Attrition: Bringing Bad Habits Back Home


November17, 2006: The U.S. Marine Corps has long had a problem with vehicle accidents. So now every marine has to use seat belts, on and off duty. Marine training emphasizes aggressiveness and speed, and too many marines carry that over to off-duty activities, especially driving. For example, one of the first marine regiments to land in Vietnam in the 1960s, didn't see much combat for its first six months. One of the commanders noted, when looking at reports, that the marines had suffered more losses (mostly from automobile accidents), in the six months previous to heading for Vietnam, than it did from combat action during its first six months in Vietnam. It was the difference between marching through the bush, and speeding down the highway. The casualty situation soon changed (the marines actually took more casualties during the Vietnam war, than they had during World War II).

The traffic accident situation has improved over the years, but operations in Iraq have led to many marines acquiring some dangerous driving habits. In Iraq, troops are taught to drive very fast, and avoid any suspicious Iraqi vehicles. Such a license to "hot rod" leaves it mark, and many marines return stateside with some lethal driving habits, and a tendency to not buckle up (thus making it easier leap out and join the firefight.) Thus the new rules, which carry severe punishment for those who do not comply.


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