A Colorado congresswoman called Monday for an investigation into allegations that Iraqi war veterans near the end of their duty were given a choice between re-enlisting or being sent back to Iraq.
Democratic Rep. Diana Degette, in a letter to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., asked him to look into whether the “White House or civilian Pentagon officials are pressuring the military to use coercive tactics to get soldiers to re-enlist in order to maintain the force levels necessary to fight the war in Iraq and war on terror.”
DeGette, at a news conference in Denver, cited reports in two Denver newspapers and calls she has received from several soldiers at Fort Carson, near Colorado Springs.
“They can’t meet re-enlistment goals, so they’re putting this hammer over their head, which is just wrong,” DeGette said. “In the long term, the integrity of our military is going to suffer.”
According to reports in the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post, soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team were told they faced reassignment to units expected to be deployed to Iraq or Korea if they did not either re-enlist by the end of the month or extend their duty until the end of 2007. Those who re-enlisted or extended would stay with the 3rd Brigade, which already was deployed for a year in Iraq.
Pentagon officials deferred comment to Fort Carson, which denied any effort to coerce soldiers into re-enlisting.
Fort Carson spokesman Lt. Justin Journeay said soldiers recently were given a form with three options; the third — neither extending nor re-enlisting — came with the understanding they could be reassigned.
Fort Carson officials said soldiers are being asked to record their choices so the Army can determine the strength of the force. The Army’s goal is to have units that stick together for several years with little turnover, Journeay said. He said Fort Carson was exceeding re-enlistment goals.
The adequacy of military manpower has become a volatile political issue. Democrats say the Bush administration, to satisfy personnel needs in Iraq and Afghanistan, is delaying troop rotations unwisely and making extensive use of Reserve and National Guard troops.
Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry recently said President Bush has a secret plan to call up more National Guard and Reserve troops immediately after the election. The president’s campaign called that allegation “false and ridiculous.”