The U.S. Army has begun a new
program to make sure that everyone does their fair share of time in the combat
zone. While some 94 percent of active duty troops have been to Iraq or
Afghanistan, although many have only been "in the sand box" for a few months,
or have not been back for three or more years. The troops have been bitching
about this inequity for years, and someone has been listening.
leadership pays attention to what the troops think. That goes all the way back
to World War II, when a bunch of polling and statistics experts were organized
into a unit that went out and conducted opinion polls. The results were
distributed among the officers and senior NCOs. But that process took months,
today there is email, message boards and chat rooms. So the U.S. Army monitors
a lot of that, and knows real quick when something is annoying the troops.
Fixing those problems takes a lot longer, and the "fairness" of the overseas
deployment system is one of those things that are not easy to fix.
solution is to track every soldiers overseas service individually, which is
possible because all the personnel records are computerized. New software works
out possible solutions to the complex problem of getting the right people, with
the right skills, into units headed for the combat zones, but without sending
too many of the same people back again and again. Until recently, the
computerized personnel system did not track deployments, or how many months
troops were overseas. It was never an issue until now.
than an issue. The army has known since World War II that, on average, a
soldier can't psychologically handle more than 200 days of actual combat. Since
the 1940s, the army has developed ways to make soldiers more tolerant to the
stresses of combat, but not immune. After 300-400 days of fighting, it's
usually best to give that trooper a non-combat job.
For a long
time, some soldiers have "gamed the system" to avoid assignments they found
distasteful. The new personnel software is designed to outgame the ganers. How
well that works remains to be seen. But the brass will be monitoring the
Internet traffic to get a sense of who's winning.