Original story via email from Kuwait
David Sadler For Congress (2002) 12th CD/Illinois

U.S. Army, Coalition Joint Task Force-7,
Uses R&R Leave Program to Soldiers' Detriment

By Major Alan T. Thompson
371st Corps Support Group out of Kettering, OH
Currently deployed to Camp Virginia Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom
4310 Corydale Ct.
Dayton, OH 45415

2003.10.03

The Stars & Stripes Headline on 25 September was large and bold ďNew policy gives R&R to U.S. troops in Iraq (15 days of annual leave allowed during 12-month tour)Ē about the R&R Leave program that would give a much needed respite to soldiers serving in Iraq and the CENTCOM area of operations. That headline almost beat the official order about the R&R leave program to the units in the field. It was an important public message to get out for the army. The R&R leave program however has restrictions that will end up hurting soldiers. The program if used as it was designed should benefit the lowest ranking soldiers first, working its way up the ranks. However the first flight saw many senior personnel on the manifest. Before the program was announced and the order was issued, ordinary leave was authorized and being used by all personnel and all ranks. The order initiating the R&R Leave program states that no other leave program is authorized. This cancelled all ordinary leave that had been approved leaving soldiers that had already purchased airline tickets holding the bag.

Through the R&R leave program all soldiers will not have the opportunity to take leave. These free flights home should be given to the most junior enlisted personnel first. Junior soldiers will get the opportunity based on an allotment of seats given to each command. This will be of great benefit to those who get a chance to use it. Senior soldiers that would have had an opportunity to take leave with the ordinary leave program will not have any opportunity to take leave with the R&R leave program. Many of these soldiers already had ordinary leave approved by their command. The commands were tracking this process to ensure that no more than 10% of the unit would be gone at any given time and that all sections / platoons had adequate coverage to continue the mission. The commanders had approved this leave at the COL / O-6 level.

Since the ordinary leave program began only a few short weeks ago many soldiers had requested, been approved, and bought airline tickets. I never heard one soldier complain about having to purchase the ticket to get home for a short 15 day leave period. More than 40 soldiers in my unit had already purchased airline tickets based on the approval of leave requests. Now we do not know if those tickets will be refunded or not.

The R&R leave program will hurt the senior personnel more than anyone else. Junior enlisted soldiers should be able to utilize the R&R leave program based on the bottom up theory of allocations, although the dates will be chosen for them; they will not have a chance to select their leave dates.

Bottom line Ė I have a leave slip approved by my commander, a COL / O-6; a plane ticket and plans with my family that start on 2 October and Iím being told today 29 September that I cannot go because of the R&R leave program that has went into effect, not because of a change in mission or that the situation and defense posture changed. Iím a Major and primary staff officer, I have never in 22 years of military service ever even considered writing to my congressman, the Inspector General or the press. I left my hometown in February and havenít been back since. All Iím asking for is a leave period that has already been approved. It will not interfere with the mission of my unit and the only thing keeping me from going is one small paragraph in a fragmentary order that states that no other leave program is authorized except the R&R leave program.

I am a member of the 371st Corps Support Group out of Kettering, OH. We are a National Guard unit. This issue is not with the 371st CSG but with our higher headquarters. My higher headquarters is the 3rd Corps Support Command, and V Corps / CJTF-7.

I know that this issue will not be resolved in a manor that will be positive for me in the case of my leave or my professional career. I only hope that a little light shone on this topic will help other soldiers within the command of CJTF-7. I can only hope that someone in my unit or another can benefit from my writing this letter. My retirement is locked and Iím prepared to take that chance for the good that may come from this letter for many soldiers.

I am currently deployed to Camp Virginia Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

-- end --

Major Thompson asks that his letter above be distributed far and wide.

. . . . . . . . .

Major Thompson,

Our prayers are with you.
Our support for you and your men does not include waving plastic American flags made in communist China.
It does not include blind patriotism, ignoring our founder's principles or the destruction of our beloved Constitution back here in the states.

We know our soldiers need real support.
You need effective and comfortable body armor.
You need sanitary and good tasting water.
You need equipment that works.
You need R&R leaves.
You need timely and dependable expectations in rotations and end of deployment dates.
You need quality health care once you return home.
You need FULL combat pay and financial assistance to families back in the states.

We will not stop fighting for you, your soldiers and our service men and women deployed world-wide in harms way.

Our patriotism is out of date and old fashioned by today's New World Order standards.
We care for our soldiers, because you are us.
We care for the integrity and morality of the mission, because we are principled, and wish no innocent person harm.
We understand that, without a strong defense of the U.S. Constitution, intact and in effect, that the flag is merely a piece of cloth that can represent anything.

We have not forgotten our band of brothers and sisters still fighting, still living in harms way years after the news has stopped reporting and the parades have disbanded.
You are not forgotten.
Your sacrifice is not taken for granted.

May God help us bring you all home soon, safe and sound.

-- David Sadler --