Michael Bancroft Carolyn Geraci ENGL 1310 TTH 7-8:20 October 20, 2009 Military Deployment and the Effects on its Soldiers Recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, and other locations throughout the world have resulted in the most sustained military combat operations since the Vietnam Conflict. As a result, soldiers in the military are finding themselves subjected to longer deployments, and faster redeployment times than in any other combat operations.
While these steps are necessary to maintain the high level of military operations currently in progress, the negative effects of longer deployments on the families, soldiers, and the military in general far outweigh the benefits.
A study by the RAND Army Research Division in 2002 showed that the length of deployment for a soldier serving overseas had increased almost twofold since 1994, and in some cases, had tripled (Polich & Sortor, 8). This trend began with missions to Bosnia in 1995, and has steadily increased through the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Prior to the Bosnia conflict, the average total days spent overseas by the military for one year was tow and half million days.
Current numbers show average deployment bases at up to eight million (Polich & Sortor, 8). In addition to the increase in overall deployments, redeployment has also increased in recent years. In 1994, nearly 8,000 soldiers were redeployed within three years to an overseas operation. Currently, this number has risen to nearly 16,000 redeployments within a three-year period (Polich & Sortor, 10). The length of those deployments increased as well.
In 1994, the average deployment time for an individual soldier was 120 days (Polich & Sortor, 12). According to the office of the U. S. Army Public Affairs, current soldiers in Iraq face deployment of one year or more (Albert, A6). In some cases, soldiers are kept on active duty and redeployed even beyond their anticipated discharge from the service. The program, called stop loss, went into effect for reservists November of 2002. Stop loss allows the military to retain individuals scheduled for discharge or for a status change to non-active duty, based on the idea that, by keeping units ogether, those units will work more efficiently and effectively. The program allows retention of soldiers for three months prior to and three months following deployment (Albert, A6). The negative impact of longer deployments overseas and extended duty in active combat is well documented. The short term and long term problems associated affect the soldier, the soldier’s family, the military in general, and even the economy. From the ability of the military to recruit new soldiers to the morale of the individuals, longer deployments continue to cause problems in the military services.
One major area of concern relating to longer deployments is that of the mental health impact on the soldiers. A study in 2004 evaluated soldiers reports of experiences in war zones in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and noted reports of perceived physiological and psychological distressors (Litz, 1). The results indicated that the risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was as high as twenty-seven percent in the Iraq war, and as high as twenty percent in the Afghanistan mission (Litz, 1).
PTSD, a psychological condition resulting from trauma, can cause many problematic symptoms, such as withdrawal from others, extreme anxiety, flashbacks, night terrors, and other problematic symptoms. Much research has been dedicated to the subject of PTSD, and these studies have found that military deployments, both in combat zones and in peacekeeping missions, are highly associated with increased levels of PTSD and other related disorders (Creamer, 184).
Additionally, studies have shown that more frequent and more intense involvement in combat operations elevates the risk for development of PTSD, and that PTSD severity is, in some cases, directly related to post-deployment expectations, as well as repeat deployments (Litz, 1). It is obvious from the research above that soldiers facing combat conditions for longer periods are more at risk for mental disorders. In addition to severe mental disorders such as PTSD, studies have also shown the risks for other problems such as depression and generalized anxiety increase with the length of deployment.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, over seventeen percent of Iraq war veterans suffer from severe depression, generalized anxiety, and social personality disorders (Hoge, 18). Additionally, soldiers facing longer deployment in Iraq have a higher rate of suicide, according to the Pentagon (DMDC, 1). Along with the mental issues related to longer deployment, family problems also increase as deployment length increases. Studies following the Afghanistan conflict and the Iraq war showed that divorce rates among families with deployed military members increased as much as thirty-seven to fifty-six percent (Peterson, 15).
These high rates often come from the added stress of unknown lengths of tours. A study conducted by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the U. S. Army Research Institute showed the “key impact on family appeared to be the length of the tour” (Berardocco, 22). Sixty-eight percent of respondents noted that a year of active service overseas was worrisome, and would cause family difficulties. Additionally, spouses of those deployed noted that their soldiers had recently completed a lengthy deployment and were redeployed, expanding the total separation up to twenty-four months or more (Berardocco, 24).
Furthermore, families under this type of stress can begin to develop issues with chemical dependency. A 1998 study by the Department of Defense of over 17,000 military personnel noted that one in six active military members engage in heavy alcohol use. Further, the spouses and family members of those serving in combat had higher rates of alcohol and substance abuse (Berardocco, 24). Longer deployments also cause problems when the solider returns to his or her family. Faced with a long stretch of single parenting, the spouse of a soldier becomes much more independent.
He or she will become exclusively involved in their children’s lives, become involved in hobbies or church groups, and will develop a social network of other spouses. Additionally, the spouse becomes responsible for all maintenance and finances of the household. Upon return, the spouse and soldier may have adjustment issues, in that the soldier may feel unneeded, and the spouse may resentment at the initial redefining of roles (Military Advantage, 1). These issues are difficult enough when deployment is three months, but in a longer deployment situation, these feelings become much more pronounced.
For small business owners in the reserves, extended tours of duty may mean the loss of an entire business. According to a 2003 Department of Defense study, almost eight percent of the reservists own their own business. Since there is no federal protection for small business owners called for active duty, many return from longer deployments to find their businesses repossessed, and their finances in ruin. Even those reservists working for private companies note that, although labor laws are in place to help protect against job loss, many find themselves unemployed upon returning to the States.
Further, soldiers note the increased difficulty in finding employment when listed as a reservist, since employers know they are “required” to hold the position for the deployed member (Stannard, D1). In addition to problems among soldiers and families, the military as a whole reports problems with longer deployment, in terms of military recruitment. A study conducted by the RAND Institute found that, during the late 1990’s, the active duty force of the military decreased by 500,000 soldiers. Thus, the number of deployments, and length of deployments grew (Nardulli, 16).
Additionally, the RAND study discovered that these lengthy and numerous deployments appeared to affect rates of retention and personnel loss. According to RAND, surveys have shown that lengths of deployment are among the most likely reasons for a soldier to leave military service (Nardulli, 17). The result of this loss of retention could be shortfalls in military staffing, difficulties in maintaining military readiness, and a higher level of dissatisfaction in the military (Nardulli, 20). Those issues could then result in a need for greater recruiting resources, and more support services for military personnel.
Those in favor of stop loss programs and other programs aimed at lengthening the tour of duty for military personnel note several “positive” results. These include the extended use of experienced personnel. Supporters note that those soldiers with actual combat experience are more successful under combat conditions than those who have not previously toured. Additionally, lengthy deployment allows soldiers to establish ties with the local populations, for the purposes of gathering intelligence as well as boosting local support (Burlas, 1).
However, it is important to point out that supporters ignore the numbers of lower morale among soldiers deployed longer than three months. Additionally, supporters neglect information about how “more combat experience” also results in higher levels of mental disorder among soldiers. If soldiers are depressed, or suffering from anxiety disorders and PTSD, their “ties” with local populations will not improve the military standings in any portion of the world. There can be no question, based on current research that longer tours of duty in the military carry with them many negative effects.
Higher rates of mental illness, divorce, substance abuse, and more difficult and lengthy family problems can result from these lengthy deployments. Further, the readiness of our military forces and the overall morale of soldiers could be in jeopardy if these tours continue. In order for our military to be a determined, driven, cohesive fighting force, steps need to be taken to ensure that deployment lengths are kept as low as possible. By doing so, the military would not only be assisting those we are aiming to assist around the world, but also our soldiers and their families at home.
Works Cited Albert, Mary. “Reserve the Right. ” The Independent 21 August 2004: A6. Print. Berardocco, Diana. “Researchers Study Effects of Deployments on Military families. ” Deployment Quarterly Summer 2001: 22-25. Print. Burlas, Joe. “Schoolmaker: Plan on 12 month Deployments for Now. ” Military News 28 October 2004: 1-4. Print. Creamer, Mark, Kearney, George, Marshall, Ric, and Goyne, Anne. “Long-term Effects of Traumatic Stress, Chapter 12. ” Military Stress and Performance. Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Publishing, Ltd. , 2003. Print. Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC).
War on Terrorism – Operation Iraqi Freedom. 2005. Department of Defense. 11 April, 2005. Web. Hoge, Charles, Castro, Carl, Messer, Stephen, McGurk, Dennis, Cotting, Dave, and Koffman, Robert. “Combat Duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mental Health Problems, and Barriers to Care. ” The New England Journal of Medicine 351. 1 (1 July, 2004): 13-22. Print. Litz, Brent T. A Brief Primer on the Mental Health Impact of the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Fact Sheet. Washington D. C. : National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Department of Veteran Affairs, 2003. Print. Military Advantage. The Emotional Phases of Deployment. ” Deployment Center. 2005. Military. com. 11 April 2005. Web. Nardulli, Bruce. The Global War on Terrorism: An Early Look at Implications for the Army. Pittsburg, P. A. : RAND Army Research Division, 2003. Print. Peterson, Karen. “Long Deployments Stress Military Families. ” USA Today 8 October 2001: 15-17. Print. Polich, Michael, and Sortor, Ron. Deployments and Army Personnel Tempo. Santa Monica, C. A. : RAND Army Research Division, 2001. Print. Stannard, Matthew B. “Jobs Don’t Always Wait for Guards, Reservists. ” The San Francisco Chronicle 20 February 2005: D1. Print.
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