By Army Spc. Sophia R. Lopez
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 3, 2008 - As soldiers' enlistments near their end, they must decide whether they want to leave the service or stay on for another term. Some soldiers in Iraq who decide to stay in the Army face another choice: whether to re-enlist here or wait until they're back in the United States. Some may want to re-enlist while in Iraq for the chance at their pick of duty station or for the tax-free bonus. Others do it for more personal reasons.
"I knew I was going to stay. I had already made up my mind about four or five years ago," said Army Staff Sgt. Dimas Estrada, an air and missile defense operations sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th Mountain Division.
For Estrada, the chance to re-enlist while serving here was a significant event. He comes from a long line of Army veterans, but his father, who served in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, had also re-enlisted here.
"I was going to re-enlist when I got back," said Estrada, a Phoenix native, stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y. This is Estrada's fourth time taking the enlistment oath, having already served 12 years.
With only three years of service thus far, Army Spc. Jeremy Giddings, of Watertown, N.Y., also had an important decision ahead of him.
"I've been considering re-enlisting for at least the past year," said Giddings, a member of a battalion security detail for Headquarters and Support Company, Division Special Troops Battalion. "I realized I wanted to stay in and make a career out of it. Besides, you can't beat the benefits," he said with a smile.
Those benefits come with the possibility of deploying again, but Giddings said that had no effect on his decision.
"I expect at least two or three more after this," he calmly said.
For Estrada, the possibility of future deployments was something he took into account.
"I had to really think about it at first," he said. "I know I'm going to deploy again, but I don't have much time left [until retirement]. It's a good thing for my kids. My family, after all, is secure -- not just financially. I feel that my family is safer with me being in the military," he added, mentioning the presence of military police at Fort Drum, where his family lives.
Soldiers have many reasons for re-enlisting and these reasons often differ whether they're in the United States or in Iraq. But Giddings said his decision to re-enlist would have had the same outcome either way.
"This is just one of many [re-enlistments] to come," he said, making it clear that no matter where he hangs his hat at night, he's staying in the Army.
About 1,200 soldiers are re-enlisting in a mass ceremony at Al Faw Palace tomorrow, with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, swearing them in for their next term.
(Army Spc. Sophia R. Lopez serves in the Multinational Division Center Public Affairs Office.)