Attrition: Drunken Brawls Reveal Their Secrets


February 25, 2008: One of the benefits of having so many troops in a combat zone is that they are less likely to get into brawls with fellow troops, or civilians. No booze or brothels for U.S. troops in the combat zone. For example, during the 1990s, about 900 members of the U.S. military were badly injured (requiring hospitalization) because of such fights each year. But since the war on terror began, that number has fallen by more than half. About a fifth of those injured had problems with alcohol (mostly) or drugs (which can get you kicked out of the service). Those who were injured were basically on the losing end of a fight, often one they unwisely started.

Members of the combat arms were a disproportionately from the combat arms (especially infantry and marines). Members of the Special Forces and other special operations units were underrepresented, reflecting their higher degree of discipline and training.

About fifteen percent of those hospitalized, suffered brain injuries. This is one reason the military is studying these cases again, because the large number of troops suffering brain injuries in combat (particularly from roadside bombs) has raised the problem of long term mental effects. This has been recognized, for over a century, but never studied in great detail. But now there are new diagnostic tools, and treatments, that allow troops who have been "knocked around" on the battlefield, or a saloon, to get better help sooner.

The military is also studying those who get into these fights for signs of traits recruits could be screened for. The military has long sought to identify those who have problems with self-discipline. In severe cases, this will prevent someone from even getting into the military.


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