About the US Army – an army near the breaking point

Here are some recent articles about the US army, under great stress from our current wars.

  1. Task Force Takes Up Effort to Prevent Suicides“, American Forces Press Service, 1 October 2009
  2. Army Releases September Suicide Data“, DoD, 8 October 2009
  3. Pentagon, VA Team Up to Improve Mental Health Care“, American Forces Press Service, 26 October 2009
  4. Suicide Toll Fuels Worry That Army Is Strained“, Wall Street Journal, 3 November 2009
  5. Is There a Lot of Crime on Military Bases? Not as much as you’d think“, Daniel Engber, Slate, 5 November 2009
  6. Fort Hood FAQ – Can you carry a concealed weapon on military bases? And other questions answered“, Slate, 6 November 2009
  7. Update about the killings in Texas, perhaps another crack in an Army near the breaking point (second post), on the FM website, 6 november 2009
  8. Fort Hood tragedy rocks military as it grapples with mental health issues“, Los Angeles Times, 9 November 2009 — “Psychological problems are rampant, leaders admit. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been long, and repeat deployments are highly stressful. Doctors, too, fall prey to mental illness.”

The comments to the previous posts in this series have been largely by scum denying the problem and castigating those who draw attention to it.   As if “rah-rah” for America’s wars equals support for our people in the military.  Fortunately many in the Department of Defense takes these things seriously.  As expressed by SecrDef Robert M. Gates to the Association of the United States Army on 5 October 2009:

At the same time, we have added funds for the wounded, ill, and injured; traumatic brain injury; and psychological health programs to make sure our troops get the care they need when they return home. This includes a major effort by the Army to educate the force to prevent suicides and address the unseen wounds of war – to approach mental health in much the same way as physical health.

The dramatic rise in suicides is a huge concern of mine – and I take heart that the Army is every bit as concerned. The vice chief of staff is spearheading the service’s effort to reduce suicide, and I can tell you that it is both General Casey’s and General Chiarelli’s personal mission to address this problem. Aside from the conflicts themselves, taking care of our wounded warriors must be our highest priority.

This concern is shared by many journalists and outside experts, whose writings highligt these problems so that public pressure will support stronger efforts to support the people in uniform fighting these wars.

Lastly, let’s not forget the civilian support groups helping our men and women in uniform.  Such as…

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below. Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post. Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

12 thoughts on “About the US Army – an army near the breaking point

  1. >As if “rah-rah” for America’s wars equals support for our people in the military.

    Which of course it does.

    Could it be any clearer that the US militaries purpose isn’t to defend America it is to project American power into the rest of the world. Not only is it official US strategy as made plain in the last strategic review, but the idea that a nuclear armed military larger then the next 8 combined is needed to defend an America surrounded by oceans is just ludicrous.

    If you join an organization who’s very purpose is America’s wars with the full knowledge that you will be sent to fight in them and you joined because you think they should be fought – why aren’t you held responsible for your actions? Why shouldn’t the moral response be to not support you and your choices?

    These are very simple and straight forward questions but the moral panic that ensues when you ask them shows how deeply militarized America has become.
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    FM Reply: That’s a powerful insight. Wins best of thread, easily!

  2. I guess the question to ask is: What are the signs of a broken military? Mutiny seems an obvious choice, but there must be others. What are they? Once a military breaks, what happens then? Can Humpty Dumpty be put back together? Seems like Russia went along this path about 20 years ago. What shape is their military in now? Suppose the money spigot closes, what happens to the people in the field?

    The thing that bothers me the most are the suicides. People just don’t kill themselves for no reason at all.

  3. “THE COLLAPSE OF THE ARMED FORCES”, By Col. Robert D. Heinl, Jr., Armed Forces Journal, 7 June, 1971 — Excerpt”

    “THE MORALE, DISCIPLINE and battleworthiness of the U.S. Armed Forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at anytime in this century and possibly in the history of the United States.

    By every conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having _refused_ combat, murdering their officers and non commissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near mutinous.

    Elsewhere than Vietnam, the situation is nearly as serious. “

  4. Re #2 –

    The US is a voluntary military and all branches met their current recruiting goals. (google). The main issue to it’s future may be the indifference it commander displays.
    * “Putting Stamp on Afghan War, Obama Will Send 17,000 Troops“, NY Times, 17 February 2009
    * “President Obama weighs smaller surge in Afghanistan“, 29 October 2009
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    FM reply: As the articles referenced show, the Army has met its goals only by substantially lowering its standards — plus a boost from the worst recession since the 1930’s. Also, those 2 articles in no way show indifference by Obama.

  5. The Army had above standard guidelines but dropped them in 05 to the level of other branches. “US Army Lowers Recruiting Standards Due To Iraq“, Parapundit, 5 October 2005.

    But the Huffington Washington Post has them increasing standards in 09: “Army Raises Recruiting Standards As Economy Lags“, 19 April 2009 — Excerpt:

    The Army last month stopped accepting felons and recent drug abusers into its ranks as the nation’s economic downturn helped its recruiting, allowing it to reverse a decline in recruiting standards that had alarmed some officers.

    “plus a boost from the worst recession since the 1930’s”

    Good line. It worked for Bill Clinton too, but I haven’t seen any numbers that put the US close to the end of the 70s much less the 30s. Hell, Phoenix is banning feeding the homeless: “CrossRoads United Methodist Church in Phoenix loses appeal; can’t feed the poor“, 9 November 2009 — Excerpt:

    The controversy over the weekly pancake worship service arose last spring after neighbors complained about an increase of homeless people sleeping and loitering in alleys, incidents of burglary, aggressive panhandling, vandalism, public intoxication, prostitution and public urination. Parents of preschool students on the church campus complained that their children encountered transients in school hallways.

    The 2 articles make a good point. Obama has put more Americans in harms way, but is too busy golfing to develop of policy for their use or welfare.
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    FM Reply: Like your previous comments, this is filled with errors.

    (1) “The Army had above standard guidelines but dropped them in 05 to the level of other branches”

    The Army did not meet its standards during the war (e.g., intelligence, fitness, criminal records) until the recession hit. For example:

    For the third consecutive year {2007}, the Army missed DoD benchmarks set for educational attainment and scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test. … Until 2006, the DoD had a goal of at least 67% of recruits testing at least in the 50th percentile of the AFQT, in terms of the categories, I – IIIA. Since 2005, the percentage of active-duty Army recruits scoring in the top half of the AFQT has fallen. In 2007, it was 60.8% . The DoD attempted to cap Category IV recruits to less than 2% , but recently raised the cap to 4%. Historically, this has not been a problem, but since 2005, the percentage of Category IV recruits has been at least 4%. In 2007, it was 4.1%. (source)

    This is serious, as Cat IV’s tend to be expensive and troublesome.

    (2) “Phoenix is banning feeding the homeless”
    For reasons totally unrelated to this discussion, as the excerpt shows.

    (3) “Good line. It worked for Bill Clinton too”
    The very WaPo article you cite mentions that the downturn has aided recruiting.

    (4) “I haven’t seen any numbers that put the US close to the end of the 70s much less the 30s”
    This was discussed yesterday at length on this website in section IV of this post. This is the worst downturn since the 1930’s by almost every metric, almost as bad as the 1930’s by some, and worse by a few (fortunately very few).

    (5) “but is too busy golfing to develop of policy for their use or welfare.”
    That’s nuts. He’s taking time to do it right, which is good thing when making major policy changes. We’ve been there 423 weeks; a few more will make little difference. BTW — Eisenhower played a lot of golf, and was still one of our finest Presidents.

    I’m moderating your future comments. If not so filled with errors they’ll be posted.

  6. “guess the question to ask is: What are the signs of a broken military?”

    FM has already documented a great many of the indicators of a broken military, but perhaps one to consider more thoroughly is the gulf between the civilian and military sectors of the nation, which is wide and growing wider. I am not a veteran, but stay as well-informed as possible about military affairs, and also know some current/former members.

    The level of ignorance by many if not most citizens of basic military history, for example, is truly stupifying. In 2004, while in a restaurant in New Orleans, prior to visiting the National D-Day Museum, I took an informal survey of the teen and college-aged waitstaff of the establishment, some 10-12 young people in all. I asked a series of simple questions about the history of D-Day, and not one person was able to answer a single question correctly. These were not especially difficult, either, things like “What was the D-Day and where did it take place?” and “Who commanded the invasion Allied forces?” and so on.

    Apart from periodic displays of fervor on national holidays – and hanging another “Support the Troops” magnet on the car or minivan, most folks do not seem to think about military affairs much at all unless a family member or friend is in the service. One consequence of the AVF is that the people who make our forces come less and less from the communities in which we live, instead belonging to a professional military class that lives, trains and fights apart from the rest of us. Some people say our nation is at war, but IMO, we are not; it is more accurate to say our military is at war. The rest of the nation has not been mobilized, or called upon to make any sort of sacrifice, except those serving and their families. The mentality seems to be “Dogs and soldiers keep off the grass,” unless there is a national emergency.

    Since there is no draft, not everyone has skin in the game, and thus we can effectively ignore the AFV folks once they sign up, for after all, they volunteered.
    The result is an extremely over-taxed force, deploying over and over again, while the rest of the nation ignores it as it fights our wars. They do not want to know military history, why should they care about an action in a nation halfway around the globe?

  7. >The thing that bothers me the most are the suicides. People just don’t kill themselves for no reason at all.

    Sure they do – it’s all explainable by SHS – sudden hero syndrome.

    Mark Styrn – never have I seen somebody trying so hard to ‘save’ the modern world and yet not be a participant in it.

    Broken means what ? – that it can no longer accomplish it’s mission ? That here are no longer enough troops to succeed ? Then the US army was broken the day it went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fixing it will be just as simple – send it back to barracks.

    Broken is really code for the troops are fed up – so what ? show me the troops that are enjoying themselves once their friends start dying.

    There is a certain logic in the pro-war solution to sending more 40 yro ex-crack heads who haven’t been paying attention for the last 10 years – to raise the aggregate moral – at least until they get clued in to the situation.

    >The result is an extremely over-taxed force, deploying over and over again, while the rest of the nation ignores it as it fights our wars. They do not want to know military history, why should they care about an action in a nation halfway around the globe?

    European cringe at these sorts of comments. They know that they are at their heard deeply undemocratic and they know all to well where the militarization that you desire would lead.

    The idea that it would be good if the US went to a full war footing, alone in the world fighting some sort of shadow WW3 all by itself is not only bizarre but would be economically ruinous. Which is probably why Osama chose it as the centerpiece of his strategy against the US.

  8. Heh, old guys quizing wait staff over ancient history is always fun!

    “Since there is no draft, not everyone has skin in the game, and thus we can effectively ignore the AFV folks once they sign up, for after all, they volunteered.”

    Gee, ya think? Our leaders want to fight these wars with the population not even knowing they are going on! The days of calling for sacrifice from citizens are over! (at least, knowing sacrifices…is national bankruptcy a sacrifice?).

    The concept of victory, is undergoing change right now. Don’t hold your breath for crowds throwing roses. Not losing is the target.

    Our military needs to change…sometimes, this means a lot of them have to die. WWI, for
    instance. Our government also must change, probably to a more dictatorial form. WWII proved, that nation states were doomed, due to the massive civillian causualties of that war. If the current form of government cannot protect us (even soldiers on military bases!) then it will go!

    “The idea that it would be good if the US went to a full war footing, alone in the world fighting some sort of shadow WW3 all by itself is not only bizarre but would be economically ruinous. Which is probably why Osama chose it as the centerpiece of his strategy against the US.”

    ABSOLOUTLY. Fighting WWII again will just make us the losers this time.

    I find, that as time and war goes by, that I have less and less sympathy for any damn fool who signs up for it.
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    FM reply: That’s sad to hear. Most who sign up are young people, most recently out of high school. Looking for adventure, often with few other options, seduced by the romance of war. Perhaps you need to brush up on your empathy, and re-read Martin van Creveld’s “Culture of War”.

    More interesting and less commendable IMO are the geopolitical analysts who advocate these wars, knowing their terrible cost and low odds of producing any net benefit to America. They’re working their rice bowls, of course. Peace-niks face a grim future in the geopol business. Like economists who believe central banking an unsound idea.

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