What is a Tour of Duty in the US Army?

If you’re thinking about joining the U.S. Army, you might be wondering what a tour of duty is. In the military, a tour of duty is the duration for which an enlisted soldier sees combat. During World War II, for instance, the standard tour of duty for soldiers of the Royal Air Force (RAF) was 30 flights. Because RAF soldiers didn’t fly every day, however, it often took months to reach this number. Once they’ve flown 30 flights, RAF soldiers were allowed to go home. So, what’s a standard tour of duty in the U.S. Army?

Tour of Duty Length Varies

As explained by The Balance, the length of an Army soldier’s tour of duty varies depending on two primary factors: whether the United States is currently involved in any military conflicts, and the soldier’s job. Conventional wisdom should lead you to believe that tour lengths are longer during periods of military conflict. If there are no military conflicts in which the United States is involve, Army soldiers won’t see any combat or otherwise experience hostile environments.

Furthermore, an Army soldier’s job can affect his or her tour of duty. Soldiers with combat jobs like infantry or medical, for example, typically have a longer tour of duty than their counterparts with administrative or other non-combat jobs.

12 to 15 Months

Normally, however, active-duty Army soldiers can expect to serve 12 to 15 months in a tour of duty. Twelve months has typically been the de-facto standard for Army soldiers in the 21st century. In 2007, though, the Secretary of Defense announced plans to extend this length by three months. Under this new change, Arm soldiers served an average of 15 months in a tour of duty.

After an Army soldier has completed his or her tour of duty, they are usually sent home for a station assignment, after which they are deployed again for a second tour of duty. The purpose of a tour of duty is to prevent exhaustion and fatigue — both physical and mental. Soldiers who experience a longer tour of duty are more likely to become fatigued, which can adversely affect their decision-making skills.

The Bottom Line…

To recap, a tour of duty is the duration for which an enlisted soldier sees combat or experiences hostile environments. In the U.S. Army, the typical length is 12 to 15 months. However, the actual duration varies depending on factors such as the soldier’s job and whether the United States is engaged in military conflict.

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