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Thread: Army Worried by Rising Stress of Return Tours to Iraq

  1. #1
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    Army Worried by Rising Stress of Return Tours to Iraq

    [URL="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/06/washington/06military.html?hp"]NY TIMES[/URL]

    WASHINGTON — Army leaders are expressing increased alarm about the mental health of soldiers who would be sent back to the front again and again under plans that call for troop numbers to be sustained at high levels in Iraq for this year and beyond.

    Among combat troops sent to Iraq for the third or fourth time, more than one in four show signs of anxiety, depression or acute stress, according to an official Army survey of soldiers’ mental health.

    The stress of long and multiple deployments to Iraq is just one of the concerns being voiced by senior military officers in Washington as Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior Iraq commander, prepares to tell Congress this week that he is not ready to endorse any drawdowns beyond those already scheduled through July.

    President Bush has signaled that he will endorse General Petraeus’s recommendation, a decision that will leave close to 140,000 American troops in Iraq at least through the summer. But in a meeting with Mr. Bush late last month in advance of General Petraeus’s testimony, the Joint Chiefs of Staff expressed deep concern about stress on the force, senior Defense Department and military officials said.

    Among the 513,000 active-duty soldiers who have served in Iraq since the invasion of 2003, more than 197,000 have deployed more than once, and more than 53,000 have deployed three or more times, according to a separate set of statistics provided this week by Army personnel officers. The percentage of troops sent back to Iraq for repeat deployments would have to increase in the months ahead.

    The Army study of mental health showed that 27 percent of noncommissioned officers — a critically important group — on their third or fourth tour exhibited symptoms commonly referred to as post-traumatic stress disorders. That figure is far higher than the roughly 12 percent who exhibit those symptoms after one tour and the 18.5 percent who develop the disorders after a second deployment, according to the study, which was conducted by the Army surgeon general’s Mental Health Advisory Team.

    The Army and the rest of the service chiefs have endorsed General Petraeus’s recommendations for continued high troop levels in Iraq. But Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, and their top deputies also have warned that the war in Iraq should not be permitted to inflict an unacceptable toll on the military as a whole. “Our readiness is being consumed as fast as we build it,” Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army vice chief of staff, said in stark comments delivered to Congress last week. “Lengthy and repeated deployments with insufficient recovery time have placed incredible stress on our soldiers and our families, testing the resolve of our all-volunteer force like never before.”

    Beyond the Army, members of the Joint Chiefs have also told the president that the continued troop commitment to Iraq means that there is a significant level of risk should another crisis erupt elsewhere in the world. Any mission could be carried out successfully, the chiefs believe, but the operation would be slower, longer and costlier in lives and equipment than if the armed forces were not so strained.

    Under the drawdown already planned, the departure of five combat brigades from Iraq by July should allow the Army to announce that tours will be shortened to 12 months from 15 by the end of summer.

    Even so, senior officers warn that time at home must be increased from the current 12 months between combat tours. Otherwise, they say, the ground forces risk an unacceptable level of retirements of sergeants — the key leaders of the small-unit operations — and of experienced captains, who represent the future of the Army’s officer corps.

    The mental health study conducted by the Army was carried out in Iraq last October and November, and does not represent a purely scientific sampling of deployed troops, because that is difficult to accomplish in a combat environment, the authors of the study have said. Instead, the study was based on 2,295 anonymous surveys and additional interviews from members of frontline units in combat brigades, and not from those assigned primarily to safer operating bases. Since the study was distributed last month, it has become a central topic of high-level internal discussions within the Army, and its findings have been accepted by Army leaders, senior Pentagon and military officials say.

    The survey found that the proportion of soldiers serving in Iraq who had encountered mental health problems was about the same as found in previous studies — about 18 percent of deployed soldiers. But in analyzing the effect of the war on those with previous duty in Iraq, the study found that “soldiers on multiple deployments report low morale, more mental health problems and more stress-related work problems.”

    By the time they are on their third or fourth deployments, soldiers “are at particular risk of reporting mental health problems,” the study found.

    The range of symptoms reported by soldiers varies widely, from sleeplessness and anxiety to more severe depression and stress. To assist soldiers facing problems, the Army has begun to hire more civilian mental health professionals while directing Army counselors to spend more time with frontline units.

    Senior officers at the Pentagon have tried to avoid shrill warnings about the health of the force, cognizant that such comments might embolden potential adversaries, and they continue to hope that troop levels in Iraq can be reduced next year. Still, none deny the level of stress on the force from current deployments.

    Admiral Mullen spoke broadly to those concerns last week, saying at a Pentagon news conference that the military would have already assigned forces to missions elsewhere in the world were it not for what he called “the pressure that’s on our forces right now.”

    He added that the military would “continue to be there until, should conditions allow, we start to be able to reduce our force levels in Iraq.”

    One example of the pressure has come in Afghanistan, where the Pentagon has been unable to meet all of the commanders’ requests for more forces, in particular for several thousand military trainers.

    Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters on Friday that he expected that the United States would be able to add significantly to its deployments in Afghanistan in 2009. But to do that — and to increase time at home for soldiers between deployments — probably would require further reductions in troop levels in Iraq, Pentagon planners said.

    Members of the Joint Chiefs also acknowledge that the deployments to Iraq, with the emphasis on counterinsurgency warfare, have left the ground forces no time to train for the full range of missions required to defend American interests.

  2. #2
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    No worries... according to some people here, they're all conservatives, so they're happy to be killing ragheads while their jobs are lost, their families broken, and their mental health damaged. They've got their flag pins on, that's what really counts. :rolleyes:

  3. #3
    [QUOTE=long island leprechaun;2466527]No worries... according to some people here, they're all conservatives, so they're happy to be killing ragheads while their jobs are lost, their families broken, and their mental health damaged. They've got their flag pins on, that's what really counts. :rolleyes:[/QUOTE]



    Don't worry everything will be fine once they implement the Surge part two....:rolleyes:

  4. #4
    Why aren't there any replacements for these soldiers? I've heard of some going on their fifth tour of duty in Iraq and even though they signed up for it, that's a hell of a lot to be asking from someone who already made the trip to Iraq several times. Perhaps the military should train their divisions in Germany and send them to Iraq to give these vets a break. I also keep reading about U.S Military personnel numbers exceeding 1 million, but are only 200,000 or so combat trained?

  5. #5
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    [QUOTE=XingDaorong;2466538]Why aren't there any replacements for these soldiers? I've heard of some going on their fifth tour of duty in Iraq and even though they signed up for it, that's a hell of a lot to be asking from someone who already made the trip to Iraq several times. Perhaps the military should train their divisions in Germany and send them to Iraq to give these vets a break. I also keep reading about U.S Military personnel numbers exceeding 1 million, but are only 200,000 or so combat trained?[/QUOTE]

    See below:

    Why We Can't Send More Troops

    By Lawrence J. Korb and Peter Ogden
    Thursday, September 14, 2006; A21



    In "Reinforce Baghdad" [op-ed, Sept. 12], William Kristol and Rich Lowry argue that the United States needs to deploy "substantially" more troops to Iraq to stabilize the country. Aside from the strategic dubiousness of their proposal -- Kristol and Lowry's piece might alternatively have been titled "Reinforcing Failure" -- there is a practical obstacle to it that they overlook: Sending more troops to Iraq would, at the moment, threaten to break our nation's all-volunteer Army and undermine our national security. This is not a risk our country can afford to take.

    In their search for additional troops and equipment for Iraq, the first place that Kristol and Lowry would have to look is the active Army. But even at existing deployment levels, the signs of strain on the active Army are evident. In July an official report revealed that two-thirds of the active U.S. Army was classified as "not ready for combat." When one combines this news with the fact that roughly one-third of the active Army is deployed (and thus presumably ready for combat), the math is simple but the answer alarming: The active Army has close to zero combat-ready brigades in reserve.

    The second place to seek new troops and equipment is the Army National Guard and Reserve. But the news here is, if anything, worse. When asked by reporters to comment on the strain that the active Army was under, the head of the National Guard said that his military branch was "in an even more dire situation than the active Army. We both have the same symptoms; I just have a higher fever."

    Already, the stress of Iraq and Afghanistan on our soldiers has been significant: Every available active-duty combat brigade has served at least one tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, and many have served two or three. Likewise, the vast majority of Army National Guardsmen and Reservists have been mobilized since Sept. 11, 2001, some more than once.

    Thus the simple fact is that the only way for Kristol and Lowry to put their new plan into action anytime soon without resorting to a draft -- and thereby dismantling the all-volunteer Army, which, as the authors themselves would certainly admit, could be strategically disastrous -- is by demanding even more from our soldiers by accelerating their training and rotation schedules. While there is no question that the soldiers would respond to more frequent calls to duty, it is doubtful that they would be supplied with proper equipment and training for their mission in the near term. Moreover, the long-term toll on the cost and quality of our troops would be threatened by the added strain.

    First, the equipment shortage that the U.S. Army faces at the moment is making it difficult to train troops even at current levels. The service has been compensating for this $50 billion equipment shortfall by shipping to Iraq some of the equipment that it needs to train nondeployed and reserve units. Increasing the number of deployed troops would compound this readiness problem and leave the Army with little spare capacity to respond to other conflicts around the globe that might demand immediate and urgent action.

    Second, the long-term costs of leaning even more heavily on our ground troops to fight what is an unpopular war will take its toll on the quality of our Army. At present the Army is compelled to offer promotions to an unprecedented number of its personnel to retain them. Some 98 percent of captains were promoted to major this year, and the quality of the next generation of military leaders will suffer if this process is not made more selective once again.

    In addition, even the quadrupling of recruitment bonuses since 2003 has not been enough to attract adequate numbers of talented men and women to meet the Army's personnel goals. Although the Army has accepted more troops with lower aptitude scores and raised its maximum enlistment age, it still must grant waivers to about 1 out of 5 new recruits and has had to cut in half the number who "wash out" in basic training.

    While we disagree with Kristol and Lowry's contention that sending more troops to Iraq would bring peace and stability to the country, the U.S. Army and National Guard and Reserve should nevertheless possess the capacity to respond to such a plan or other deployments without undue strain and long-term costs. The solution is to do two things that the Bush administration has not: permanently increase the number of troops in the active Army and fully fund its equipment needs. Let this, not the expenditure of more blood and treasure in Iraq, be the "courageous act of presidential leadership" that Kristol and Lowry desire.

    Lawrence J. Korb was assistant secretary of defense for manpower, installations and logistics during the Reagan administration. He and Peter Ogden work on national security issues at the Center for American Progress.

    © 2006 The Washington Post Company

  6. #6
    The Marines train all of their troops as a rifleman first, speciality second. Other branches of the military only have certain men who are fighting the war, the rest are support etc.

    MOS is an important thing when you join the military.

    Then look at where you also have to have troops, South Korea, Afghanistan and every other military installation.

    One sure way to help is to start a draft, I bet Iraq wouldn't be such a great thing then.

    [QUOTE=XingDaorong;2466538]Why aren't there any replacements for these soldiers? I've heard of some going on their fifth tour of duty in Iraq and even though they signed up for it, that's a hell of a lot to be asking from someone who already made the trip to Iraq several times. Perhaps the military should train their divisions in Germany and send them to Iraq to give these vets a break. I also keep reading about U.S Military personnel numbers exceeding 1 million, but are only 200,000 or so combat trained?[/QUOTE]

  7. #7
    That's a shame, that we are fighting two wars with less than 200,000 combat ready troops. While vets in Vietnam were sent into a much more dangerous war, where their chances of getting killed were much greater, most did not serve four or five times there, in Iraq it's the opposite. The military should add financial incentives and benefits to attract more recruits, as we can't keep sending these guys over without any replacement.

  8. #8
    The military is doing exactly that, they are offering more money and lowering their standards as well.



    [QUOTE=XingDaorong;2466549]That's a shame, that we are fighting two wars with less than 200,000 combat ready troops. While vets in Vietnam were sent into a much more dangerous war, where their chances of getting killed were much greater, most did not serve four or five times there, in Iraq it's the opposite. The military should add financial incentives and benefits to attract more recruits, as we can't keep sending these guys over without any replacement.[/QUOTE]

  9. #9
    [QUOTE=cr726;2466548]The Marines train all of their troops as a rifleman first, speciality second. Other branches of the military only have certain men who are fighting the war, the rest are support etc.

    MOS is an important thing when you join the military.

    Then look at where you also have to have troops, South Korea, Afghanistan and every other military installation.

    One sure way to help is to start a draft, I bet Iraq wouldn't be such a great thing then.[/QUOTE]

    I'd imagine it wouldn't and it would bring the war back into the minds of all the people who are more interested with tabloid stories and other trivial things now. With regards to the MOS I've talked with Air National Guard soldiers who have seen combat routinely in Iraq, aren't there any more National Guardsmen who can be sent to replace these vets?

  10. #10
    [QUOTE=cr726;2466558]The military is doing exactly that, they are offering more money and lowering their standards as well.[/QUOTE]

    How have the recruiting stations been doing do you know?

  11. #11
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    [QUOTE=XingDaorong;2466561]I'd imagine it wouldn't and it would bring the war back into the minds of all the people who are more interested with tabloid stories and other trivial things now. With regards to the MOS I've talked with Air National Guard soldiers who have seen combat routinely in Iraq, aren't there any more National Guardsmen who can be sent to replace these vets?[/QUOTE]

    I think we should have a draft. It would be the swiftest way to end the bloody mess. When you start reaching for the sons and daughters of the white middle class in large numbers, they suddenly become very pacifistic. Geez, even in our own Civil War, you had rich people buying out of service for $300 paid to some poor schmuck who'd serve in their place. WWII is, off the top of my head, probably the only war in the 20th century that Americans tolerated well regarding the draft. It was also the only war that was clearly defensive in literal terms. I would guess that most Americans, if honestly polled, would be foreign policy conservatives. If Bush had honored his election pledge, he would have maintained that tradition. WTC opened the doors to the worst breed of aggression -- the kind that uses tragedy as a tool for aggrandizement, not peace.

  12. #12
    Had a buddy who is in the Air National Guard as an MP, after 9-11 he was being dropped into Kazakhstan and doing jobs they were never trained to do. That was understandable when it comes the timing. But to have the National Guard still doing jobs they were never meant to do 5 years after the initial invasion of Iraq and that is a poorly runned war.

    [QUOTE=XingDaorong;2466561]I'd imagine it wouldn't and it would bring the war back into the minds of all the people who are more interested with tabloid stories and other trivial things now. With regards to the MOS I've talked with Air National Guard soldiers who have seen combat routinely in Iraq, aren't there any more National Guardsmen who can be sent to replace these vets?[/QUOTE]

  13. #13
    Had a cousin who just joined the Army and they (Army) paid off all of his college debt and gave a bonus. Other than that I do not know the numbers they are recruiting right now.


    [QUOTE=XingDaorong;2466562]How have the recruiting stations been doing do you know?[/QUOTE]

  14. #14
    [QUOTE=long island leprechaun;2466590]I think we should have a draft. It would be the swiftest way to end the bloody mess. When you start reaching for the sons and daughters of the white middle class in large numbers, they suddenly become very pacifistic. Geez, even in our own Civil War, you had rich people buying out of service for $300 paid to some poor schmuck who'd serve in their place. WWII is, off the top of my head, probably the only war in the 20th century that Americans tolerated well regarding the draft. It was also the only war that was clearly defensive in literal terms. I would guess that most Americans, if honestly polled, would be foreign policy conservatives. If Bush had honored his election pledge, he would have maintained that tradition. WTC opened the doors to the worst breed of aggression -- the kind that uses tragedy as a tool for aggrandizement, not peace.[/QUOTE]

    Attacking Afghanistan was justified though, even when Iraq was not, but no Congressman (outside of Charlie Rangel) would vote for a draft, it would be political suicide. Imo we should do what Israel does, two years of compulsory military service with benefits and pay, and incentives to extend your service another four years.

  15. #15
    [QUOTE=cr726;2466600]Had a buddy who is in the Air National Guard as an MP, after 9-11 he was being dropped into Kazakhstan and doing jobs they were never trained to do. That was understandable when it comes the timing. But to have the National Guard still doing jobs they were never meant to do 5 years after the initial invasion of Iraq and that is a poorly runned war.[/QUOTE]

    Kazakhstan? Aren't they letting us use airfields for the Afghan War? I know the Uzbeks threw us out after we condemned that massacre of students in 2005.

    And General Shenseki had it right at the beginning of this war, that we would need at least 400,000 troops to stabilize Iraq for the long term. Rumsfeld wanted to do things on the cheap and ignored him, now these vets are paying the price in the forms of stop loss and extended tours. I know Defense Secretary Robert Gates got a plan approved by Congress and President Bush to increase the size of the Army and Marines by 90,000, maybe that will add some fresh troops into the mix to replace these overburdened vets. At least I hope that's what it will do.

  16. #16
    [QUOTE=cr726;2466603]Had a cousin who just joined the Army and they (Army) paid off all of his college debt and gave a bonus. Other than that I do not know the numbers they are recruiting right now.[/QUOTE]

    That's a good deal, and also one of the reasons I'm going to join (expenses at the school I plan to go to are over $50,000 a year). The military is also good for people who have criminal records and need jobs. One of my friend's who has been arrested for some pretty bad crimes (credit card fraud is one of them) can't get a job because of his record and wants to clean up his act so he joined the Marines. He starts boot camp this summer, will do one year as an infantryman and wants to go to sniper school after he's fulfilled one year of service.

  17. #17
    Well, since I pretty much live in military town USA, I can tell you with high confidence, that what soldiers [I]really[/I] appreciate is being repeatedely told that they are fighting an unjust war and that their friends are dying in vain.


    Good day.

  18. #18
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    [QUOTE=SanAntonio_JetFan;2466675]Well, since I pretty much live in military town USA, I can tell you with high confidence, that what soldiers [I]really[/I] appreciate is being repeatedely told that they are fighting an unjust war and that their friends are dying in vain.


    Good day.[/QUOTE]

    What's the alternative? Lie to them and wear a flag pin? I work in the VA in Mental Health (for last 20+ years, through several conflicts) so I've seen a lot of soldiers coming back in all manner of ill health. They don't seem to be fooled about the war or about how badly it has been run. Fighting from a sense of loyalty to your buddies and because you signed on to do it drives many soldiers, even when the larger policy issues seem obscure to them. The thing that really bugs me is the guys who have suffered serious head injuries and are shuffled out of the military with less than 30% disability, because, magically, if the DOD gives them 30 or more, it's permanent. These people come to the VA and are almost immediately re-evaluated and up consierably, often to 100%. The military has scammed, gamed, lied, and betrayed its soldiers. They know it, but you won't hear them tell it until they leave. The military is also vengeful. It's not exactly a model employer.

  19. #19
    I guess you are talking about the Air Force. It pains me that these soldiers are part of this BS. They, as I know what it is like to train to go to war and want to do the [B]JOB[/B]. This is their job and when you enlist you have to go where they want you to and they will continue to do their job no matter what the public opinion is on a day to day basis.

    Give it a rest.


    [QUOTE=SanAntonio_JetFan;2466675]Well, since I pretty much live in military town USA, I can tell you with high confidence, that what soldiers [I]really[/I] appreciate is being repeatedely told that they are fighting an unjust war and that their friends are dying in vain.


    Good day.[/QUOTE]

  20. #20
    Question for you.

    Who do you think the avg. serviceman can't stand more?

    The media.

    Or how about the guy who is driving a nicer truck working half the time and getting paid 3 times more than the servicemen driving right next to them in Iraq?

    [QUOTE=SanAntonio_JetFan;2466675]Well, since I pretty much live in military town USA, I can tell you with high confidence, that what soldiers [I]really[/I] appreciate is being repeatedely told that they are fighting an unjust war and that their friends are dying in vain.


    Good day.[/QUOTE]

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