Conflict & Justice

After Obama speech, troops begin to see light at the end of tunnel


Soldiers in the 1/501st of the 25th Infantry Division file off the ridge of a mountain where they spent the night in a Taliban stronghold area.


Chris Hondros

Media analysis of President Obama's drawdown speech was broadcast in military chow halls across Afghanistan this morning, and the excitement among soldiers at Forward Operating Base Howz-e Madad was palpable. Despite the fact that the withdrawal timeline won't affect the duration or intensity of their current tour, they speculated that even if this isn't their final tour, they might only have one more to go.

According to a recent publication by Gen. Martin Dempsey, the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, those remaining tours may be cut from 12 months to nine. This is only supposed to apply to troops arriving in Afghanistan after October. Some soldiers now in Afghanistan said they had been threatened with disciplinary action if they discussed rumors that their current, year-long tour, might be shortened.

"We've got to get this thing done by 2014 with fewer troops, so no soldier should be expecting that the Army will ask less of them," said Command Sgt. Maj. John Horney, the senior enlisted man in 1-32 Infantry Battalion. "It's my job to keep soldiers informed with accurate information so there's no letdown.

A look at Army reenlistment goals speaks to the impending shift from big-army counterinsurgency (COIN) to special ops and intel-based counterterrorism (CT). Career fields deemed over-strength and not currently accepting new recruits: infantry, artillery, air defense, aviation, armor and most support and logistics jobs.

Career fields aggressively recruiting: special forces, intelligence and linguistics.