U.S. Army lengthens tours for soldiers in Europe, Japan

The U.S. Army is adding a year to overseas tours for some soldiers heading to Europe and Japan, as part of an effort to boost readiness and reduce moves. Sean Kimmons, Army News Service, reports on U.S. Army's website.

U.S. Army lengthens tours for Soldiers in Europe Japan
A Stryker from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment fitted with the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station-Javelin negotiates the terrain of the Hohenfels Training Area, Germany (Picture source: US Army/Spc. Robert Douglas)

Under the new policy, which applies to permanent change-of-station orders published after June 14, tours for soldiers who have no dependents and are not married to other service members will extend from 24 to 36 months. Tours for soldiers accompanied by dependents will remain at 36 months. An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 Soldiers could be affected by the policy each year. "You won't have the turnover," said Mary Sturm, who handles overseas and enlisted assignment policy for the Army's G-1 personnel office. "Anyone staying in one location longer is going to provide a little more stability."

Extra stability could provide benefits all the way down to the squad level, from tank crews to those in office settings, as Soldiers train in the same teams with less turnover. "That enables the crews to actually work together for a longer period of time," Sturm said. "You'll get to utilize the skills you learn, rather than move on to the next location."

The new policy applies to the following areas:
-- Germany: All locations except Donaueschingen
-- Italy: All locations except Mt. Venda
-- Belgium: All locations except Betrix
-- Japan: All locations except Akizuki Kure, ltami (Sapporo), Kumamoto, Kuma Shima, Kyoga- Misaki, Okuma, Osaka, le Shima, Seburiyama, Sendai, and Shariki

Soldiers already on unaccompanied tours for 24 months or less at these locations are also encouraged to request an extension, according to All Army Activities message 042/2019. There are no current plans to expand this policy to other locations.

The policy is also part of the Army's larger efforts to alleviate transportation issues seen by soldiers and their Families when traveling to new assignments.

At a Family forum in February, Army Secretary Mark T. Esper said the service was moving to standardize continental U.S. tours and most overseas tours to 36 months to reduce PCS moves. Esper also mentioned Soldiers should be able to stay at a location for even longer than three years. "That's fine as long as you're performing your role and it's value added to the Army," he said. "We want as much as possible to reduce PCS turmoil."