Attrition: October 6, 2003


American forces in Iraq are losing a lot of troops to non-combat causes. This is not unusual, American troops fighting in tropical climates have always suffered heavy casualties (but not deaths), from non-combat causes. So far, 3,915 troops have been sent home for non-combat injuries. At the same tim there have been 1,380 troops wounded in combat, most of which were evacuated. 

When the Department of Defense first looked into operating in the Persian Gulf , back in the 1970s, they were appalled at the range of diseases and conditions (heat and dust) that could render troops ineffective. A video briefing was prepared in which a senior medical officer spelled out all the dangers in gruesome detail. Even with over two decades of experience and preparations, a lot of troops are being affected in current operations. But three percent is not all that great a loss rate, for during World War II, it was not unusual for American units in tropical areas to suffer over half their troops put out of action by these afflictions. 

But the losses in Iraq have not all been from living conditions and disease. Some 22 percent of the current losses have been for mental problems. While the combat troops have been conditioned to deal with the stress of combat, the non-combat units proved to be very unprepared, and have produced the majority of the mental injuries. Another seven percent of the losses have been due to gynecological (female) problems. This includes pregnancy. Accidents and physical stress accounted for 17 percent. Most of these required surgery, although about 15 percent of these were for orthopedic problems. The rest of the evacuated (54 percent) troops were for diseases and other medical conditions. 


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