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Army frets: After wars end, will employers let Guardsmen go?

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

As the Pentagon wraps up work in Iraq and draws down troops in Afghanistan, military services are starting to fret that America's employers won't be as eager to let workers take time off for lengthy duty tours--and keep a job for them to return to.

Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno said he is taking that into account as he figures what the post-war Army will look like, with a likely greater role by the "institutional" Army as the service shifts to building quickly deployable regional forces.

During the war, the military relied on the Guard and Reserves, especially for combat support. Over that 10-year time, employers played along even though the time workers were away was long. It resulted in a Guard and Reserve that is highly trained.

But Odierno said the end of the war is likely to change that pro-military attitude on Main Street. "It's not going to be like it has been," he said, "because frankly I don't think the Guard can sustain it."

Odierno explained that "this gets back to employers. Employers are OK because we are fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When the wars are over it's going to be more difficult for employers to agree on long periods of time for them to train."

As a result, he's working to develop a plan that adjusts for the new reality Guard and Reserve troops face at home while also keeping readiness and training high. "It's about how much time do they have in order to prepare, and how much are employers willing to put up with and how much, when people sign up to be in the Guard, are they willing to put up with."