The U.S. top commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, is scheduled this week to update Congress on the military situation in Iraq. He is expected to recommend a pause in troop reductions. But there are continuing concerns about the impact the war is having on the overstretched Army. It continues to lose captains and sergeants while struggling with recruitment. Now Army leaders are desperate to reduce tours from 15 months to 12 months.
The Army's senior officer Gen. George Casey worries about the future — and talks about crossing a red line with the Army, sort of like the danger line on a dashboard gauge. He says the continued stress of large numbers of deployments could eat away at the Army, taking a decade or more to rebuild the force. The same thing happened after the Vietnam War.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agrees that the Army is edging closer to that red line.
"First of all, we don't want to cross it. Not exactly sure where it is — I don't think we're standing right in front of it, but I don't think it's out there at infinity either."
The challenge, Mullen says, is to move away from that red line