Attrition: No Shortage of Recruits

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December 14, 2007: The U.S. Army continues to maintain its recruiting success. Only the Army Reserve (which comprises 37 percent of the army reserves, with the rest being the state controlled National Guard) failed, falling 57 recruits short of its November goal of 2,125. The National Guard, however, brought in 712 more than its goal of 4,423 new recruits. The army has lowered its recruiting standards in the last few years, but has upgraded its screening and training methods. Thus quantity and quality have been maintained. Many commanders, however, are fearful of the long term effects of multiple combat tours. The army is facing an unprecedented situation. Never before has it had so many troops who have experienced so many days of combat. In the past (Vietnam, World War II) casualties were several times higher. but combat was not as prolonged. Thus few troops lasted 200 or more days in combat. During World War II, it was found that 200 days was the average combat exposure a soldier suffered before starting to experience debilitating PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

The patterns of combat were different than during World War II. For example, the bulk of the troops in Europe went in after June 6, 1944. The fighting in Europe ended eleven months later. In the Pacific, the fighting tended to be episodic. A few months of combat, followed by many months of preparing for the next island invasion or battle. In Vietnam, not a lot of people went back for multiple tours, and those who did spend a year with a combat unit, spent less time in combat than they would in Iraq. Even during Vietnam, it was noted that many of those who were in combat for 200 or more days, did get a little punchy.

In Iraq, army combat troops often get 200 days of combat in one 12 month tour, which is more than their grandfathers got during all of World War II. And some troops are returning for a third tour in Iraq, which is now fifteen months. The army has found ways to avoid the onset of PTSD (better accommodations, email contact with home, prompt treatment for PTSD), but many troops are headed for uncharted territory, and an unprecedented amount of time in combat. Thusnew programs to spot PTSD as early as possible, and new treatments as well.

 


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