Cuts to ranks may shock, but it's happened before

By SUSANNE M. SCHAFER | December 19, 2012 | 6:32 AM EST

In this Oct. 17, 2012 photo, Leslie Ann Sully discusses her years in the active-duty Army, stationed in West Germany, during an interview in Columbia, S.C. Sully is a civilian who works with the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion in South Carolina but volunteered to leave the active duty ranks during cutbacks in the 1990s. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Thousands of service members and their families face uncertain times as wars end and the Pentagon heeds Congress' demand to pare its ranks. The economy is weak and unemployment rates high.

This sounds like today, but the scenario played out two decades ago after the Cold War ended and Soviet Union collapsed.

Pentagon officials who cut tens of thousands of soldiers say it's never easy to tell a volunteer they are no longer needed.

Now the Army — the military's largest branch — is cutting 80,000 soldiers over the next six years, while the Marines must drop about 20,000.

The changes are due to last summer's budget agreement between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans, which outlined a half-trillion dollar cut in projected defense spending over 10 years.