By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 1, 2008 - The Army officially returns to 12-month deployments today, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said it's a huge step in the right direction for the armed forces and their families. "I think it was a timely decision, a needed decision," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said in an interview yesterday with the Pentagon Channel, "and it'll have a very positive impact on our mission as well as our overall force and their families."
In announcing the change yesterday, President Bush noted that July was the third straight month of reduced violence in Iraq. As part of the success policy, he said, starting today, soldiers deploying to Iraq will serve 12-month tours rather than 15.
"It's a significant step, because 15-month deployments took an extraordinary toll," Mullen said. "So to bring that back to 12 months for every active duty Army unit, I think, is a huge step in the right direction."
Violence in Iraq is at its lowest levels in four years. Mullen echoed Bush's statement crediting the success of the surge and increased capability of Iraqi forces as the significant reasons for the sustained progress.
But the chairman also credited family support and readiness, which he said are tied "in a very direct way" to successes in Iraq.
"The support the families are providing those who've deployed and serve today has been the best I've ever seen it," Mullen said. "We could not achieve the mission success we've enjoyed without that unbelievable support."