SALT LAKE CITY — The impending deployment of the Utah Army National Guard 141st Battalion to Iraq will differ greatly in terms of duration and living conditions from what the same assignment would've been like five years ago.
In the years following Sept. 11, 2001, when the U.S. military was building up its presence in the Middle East, Utah Army National Guard units would leave for open-ended deployments that typically would end up lasting 18 to 20 months.
"The Department of Defense realized that over time, that kind of a deployment operational tempo had a detrimental impact on families (and) employers, particularly civilian employers," said Utah National Guard Lt. Col. Hank McIntire. "We've got to have (employers') support in order for us to be able to deploy and return to our jobs.
"So they took a really hard look at that and shortened the time so that families could count on (soldiers) being deployed for up to a year, home for four to five years, and then deployed again."
Earlier in the Middle Eastern conflict, Army soldiers endured living conditions that McIntire describes as "quite spartan, where you might be in a tent with a dirt floor, a group tent, a small two-man tent or maybe even sleeping out under the stars in some cases.
"But the longer the conflict and the deployments have gone," he said, "then the infrastructure has been developed and people will have more permanent buildings, air conditioning, more of the comforts of a garrison environment."
McIntire went on to say that some of the amenities an Army soldier currently in Iraq can likely expect are fast-food restaurants, laundry facilities, workout rooms and increased options for recreational activities.