Morale: Tough Times In Fobbit Land


September21, 2008:  The 80 percent drop in violence in Iraq has created some unique problems. First, it's more difficult for NCOs to keep the troops alert. Attacks are so infrequent that the troops are getting sloppy. There is less stress, which can be a problem for combat troops tweaked by training and attitude to deal with difficult situations. So other outlets are sought. This means that in most U.S. bases in Iraq, medical personnel are treating more sports, than combat, injuries.

Troops with more time, and less danger, to deal with, drift towards the traditional distractions; sex, drugs and booze. There are more hookers about, and there's even some action available on base. Basically, sex is discouraged in the combat zone, and breaking the rules to get some means commanders have more disciplinary problems than they had a year ago when there was more terrorist violence.

Drugs and booze are also forbidden. The Iraqis have plenty of both, and are willing to sell to the troops. With all this peace breaking out, the troops have more opportunities to connect while outside the wire. The troops that go outside makes a few bucks by supplying the fobbits (troops that rarely get off the "forward operating base") with outside drugs and booze. In larger bases, Iraqis also smuggle booze and drugs on to the bases. It's all a growing problem.

Psychologists are seeing far fewer cases of combat related problems, and more incidences of boredom induced fatigue. Commanders make it worse by putting more emphasis on traditional discipline. Troops have to watch out for snap inspections for proper uniforms and grooming (shaves and haircuts). Patrols get more rules about opening fire and dealing with locals (who are friendlier, and getting closer to troops who are less concerned with suicide bombers.)

Troops coming back for their second or third tour are happy with the less violent atmosphere. But first timers, especially those in combat units, are discouraged at the prospect of spending a tour in the sandbox without getting some exposure to combat. Peace may be a good thing overall, but there is a gritty underside that causes some headaches commanders have not seen before, and many didn't even see coming.


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