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Troop extension hard on local families

By James Monteleone

Triplicate Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON – For the families of active duty troops in Iraq, the waiting for a safe return of sons and daughters, husbands and wives, will be three months longer than planned.

While three months doesn't account for much time in the backdrop of a four-year war, Crescent City-area families say the extension is painful.

"Three months is a long time to go without your son," said Darla Moore, of Brookings. Her son, Seaman Jon Moore, had his Navy tour in Iraq extended along with Army combat units, she said. As of April 21, Moore will have been in Iraq for a full year.

"But in the big picture of everything, it's probably a wise thing to do."

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced last week that all active duty Army units will have tours extended from 12 months to 15 months.

Extending tours, Gates said, will maximize the efficiency of the current troop surge and make it less likely that unexpected tour extensions or early deployments will be necessary.

In the life of a military family, Moore said, "you have to be prepared for anything."

Critics fear that soldiers might be at higher risk, overly fatigued because of the extended combat tours.

"I think they should send fresh troops, and let the others come home, for God's sake," said Sherrie Skaggs, whose granddaughter, Pfc. Erin Nomura, of Crescent City, has been stationed in Iraq since last fall. "A year over there is a long time ... Leaving them over there 15 months? No."

For Skaggs, whose husband and son-in-law both have served in the military, the recent extension was her breaking point.

"They told her she was going to spend three more months over there, and that just did it for me," Skaggs said. "I was completely military, I loved military life – I trusted them ... Not anymore."

Moore disagreed. For this war to be successful, she said, the military needs the best trained troops doing their jobs, and those are the people on the ground right now in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I'm trying to look at this as a positive sign," she said. "As a parent of an active military person, that's they only way I can look at it right now."


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