Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Breaking Point

UPDATE: "Senate GOP leaders block Webb dwell-time plan." - from Army Times:

"A Senate proposal to guarantee combat troops more time at home was derailed Wednesday by a procedural roadblock thrown by Republicans.

Fifty-six senators supported the plan offered by two military veterans — Sens. Jim Webb, D-Va., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. — that would promise service members returning from deployment as much time at home as they had spent in a combat zone, unless they volunteer to return early.

With Republicans threatening endless debate, known in legislative terms as a filibuster, supporters of the Webb-Hagel amendment needed to muster 60 votes to stop the talking and bring the plan to a vote. They fell four votes short.

Webb said he was disappointed but won’t give up. “We are going to continue to focus on this,” he said.

The intent of the guaranteed time at home, known as “dwell time,” is “to protect our troops,” he said.

Hagel also vowed to try again with a modified amendment. “If we cannot get this right, I am not sure what we can do,” he said.


Once again, the Republicans prove they don't really support the flesh and blood men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan - only a concept of anonymous troops who will further the Bush administration's morally bankrupt political agenda.

ORIGINAL POST: A recent editorial in the Military Times says the U.S. Army is nearing its breaking point:

Many soldiers have deployed three, four and more times to Iraq, Afghanistan or both. But you won’t hear much in the way of complaints, because a shared sense of honor and duty overrides most self-interest.

Yet there is no escaping the fact that
the Army is nearing a breaking point.

In the fifth year of war in Iraq, when deployments should be winding down, combat tours instead are being extended.

Time between deployments, meanwhile, is unchanged. So today, soldiers can look forward to 15 months in the war zone for every 12 months at home.

Fifteen-month deployments mean some soldiers can expect to miss two Christmases, two anniversaries, and two of the same child’s birthdays in one war tour. It means more mental health problems for soldiers, more stress on families and less support for the mission at home.

This is bad policy.

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., plans to introduce legislation to mandate that deployed troops get a month at home for every month deployed. So if a deployment does have to last 15 months, soldiers wouldn’t have to go back for another 15 months.

Better still, it would undermine justification for those longer tours and push the Army to revert to 12-month war stints. Army planners ditched the 12/12 model to support a surge of forces in Iraq.

Longer tours are appealing because, on paper, they let a smaller Army do more. But in reality, they threaten the very strength of our Army. A recent mental health survey of combat troops conducted under the auspices of Multi-National Force-Iraq found that mental health issues increase in direct relation to the length and frequency of deployments and the amount of combat experience soldiers endure.

The team recommended that the services “extend the interval between deployments to 18 to 36 months or decrease deployment length to allow time for soldiers [and] Marines to mentally re-set.”

Webb's son is the only child of a U.S. Senator serving in Iraq.

The mental health of returning soldiers is an increasing concern, as this Washington Post story details:
U.S. troops returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer "daunting and growing" psychological problems -- with nearly 40 percent of soldiers, a third of Marines and half of the National Guard members reporting symptoms -- but the military's cadre of mental-health workers is "woefully inadequate" to meet their needs, a Pentagon task force reported yesterday.

The congressionally mandated task force called for urgent and sweeping changes to a peacetime military mental health system strained by today's wars, finding that hundreds of thousands of the more than 1 million U.S. troops who have served at least one war-zone tour in Iraq or Afghanistan are showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety or other potentially disabling mental disorders. . . .

The task force found that 38 percent of soldiers, 31 percent of Marines, 49 percent of members and 43 percent of Marine reservists reported symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression or other problems, according to military surveys completed this year by service members 90 and 120 days after returning from deployments.

Let's hope these soldiers get the support and care they deserve.

5 comments:

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cowboyangel said...

Joshua,

Thank you for the invitation.

Jeff said...

William,

Hugely important article. Once again, the few guys in government who actually have some military experience get overridden and their voices drowned out.

There's only so many months before a man or a woman can be in comabt without suffering from serious psychological damage. In WWI it was called "shell-shock". In WWII it was called "Battle Fatigue". Now it's PTSD, although with the introduction of the IED, there is a new phenomena that is being seen, which is the Traumatic Brain Injury, and with the Army docs keeping more and more casualties alive nowadays, there are so many more amputees and troops living with deep tissue injuries, burned lungs and the like. You see some of these young guys at Walter Reed, and they are so brave it amazes me, but the road ahead of them is going to be so long and so hard as they lose more and more contact with their buddies in their units, and the medical services get rare, as you pointed out.

I think one of the only things that must be about as bad as spending a year in Iraq is being at home for an extended time, knowing that you have to go back.

cowboyangel said...

Jeff,

Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I thought that Webb and Hagel co-sponsoring the bill would get it through. The folks in Washington like to talk about how we need more partisanship (especially the Republicans, now that the Democrats have gained control of Congress), but I don't see them stepping up to the plate. It's insane that we're treating our soldiers like this. They're going through so much right now, and we can't even give them the break they need?

BTW, I keep meaning to ask you, how are Pfc. Frederick K Jr.,
Pfc. Conor S, 2nd Lieutentant Michael G, Lawrence S Jr, and Ensign Thomas H?

Jeff said...

Everyone is doing well from what I hear. Thank you for asking. Fred K has been guarding an air base somewhere north of Baghdad. Michael G is still at Pendleton. He hasn't gone over yet. Ensign Thomas... He was the one I thought was safest of all. He's fine, but I talked to his dad a while ago. Remember the Brits who were taken prisoner by the Iranians in the Shatt al Arab near Basra? Ensign Thomas does the same exact thing, boarding and checking ships for weapons and contraband. Dad says that mom doesn't know about this duty... Conor, I haven't heard any updates on yet.