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Research Synopsis

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Research Questions

  1. How many soldiers have deployment experience and how much experience in theater have they accumulated?
  2. How much of the deployment experience accumulated in the Regular Army since 9/11 has been retained, either in the Regular Army or through transition to the Army National Guard of the United States or the U.S. Army Reserve?

The U.S. Army has contributed the bulk of deployed U.S. troops since September 11, 2001 and has accrued substantial levels of deployment-related experience. Between September 2001 and December 2012, the Army provided 1.65 million cumulative deployed troop-years; the Regular Army provided 70 percent of the Army's contribution, while the Army National Guard of the United States (ARNGUS) provided 21 percent and the U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) provided 9 percent. However, as combat operations in Afghanistan conclude, soldiers separate from service, and Regular Army endstrength is reduced, the rate at which deployment experience is accumulated will decline, most likely resulting in a net decrease. The ARNGUS and USAR provide an additional option to retain deployment experience acquired in the Regular Army; however, the percentage of soldiers who transition to these components is on the decline. An analytical assessment of the benefits garnered from deployment experience may help the Army focus its efforts on retaining and transferring relevant knowledge and skills during deployment.

Key Findings

The Army Has Accumulated Valuable Deployment Experience

  • Between September 2001 and December 2012, the Army provided 1.65 million cumulative deployed troop-years — more than all the other services combined.
  • The Regular Army provided 70 percent of the Army's contribution, while the Army National Guard provided 21 percent and the Army Reserve provided 9 percent.
  • Roughly 20–35 percent of soldiers separating from the Regular Army affiliate with the Selected Reserve (SELRES) within two years. Retaining these soldiers allowed the SELRES to retain some of the deployment experience leaving the Regular Army.
  • By December 2012, approximately 17 percent of the deployment experience resident in the SELRES was acquired during soldiers' previous service in the Regular Army.

Deployment-Related Experience in the Army Is Declining

  • The yearly number of deployed troop-years reached its peak in 2009, at just over 180,000, but declined to just over 100,000 in 2012.
  • By December 2012, the Army had almost 60 percent of the total deployment experience it gained since 9/11.
  • The bulk of soldiers with deployment-related experience leaving the Regular Army are not affiliating with the SELRES, and the percentage of soldiers who transition to the SELRES upon leaving the Regular Army is on the decline.

Recommendations

  • Determining the extent to which various types of deployment experience are valuable would assist the Army in strategically retaining this experience.
  • An analytical assessment of the benefits garnered from deployment experience may also help the Army focus its efforts on retaining and transferring relevant knowledge and skills obtained during deployment.

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, Army Quadrennial Defense Review Office, and conducted within RAND Arroyo Center's Manpower and Training Program. RAND Arroyo Center, part of the RAND Corporation, is a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the U.S. Army.

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