for an extra three months service in Iraq, now get an extra three days (for a
total of 18) added to the R&R leave available to troops serving a year or more over there. The
program, begun in September, 2003, allows soldiers to go home for 15-18 days
while they are serving in Iraq (or 16 other countries, including Afghanistan,
Bahrain, Djibouti, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi
Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates, and
Yemen). Over half a million troops have taken advantage of the program so far.
Troops get free air transportation to and from whatever destination they
specify. Most troops go home, particularly the married ones. But others use the
R&R program as an opportunity to go to distant places they might not
otherwise visit. Australia is a popular destination, as are some countries in
the Persian Gulf.
The program was originally
intended just to make the long tours more bearable. The air force has four
month tours, and the marines, six months. But the army has found that, for
combat troops, the break from battlefield stress was a big help in avoiding
stress-related psychological problems. Actually, this use of leave during
wartime, for combat troops, is nothing new. It was used with success during
World War I by most of the nations involved, and during World War II as well.
Back then, it was not possible to fly troops back to their families, but
British and German troops could travel back to their homes. For everyone else,
they could go to special rest camps, or travel to tourist areas in nearby