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American Forces Press Service

Commander in Iraq Apologizes for Extensions With No Notice to Families

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2007 – Leaks to the media forced Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to speed up releasing his decision to increase tour lengths for soldiers assigned to U.S. Central Command from a year to 15 months.

The notification of the decision to soldiers and their families was made simultaneous with the news briefing. Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, today apologized to the families -- many of whom heard about the decision on television.

“I know the announcement the other day was probably one that surprised them,” Odierno told Pentagon reporters via teleconference from Baghdad. “I just want to comment to them that we appreciate everything that they're sacrificing, everything that they're doing. They are the strength behind all these great soldiers that are over here today.”

Odierno said 15-month deployments are needed to ensure that the Army retains the capacity to sustain the deployed force. The force will rise to 20 brigades by the end of May.

The program also gives predictability for soldiers and their families, Odierno said. “This policy will ensure 12 months at home station between rotations,” he said. “There's no doubt that this decision was a difficult one, and I am very aware that it will be hard on soldiers and their families.

“However, all who serve understand the importance of what we are trying to accomplish here and that the mission will always come first,” he said.

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