Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Are our Military Forces Broken Enough Yet?

Some statistics taken from Salon article; ‘How many have Gone to War?’
By Mark Benjamin, published April 12, 2005

-- Well over 1 million U.S. troops have fought in the wars since Sept. 11, 2001, according to Pentagon data released to Salon.

-- As of Jan. 31, 2005, the exact figure was 1,048,884, approximately one-third the number of troops ever stationed in or around Vietnam during 15 years of that conflict.

-- During the 15 years of the Vietnam conflict, around 2.4 million troops served there, according to a study of Pentagon data by the Heritage Center for Data Analysis.

-- Of all the troops ever sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, one-third have gone more than once, according to the Pentagon.

-- In the regular Army, 63 percent of the soldiers have been to war at least one time, and almost 40 percent of those soldiers have gone back. The highest rate of first-time deployments belongs to the Marine Corps Reserve: Almost 90 percent have fought.

-- Among veterans who served in Iraq and are now seeking healthcare from the Department of Veterans Affairs, one in four is now being diagnosed with a mental problem, according to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine

-- There are no front lines in Iraq: Transportation companies, military police and civil affairs soldiers face the same risk of random ambush or death by roadside bombs. The stress goes on 24 hours a day for an entire tour..

-- In addition to troops getting treatment in military hospitals, nearly 50,000 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, including those discharged for wounds or injuries, are now out of the military and getting medical treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to V.A. data.

-- Around 25,000 troops have been medically evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon's transportation command.

-- Further, calls to the GI Rights Hotline, an 800 number set up by nonprofit groups for soldiers to get information on military discharges, have nearly tripled since the year 2000. The hot line got 32,200 calls last year from soldiers who don't want to go to Iraq -- or don't want to go back. "The majority of the calls are people who are trying to get out," said the hot line's manager, Steve Morse......

-- A February Harper's article said 5,500 troops have gone AWOL since the invasion of Iraq.

-- If you want to ask how to destroy the all-volunteer Army, the Bush administration has provided a textbook case," Lawrence J. Korb told an audience at a Center for American Progress debate on the draft this month. Korb, an assistant secretary of defense under Reagan, said the strain may soon become overwhelming -- and Bush is not doing enough about it. "It may be that at some point we have cracked the all-volunteer force so much, we will have to do something else." Korb said that he thinks that three combat tours is the breaking point. Some combat units, such as the Army's famed Third Infantry Division, are in Iraq for the second time now.

-- The Pentagon has moved to stop the bleeding, enacting "stop loss" policies that prevent some soldiers from leaving the military. They have tapped the Individual Ready Reserve, soldiers who thought they had severed ties with the military years ago. Critics have said these policies are part of a "back door draft." The Bush administration has agreed only to the temporary increase in the size of the Army until 2008 and is reconfiguring combat units to get more foot-soldier bang for its buck.

-- But recruitment is also falling, particularly for Army Reserve units. The Pentagon said last month that both the active-duty and reserve forces are behind on recruiting goals for this year. The National Guard is down 25 percent. The Pentagon is adding new recruiters to try to fill the gaps: The Army National Guard has said it will add another 1,400 alone. "This will be a very challenging year for recruiting for the reserve components," Charles S. Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told Congress last month. That trend continues even as the military increases signing bonuses and lowers its standards for signing up. (Most recently, the government decided that a new recruit into the reserves could be 39 instead of 34.)

-- Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. -- a Vietnam veteran and an Army Ranger, respectively -- want to permanently increase the Army by 30,000 soldiers and add 3,000 Marines. The Bush administration has balked at such efforts, citing the $3 billion price tag. The most pressing issue may be the reserves. Fearing a political backlash if he deployed weekend warriors to Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson bypassed the reserves and used the draft instead. Indeed, slots in the National Guard were particularly coveted during that era, as the 2004 presidential election and the revisiting of George W. Bush's Guard record made so clear.

-- After Vietnam, the Pentagon reorganized the military so that it can't fight a big ground war without mobilizing the reserves. The idea was to block the president from waging a war without the full support of the American heartland. Active-duty Army units now rely on reserve units to perform vital functions in a major mobilization.

-- But the reserves are lagging the farthest behind in meeting their recruitment goals. The long deployments may have been particularly shocking for the troops, many of whom simply did not think they were signing up for this. The grind is wearing the reserves down, and fewer people are willing to sign up for it now. The Army Reserve's chief, Lt. Gen. James Helmly, wrote in a memo to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker late last year that the stress meant the Army Reserve was "degenerating into a 'broken' force."

-- Pike, from, said the situation for the reserves is dire. "The guard is broken and cannot be fixed," Pike said. "I don't think anybody would voluntarily, of their own volition, join the National Guard. I think they will have to come up with a new mission statement for the thing." News | How many have gone to war?

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President George W. Bush's statement in March 2006 after 3 yrs of war "a future President will have to resolve war in Iraq"


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