Thursday, July 21, 2005

No Wonder

U.S. Soldiers in Iraq Report Low Morale

WASHINGTON — A majority of U.S. soldiers in Iraq say morale is low, according to an Army report that finds psychological stress is weighing particularly heavily on National Guard and Reserve troops. [...]
Hmmm. Several questions here. First, the article relates that the rates measured in all areas had dropped from levels reported in previous surveys.

[...] The initial inquiry was triggered in part by an unusual surge in suicides among soldiers in Iraq in July 2003. Wednesday's report said the number of suicides in Iraq and Kuwait declined from 24 in 2003 to nine last year.
The overall assessment said 13 percent of soldiers in the most recent study screened positive for a mental health problem, compared with 18 percent a year earlier. Symptoms of acute or post-traumatic stress remained the top mental health problem, affecting at least 10 percent of all soldiers checked in the latest survey.
In the anonymous survey, 17 percent of soldiers said they had experienced moderate or severe stress or problems with alcohol, emotions or their families. That compares with 23 percent a year earlier. [...]
And this:
[...] The report said 54 percent of soldiers rated their units' morale as low or very low. The comparable figure in a year-earlier Army survey was 72 percent. [...]
It seemed to me that the report sounded a lot like bureaucrats attempting to justify their jobs/budgets. Read it, and see what you think.

Now don't get me wrong... I'm firmly in support of monitoring the mental health of our troops, and applying appropriate programs to lessen risks. They are in a very stressful situation, and it would take a total mental disconnect to avoid being affected.

Secondly, the article (and the report) determined that one of the main concerns amongst the troops was the length of deployment, or rather variations of deployment lengths.

[...] The thing that bothered soldiers the most, the latest assessment said, was the length of their required stay in Iraq. At the start of the war, most were deployed for six months, but now they go for 12 months.
Asked about this, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news conference that the Army's 12-month requirement is linked in part to its effort to complete a fundamental reorganization of fighting units. [...]

That kind of makes it sound like it's all that wimpy Rumsfelds fault. Might be, but I'd wager that many other factors are also involved.

What the article does not do is explain what, if any, effect the constant negative reporting on the home front of the progress of the Iraqi Campaign has on the deployed troops. They are content to let the impression stand that our boys and girls are doing poorly over there.

And they failed to make any assessment or comment about the age-old military tradition of griping. Since the surveys were anonymous, I'd say that normal griping probably played a role in the answers received.

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