Artillery: August 22, 2004

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The war on terror has taught the army some useful lessons on what keeps the troops in the service. Soldiers in combat units report that being sent to a combat zone improves morale, and the possibility that they will re-enlist, despite the danger. The reasons given are rather blunt; combat is what we train for. This applies to junior officers as well, who a few years ago were fleeing the military in ever increasing numbers (close to ten percent a year before September 11, 2001). Now the rate of decline for the captains and lieutenants is 5.5 percent. The rising rate of junior officer resignations was then attributed to anger at a rigid and unresponsive army bureaucracy. But now theres a war on, and the attitudes have changed. Most Americans may not be acting like theres a war on, but in the army, its very much a wartime mentality. That means new ideas are welcome and everyone pitches in to get things done. On the down side, its recognized that too much time in a combat zone will wear troops out. Thus the army is energetically avoiding back-to-back deployments to combat zones. The army is carefully monitoring troop morale and attitudes and, so far, responding effectively to problems that do arise. But a long, low intensity, war like this is uncharted territory. So its prudent to plan for the possibility of a decline in morale as the war goes on.

 


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