Extra troops to alter deployment pattern

COLUMBIA --- The Army's top four-star general said Wednesday the addition of 22,000 new soldiers will help ease the service's punishing deployment schedule and allow soldiers to stay home for two years after a year in combat.


Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, on the eve of a visit to the Army's largest training installation at nearby Fort Jackson, said he expects a large number of those new soldiers to be trained in South Carolina.

"A good portion of the 22,000 will come through here," Gen. Casey told a group of military supporters at a reception hosted by city officials.

Fort Jackson drills about 50,000 soldiers a year.

Gen. Casey said President Obama's decision to draw down forces in Iraq, coupled with the addition of new forces, will allow the Army to change a pattern that had some supporters fearing the force was "broken, hollow, not ready."

"We are stretched, there is no question about it," Gen. Casey said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced last week he wants the Army to grow by at least 22,000 soldiers to help it deal with the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The Army is looking for more soldiers to help bolster a force depleted by heavy wartime rotations, injuries, and other issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

As the Army chief of staff, Gen. Casey is responsible for training and equipping the nation's largest combat force.

He said he has been working to change the pattern that in recent years had some units in combat for more than a year, returning home for just one year and then returning to fight.

Gen. Casey said it will take about a year to 18 months to get the new forces trained.