The answer lies in the number of deployments soldiers have around the world — known as operations tempo — and the “dwell time” needed for them to spend at home between deployments, officials say.
The following is a look at where soldiers are based as of Oct. 6.
The Army has 552,400 active-component soldiers, who are called upon most for operations and exercises. Of the Army’s 207,400 reservists, 21,700 are mobilized. The Army National Guard has 362,000 soldiers, with 58,100 activated. Once Guard and Army Reserve soldiers come on active duty, there is no difference between them and active-component soldiers. Reservists can be called up for one-year tours, including training.
According to Army statistics, 102,400 active-component soldiers are based overseas, and 450,000 are in the continental United States. About 21,200 soldiers are in Hawaii, and 13,200 are in Alaska. Soldiers deploy to contingencies around the world. Some 38,200 soldiers are based with U.S. Army Europe, and 17,300 serve with U.S. Forces Korea.
The two largest contingencies for the Army are Iraq and Afghanistan, with 98,025 soldiers operating in Iraq and 43,800 in Afghanistan. Another 12,700 soldiers based in Kuwait provide assistance to both theaters in U.S. Central Command, and 1,050 soldiers work in Qatar.
But those aren’t the only areas of operations. NATO’s Kosovo Force in the Balkans has 1,525 U.S. soldiers – most from the Army National Guard. Ten soldiers based in Bosnia work with the European Union effort in that country.
Another 700 soldiers are part of the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai desert. Since 1981, a battalion of American soldiers has been in the area to ensure peace between Israel and Egypt.
Some 1,200 soldiers are based with Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. They’re based mainly in Djibouti, but also work in Ethiopia and other areas of the region.
Another 600 soldiers are part of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, helping to run the detention center at the Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba, and in Honduras, 325 soldiers are part of Joint Task Force Bravo, which works at improving military-to-military ties with Central American countries. In place since the mid-1980s, the command has used civil-military operations to connect with the people of the region.
There are 225 soldiers in the Philippines, working to develop the capabilities of the Philippine armed forces, and another 3,440 soldiers are deployed around the world in “other operations and exercises,” officials said.
Added to these numbers are soldiers going through various levels of training, sick or injured, on recruiting duty or involved in other aspects of maintaining the base.
The bottom line is that there are more than 266,000 soldiers deployed or forward stationed in almost 80 countries around the world.