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View Full Version : Military - deployment vs tour of duty, plus - how realistic?



Captcha
08-12-2011, 03:25 AM
I have a character who was in the army from early 2001 until early 2011. I've decided that he was in the 10th Mountain Division, but I don't really know if I'll mention that in the story, if that matters.

I'm having trouble figuring out just what he's been doing all that time. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/10th_Mountain_Division_%28United_States%29#Recent_ deployments) tells me the Division was in both Iraq and Afghanistan, at various times, but I can't really figure out whether this means that EVERYBODY went over, or some of them, or...?

I also need to know how to refer to the times when he was over there. Essentially, he's been hiding where he was, and another character finds out and confronts him with it, demanding to know why he kept it quiet. I want her to say something along the lines of: "You're a fucking hero! You went over, got shot, got your purple heart, and then went back for more! And got shot again, and went back. You did three tours of Hell, Joe, and you came out of it with glowing reports from every damned person you worked with. Why wouldn't you tell us about that?" "I was in the army, Megan. I didn't exactly have a choice about going back."

But I can't find a mention of 'tours' anymore - is that no longer used? What can I use instead? (deployments?) Is three reasonable, for someone who's been in the army for ten years? Is there anything else outrageously stupid about that dialogue? Anything else stupid about the set up in general?

Thanks for any help.

alleycat
08-12-2011, 04:36 AM
Just a note.

We have members who have either been overseas, or have spouses or other family members there.

If they don't see this thread I'll point one of them in this direction.

Or you can send storygirl a PM asking for her help. I'm sure she'd be willing to; her husband is currently serving overseas.

Captcha
08-12-2011, 04:56 AM
Thanks - I'll try to be patient in case I get replies here, but I'll keep that PM option in mind!

alleycat
08-12-2011, 04:59 AM
I could kind of answer your questions (I grew up near Ft. Campbell and was an instructor there many years ago), but it would be better to have someone else answer them.

Drachen Jager
08-12-2011, 09:57 AM
Here in Canada it's still referred to as a tour. The US 'Army Times' calls it a tour http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/06/ap-guard-ohio-afghanistan-deployment-060511/

As does the 'Government Executive' http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0811/080511nj-army-tours.htm

Stoneghost
08-12-2011, 10:36 AM
If a division is deployed absolutely everyone assigned to the division is deployed. If you deployed a part of the division you would not say that the division is deployed you were refer to the subunit, regiment or battalion, was deployed. That is not that common as there are many independent units not part of divisions that can be deployed when units of that size are required.

Since we have a volunteer military someone deploys and returns with the division. Typically the division will receive no reinforcements while on deployment and no one will be allowed to leave the division, that is separate from the military. If their service was to end while on deployment they may a) not be deployed, b) be deployed and separate on return, c) reenlist while on deployment at their normal reenlistment date.

A tour refers to a conscription system where a unit deployed, but the personnel within that unit might not stay with it. As was the case in Vietnam, the 1st Air Cavalry division was deployed to Vietnam for the duration of the war, but people served tours with the division and were otherwise rotated in and out. It would not be used formally in current military context, although someone might informally refer to their stay overseas a tour.

With respect to the army specifically I would think you need to decide what your character did. The army makes a big differentiation between those who were "combat arms" and those who were not. Not everyone in a combat division is combat arms. Combat untis are different than non-combat units. You would probably need to find someone who was combat arms to give you more information.

jst5150
08-12-2011, 10:45 AM
Too add to the above, Army deployments can run as long as 15 months. Then, soldiers return home to train, "reconstitute," and, for the most part, get ready for the next deployment. The time at home is called "dwell time."

Realistically, that soldier probably would have deployed five or six times during that period (given he was healthy and such). The first two or three deployments most certainly would have been to Iraq, the latter deployments probably to Afghanistan. However, if you wanted to "hide" your character, he could also be deployed to Kosovo or sent to Korea for a time (that would have been a permanent change of station move rather than a deployment).

Deployments are a regular facet of military life for all the services (they were not before, say, 2001; that period between 1975 and 2001 is what would be termed the Cold War Army, everything done "in garrison," waiting for the Soviets to bash into the Fulda Gap). Also worth nothing that Army is changing the deployment times from 15 to 9 months soon.

Opinion: I think the language you used as an example is feasible. Some people are deployment junkies, for the rush or for the cash or for the camaraderie or whatever. However, deployments have become more cultural rather than the exception, as they were before Sept. 11, 2001.

Finally, 'tour' is something an outsider looking in might say about it. Deployment is definitely the words a military person would use.

Captcha
08-13-2011, 05:21 AM
Great information, guys - thanks!

voltair111b
08-15-2011, 09:02 PM
I would add the emphasis on that is listed above on the persons job in that division (MOS: Military Occupational Specialty) makes an important difference. As combat medic we were rotated out at the end of Desert storm, while some elements (24th inf div.) in non critical MOS's were rotated a full six months earlier (Stinger missile anti-air units).

BarbaraSheridan
08-15-2011, 09:30 PM
Not sure if this is anything you can use for future reference but going by jst5150's timeline of 15 month deployments it looks like maybe this poor guy (http://www.kval.com/news/health/127623973.html) was deployed during your character's time frame. He'd finished his eighth and was set to go back for the ninth time.

amyashley
08-15-2011, 10:36 PM
JST5150 offered some great advice, and you need to pay attention. I've been a military dependent for over 20 years and been through more than 13 deployments collectively. I am also happy to send a few pictures of some quarters and working conditions, but they can be better or worse depending on the exact area. I can probably find out exactly where the 10th has been, but you can likely fictionalize and it won't matter.

There are a few fallacies here I'd like to correct so you have things straight.


If a division is deployed absolutely everyone assigned to the division is deployed. Incorrect. There is always a portion of each company (ranging from 4-to maybe 100? soldiers called Rear Detactchment or Rear-D who stay behind. These men keep communications open for spouses, and make sure things run smoothly for the company on a CONUS (Continental United States level) These jobs are usually seen by deployed soldiers as lazy, slacker jobs, but can actually be pretty draining, because they lack proper support when everyone leaves. Also, you are talking about a DIVISION, and most of the time, soldiers don;t function on a division level or even work at that level. Top to bottom, it goes Division, Battalion, Brigade (and I'm probably mixing those two up because I always do :P) and Company. Most work is done on a Company level and each Company deploys on it's own timeline, often MONTHS apart. This is what he means here> If you deployed a part of the division you would not say that the division is deployed you were refer to the subunit, regiment or battalion, was deployed. That is not that common as there are many independent units not part of divisions that can be deployed when units of that size are required.

Since we have a volunteer military someone deploys and returns with the division. Typically the division will receive no reinforcements while on deployment and no one will be allowed to leave the division,They put a STOP LOSS out which won't allow normal retirements or anyone to end their contract. If your date would normally pop up during a slated deployment, you're screwed. HOWEVER, If you are a hot ticket dude, they may in fact send another guy to replace you in your deployed position and pull you back stateside to fill a slot somewhere. This happened to my father in his last deployment because he was selected for a War College residency, and they only select one Chaplain a year for residency there. So there can be exceptions, but not just because you are a brave soldier who works hard. You have to be really high up and on the fast train to somewhere-which he is although HE never says so, LOL. that is separate from the military. If their service was to end while on deployment they may a) not be deployed, b) be deployed and separate on return, c) reenlist while on deployment at their normal reenlistment date. The US is stinky about this. They offer GIGANTIC re-enlistment bonuses for deployed soldiers. They might not want to do this again and again, but it's hard to say no when many of them struggle to keep their kids in diapers between deployments.

A tour refers to a conscription system where a unit deployed, but the personnel within that unit might not stay with it. As was the case in Vietnam, the 1st Air Cavalry division was deployed to Vietnam for the duration of the war, but people served tours with the division and were otherwise rotated in and out. It would not be used formally in current military context, although someone might informally refer to their stay overseas a tour.

With respect to the army specifically I would think you need to decide what your character did. The army makes a big differentiation between those who were "combat arms" and those who were not. Not everyone in a combat division is combat arms. Combat untis are different than non-combat units. You would probably need to find someone who was combat arms to give you more information.

It's very normal for a soldier to stay quiet about his duty and it's equally normal for citizens to misunderstand how they feel and what really occurred when they were there. It's not all blood and gore. PTSD is skyrocketing. There are members here who have dealt with this. Long deployments, and even shorter ones are so hard on families.

Another factor is that the preparation leading up to a deployment is also ridiculously stressful and wearing. NORMAL hours for the military are about 6AM-6PM. This doesn't include commute or time you take to wake up and get dressed. Pre-deployment, my husband works 4AM until 9PM several days he's not home to midnight. He works weekends and his phone rings all hours of the night. BOTH his work phones. My dad, who is 57, works even longer hours, and he works every Sunday even on good weeks. He also flies frequently for all sorts of business that is often extremely grim.

It's not a pretty job. Heroic? Heroism is a bunch of crap if you ask me. It's what people who've never had to sacrifice anything in their lives call a job that takes more than it will ever give back.

I'm not trying to whine, I'm trying to give you some insight to your character, so I hope this doesn't offend anyone. HTH.

tedi.s
08-17-2011, 07:17 AM
I was going to say in our branch not everyone goes. A few stay behind and handle business or mail supplies, etc. They also usually go in bunches either advanced or delayed. They work 12 on 12 off. that's the term. there are sooooooooo many Acronyms and such you may just want to right then find someone who is military to read it for you. Or field questions as needed. Best of luck!

Captcha
08-17-2011, 07:23 AM
Excellent info, guys - thanks!

The military part isn't a big aspect of the story (there's no way I'd take on that challenge, with my total lack of knowledge), it's just backstory, but I wanted to make sure I got it right. Thanks again.

Cav Guy
08-19-2011, 01:02 AM
There's a book out from the Army's historical branch that talks about one of the deployments of the 3rd Infantry Division. Link is here: http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/surging_south_baghdad/index.html