ARLINGTON, Va. - Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno issued instructions Wednesday regarding reserve component Soldiers who will be demobilizing at bases in the United States over the holidays.
"Our Guard and Reserve Soldiers sacrifice so much for our country and they are an indispensible part of the Army team," Odierno told a group of the Army's most senior uniformed leaders at the Pentagon.
With the continuing drawdown in Iraq and normal unit rotations from Afghanistan, thousands of Guard and Reserve units are expected to out-process through six demobilization sites between now and early January.
"I know that after a long deployment these Soldiers just want to get home as soon as possible, Odierno said."However, it must be balanced with a complete and thorough demobilization process. We will ensure that our returning Citizen-Soldiers are provided the opportunity to take a four-day pass over the holidays, and the chance to the spend the holidays with local families near our demobilization sites for those that are far from home."
Army Regulation, RC Soldiers can only receive a pass of up to four days when demobilizing.
Odierno directed Lt. Gen. William Ingram Jr., the director of the Army National Guard and Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, chief of the Army Reserve, to review their plans to ensure Soldiers at the demobilization sites receive the pass opportunity, or, if Soldiers choose not to take a pass, that they have opportunities to participate in holiday activities on post or with local families.
Ingram acknowledged the direction and agreed with Odierno.
"We realize that being back on U.S. soil at a mobilization center is not the same thing as being home for the holidays for our Guard Soldiers," Ingram said. "We appreciate the continued sacrifices our Soldiers and their families are making in spending one more holiday apart from each other, and we will do what we can to allow them to take advantage of a pass or otherwise enjoy the holidays where they are.
Stultz expressed his appreciation for the Army Chief of Staff's focus on this matter.
"We appreciate the Army's focus on supporting Army Reserve Soldiers as they return to the states and begin the demobilization process," Stultz said.
"Our Soldiers understand the challenges of demobilization and will comply with the 1st Army and installation requirements at each site."
"If that includes a four-day pass to be with their families,"Stultz said, "then I can think of no better way to celebrate the holidays. We're just glad they have arrived safely home."
The Army executes a detailed program at the demobilization site for RC Soldiers when they return from a deployment.
According to Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli, this process is essential and cannot be cut short.
"We owe it to all Soldiers who serve," he said. "And, that includes our Guard and Reserve Soldiers - to ensure they are properly evaluated and receive the care and support they require upon redeploying.
"We recognize they want to get home to their loved ones as quickly as possible; but, their short- and long-term health and well-being is our top priority."
"We certainly try to avoid bringing Soldiers to the demobilization centers over the holidays, but in some cases it's simply not possible," Chiarelli said.
Army officials at the demobilization sites are currently working with local authorities to identify families that would be willing to host Soldiers over the holidays.