Hank Bauer just died. (Obit in NYTimes today) For those of you who weren't born soon enough, Hank was an outfielder for the NY Yankees back when I was a Yankee fan (1948-on), starring in the World Series and then a World Series-winning manager for the Baltimore Orioles. He also was a Marine vet, spending almost 3 years in the Pacific and winning medals.
Yesterday I heard a snippet on C-Span of the Secretary of the Army testifying. He was saying that the policy was one year deployed, two years home station. Then Lehrer News Hour ran the photos of 14 killed in Iraq.
In the old days you often enlisted (or were drafted) for 3 years or the duration. (3 years for the regulars of the Continental line in the Revolution, 3 for some in the Civil War, duration for WWII). And, as Bauer shows, you often fought for the duration. (Audie Murphy, the most decorated WWII soldier fought from North Africa into Germany, Nov. 42 to Jan 45 or so.) Of course, you weren't in the war continuously. In the Pacific, at least in the island-hopping phase, islands were taken fairly rapidly. In the Atlantic, there were invasions and preparing for invasions. For those troops who got stuck slogging up the boot of Italy, they'd be rotated in and out of line, as was also the case in WWI. So for our "combat" troops in Iraq, they're probably seeing more continuous danger over their year tour (for the Army, 7 months for Marines, I think) than Hank Bauer did. If you graphed it, one continuous line for Iraq, one discontinuous up and down line for Bauer.
Another thing I note--there's hardly any privates dying in Iraq. I assume, with a volunteer army, everyone gets promoted at least to sergeant E-5. There may also be the sort of grade inflation in the armed services that the rest of the government experiences--we're all above average.