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When David Seligman left on his second deployment to Iraq, his from other military families I met because they had, early on, connected with. Iraqi nation. The American invasion of Iraq in March toppled the brutal authoritarian proxy rulers in the early 20th century, and Sunni families and tribes managed to.

It's unlikely the architects of the Iraq War considered the impact 13 years of conflict When American helicopters first landed near the Yazidi town of Khanasour, in the The trickle of families leaving Sinjar became a flood. The group attributes 9, deaths solely to US-led forces in the first two. Iraq War, also called Second Persian Gulf War, —11 , conflict in Iraq that consisted of The first of these was a brief, conventionally fought war in.

The second US Army Mental Health Advisory Team Report, released in January , showed 54 percent of operationally-deployed personnel reporting that their units had low to very low morale. And indicators for suggest a return to the poor conditions evident in Motivating the initial report was a spike in suicides among deployed personnel during , when the rate was However, the Army's mental health report for showed continuing problems having to do with combat stress and, for most respondents, deployment time.

These may be at the heart of another spike in suicides that occurred in the rate for that year was Results from the Mental Health Advisory Team Report covering have not yet been released as of 1 September -- almost nine months after becoming due. An appropriate baseline for comparison is the overall Army suicide rates in and , which average about 10 per , These years are reasonably close to the present and were not characterized by protracted large-scale operations.

Obviously, the absolute number of suicides is not large. The usefulness of the statistic is as a proxy measure for stress and morale overall -- suicide being only one of the more severe manifestations of a problem. Some commentators have compared the suicide rates for Iraq-deployed personnel to those for their approximate age cohort at home -- an overwhelming civilian group. But this comparison is manifestly irrelevant. In order to test for deployment-related morale problems, the appropriate comparison is "deployed Army" versus "non-deployed Army" -- not "deployed Army" versus "civilian population" at home.

The baseline suicide rate for the peacetime Army has been routinely lower than that for a comparably-aged segment of the civilian population. There may be institutional reasons for this. It may be due to Army enculturation; or it may be because those who join the army are different in all sorts of ways than a comparably-aged slice of the general population. The fact remains: when personnel from this Army were subjected to long-tours of duty in Iraq their suicide rates increased quite substantially in two out of three measured years.

The average increase was 63 percent.

Fighting on Borrowed Time

The annual Stars and Stripes poll of its military readers also registers the recent morale issues -- although with an interesting twist: it shows that perceptions of unit morale differ dramatically depending on the rank of the respondent. Of course, it is this latter cohort that makes up the bulk of deployed forces and that has the greatest exposure to combat.

The results recounted above roughly accord with the findings of a poll of troops in Iraq conducted by Zogby International in early More than a quarter wanted withdrawal within six months. America will always be able to fill the ranks of its armed forces -- given time and money. What is more pertinent to ask is: How much time and money will be needed?

It is also vitally important to look beyond gross recruitment and retention numbers.

Iraq and the Global War on Terrorism

The most serious challenges have to do with retaining experienced personnel, maintaining quality standards in recruitment, and acquiring the particular mix of skills the armed forces require. As of September , almost eighty percent of active soldiers and marines had served in Afghanistan or Iraq -- and, as suggested above, many have gone for two or three tours. In this light, it is encouraging that both the Army and Marine Corps were able to meet their gross active-component recruiting goals during the period FY through FY With regard to the active Army, however, it also is important to note and actually quite remarkable that the numerical recruitment goals throughout this period were actually set lower than in FY The use of "stop loss" orders, which stymied personnel attrition, and the unusual dependence on National Guard troops in Iraq, may have allowed the Army to lower its recruiting goals for the active component.

Increased reliance on Individual Ready Reservists, as noted below, also helped. Once the Iraq war began, however, the Guard began to fall short in its recruitment efforts -- missing its goals in , , and Real trouble became apparent across the board in FY which began in October , 18 months after the onset of the Iraq war. That year, all components of the Army fell significantly short of their recruitment goals: the active Army by 8 percent, the National Guard by 20 percent, and the Army Reserve by 16 percent.

For the active Army, this was the first shortfall in 16 years and the largest in Notably, it was in that the active Army restored its recruiting goals to the level current in The Army and Marine Corps have managed to meet most of their gross "retention" or "re-enlistment" goals, but involuntary extension of service terms "stop loss orders" have played an important role in this.

Stop-loss bolsters retention numbers and can also relieve new recruitment requirements, as noted above.

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All told, 50, soldiers have had their service time extended involuntarily since In June , "stop loss" orders were affecting 15, Army personnel, active and reserve. Bryan Hilferty. These coercive but legal practices have served to mitigate the immediate impact of the wars. But there is strong evidence to suggest that once "stop loss" in all its forms ends, there will be a significant spike in attrition. This effect is examined below in the paragraphs on Special Operations Forces. Resort to the Individual Ready Reserve -- reservists who do not routinely train with units -- also has reduced recruitment and retention requirements.

From through to the end of FY , 7, of these IR Reservists have been deployed -- 6, of them involuntarily. As of September , 2, are still serving in the Army alone -- 1, of them involuntarily. Despite the troubles apparent in , the Army and Marine Corps will probably meet their recruiting goals for FY , although one or more reserve components may fall short. The apparent turn-around is illusory, however. The means employed by the Army to restore its recruiting numbers simply trade a numerical shortfall for a qualitative one:. In a different way, so do initiatives that trade down the quality of service personnel.

Attention to gross statistics on recruitment and retention provides no insight on the services' success in getting and keeping the specific mix of skills they need.

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Optempo does not distribute equally across all specialities and neither does personnel attrition. Some units and specialities have been in much greater demand than others and, thus, subject to higher pressure. In a review of all of the services' 1, occupational specialties, the Government Accountability Office found that 19 percent of DOD's occupational specialities were consistently overfilled and 41 percent were consistently underfilled during the period FY The Army Reserve finds it hard to recruit and retain individuals in the "military police" and "civil affairs" occupations.

This may not be very surprising, given current demands. But those same demands make these shortfalls a serious concern. Of course, the services have the capacity to assign people to jobs outside their speciality. But even with some "cross training", this is an inherently inefficient process, and one likely to exacerbate morale problems.

see url Of special concern are rising attrition rates among Special Operations Forces SOF personnel -- especially among the enlisted personnel. With the implementation of targeted occupational "stop loss" orders, this rate fell to below 6.

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However, the stop-loss policy as applied to occupational specialties ended in June of that year although it continued for deploying units. Immediately thereafter, the attrition rate for SOF enlisted personnel rose to A somewhat different problem concerns the supply of officers -- especially junior and mid-career officers -- across the Army.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, however, retention rates seemed to improve significantly. Between and , the rate of junior officers opting out as soon they could fell from 9. Since then, however, the rate has increased to about 8. Of course, "stop loss" as applied to deploying- and deployed-units continues to have a restraining effect here; only when it ends will the full effect of the recent wars be evident. In the meantime, the demand for officers has increased, partly due to plans to increase the number of Army brigades. Increased efforts to train and monitor the Iraqi military may also have added to the demand for officers.

How Expensive Is The War On Terror?

Of course, the real test of recruiting and retention efforts is not their ability to achieve some abstract numerical goal, but instead to succeed in matching supply to demand. In this, the Army is failing. In response to the demand for officers, the Army has increased its rates of promotion by 10 to 20 percentage points. Lowering the bar on promotions has not yet brought supply into line with demand, however. In April the Army predicted a shortfall of 2, captains for the year. Looking forward to , it foresees a shortage of 3, Looking more closely at the officer supply problem reveals a further concern: while the Army is lowering the bar on promotion, the attrition rate among the best-educated officers has grown especially bad.

In , fully one-third left -- whereas in , less than 22 percent had. The situation of SOF forces also illustrates how high deptempo can affect training.


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