago.
The new bennie is extra leave for frequent deployments. (Leave to the soldier or sailor is the same as paid vacation time to a civilian.) In simple terms, it says that for every month you are deployed past 12 months in a 5 year period (for Reserve or National Guard), you will start to accrue extra leave days. And the extra days are awarded on a curve, so the farther past 12 months you get, the more days you get each month. So, is this a big deal, you might ask? Let's look at me.
In October 2003 I was deployed to Kosovo for 12 months. That, according to Army policy, is as much as a reserve soldier should have to be deployed in a 5 year period. So when I was deployed to Iraq in October 2005, I started accruing extra leave days. 1 day a month for months 13-18 that I was away from home. 2 days a month for months 19-24 that I was gone. And anything over 2 years qualifies for 4 extra days per month. All totaled I now have 66 extra days of leave. Over two whole months of paid vacation.
What remains to be worked out amongst the details on this is how to give this leave time to reserve soldiers that are already done with their deployments. Army policy is that when you get done with a deployment, you take whatever leave you have left, and then you are back to being a civilian. But there is no process for giving leave time to reserve soldiers who have already processed back into civilian life. My situation was unique because I stayed deployed once I got home to help with the cleanup of our equipment coming back from Iraq. One option is to let soldiers sell their leave back to the Army, essentially getting a cash payment for what they are owed. And that cash could be substantial, depending on how long a soldier has been deployed. The cash value of my leave time is roughly $6400.
But what this makes very clear is the fact that there is no need for the Webb amendment offered last month, and which may be offered again in Congress. What this new leave policy does at the Pentagon level is create a huge fiscal incentive to keep troops from being deployed over and over again. Where the MoveOn's (Democratic Party) tried unsuccessfully to cut all war funding, this policy makes the Department of Defense itself responsible for slowly scaling back troop numbers in Iraq, lest they run out of money to pay for extra leave.
So when you hear in the MSM of soldiers being deployed 3 or 4 times since 9/11, keep two things in mind. First, the longest enlistment contract in the US military is for 6 years of regular service, which means that every soldier in the US military today either enlisted or re-enlisted after 9/11. Second, aside from knowing that we are doing the right thing and serving our country, we are being compensated for our sacrifices.
As for me, I have the rest of the year off!