The wounded warrior debate – how to treat casualties of our wars

Summary:   As our long war concludes its 9th year the stress builds on our men and women in the armed services.  And on the people who care for them.  Largely hidden from view, on rare occasions these issues come into view.

(1)  Former Pentagon personnel official: The warrior units are holding tanks for misfits“, Noel Koch , blog of Foreign Policy, 16 June 2010 — Key points:

  • “Our men and women in uniform today represent the finest fighting force ever fielded. The only problem? There aren’t enough of them.”
  • “These desperate attempts at patching institutional shortfalls have human consequences: spouses are deployed multiple times as marriages falter and fail and children grow up with a parent they scarcely know; soldiers take their lives in record numbers, their deaths lamely assigned to “relationship problems”; and, most tellingly, recruiting NCOs commit suicide because they can’t bear the brutal stress put on them to bring in more people when qualified people are unwilling to join the military. The Army says it is meeting its recruiting quotas, but many of those recruited are unfit for service.”
  • The wounded warrior program (the warrior transition units, WTUs) have become dumping grounds for soldiers who never should have been recruited.  Most have never seen combat.
  • “These, in aggregate, are the results of going to war with insufficient manpower. These are the evidences of the failure of the All Volunteer Force. There was a time when the draft bound our nation together. Many believe that any attempt to restore it today could risk tearing us apart. Still, more and more people, quietly, are coming to the conclusion that careful consideration has to be given to restoring the draft.”

(2)  Noel Koch responds to General Cheek, but focuses on the plight of caregivers“, blog of Foreign Policy, 17 June 2010 — Key points:

  • “I learned early that the surveys used by DOD and, I am assuming, by the military services, are so primitive as to be useless.”
  • “These articles focused on the full array of caregivers: family members, the Recovery Care Coordinators … , Chaplains (one of them took his life); and cadre. What was striking was the impact of involvement on the caregivers. They are breaking, or broken.”

About the author:  Noel Koch served 6 years in Vietnam and has extensive experience in defense and security affairs; bio.  He was deputy undersecretary of defense for wounded warrior care and transition policy, dismissed in April 2010 (see this Huffington Post article).

(3)  Other volleys in the debate

  1. Rebuttal by Brigadier General Gary H. Cheek (Assistant Surgeon General of Warrior Care and Transition, and Commander of the Warrior Transition Command; bio)
  2. Here’s how screwed up the Army’s Warrior Transition Units are: Genuinely sick soldiers try to get out of using them“, Thomas E. Ricks, blog of Foreign Policy, 17 June 2010
  3. Koch responds to General Cheek: 90% of WTUers are not ‘wounded warriors’“, blog of Foreign Policy, 18 June 2010
  4. How to fix the Wounded Warrior program: A Marine’s perspective“, Thomas E. Ricks, blog of Foreign Policy, 18 June 2010
  5. Thousands Of Soldiers Unfit For War Duty“, Politics Daily (AOL News), 5 July 2010 — “In an unmistakable sign that the Army is struggling with exhaustion after 9 years of fighting, combat commanders whose units are headed to Afghanistan increasingly choose to leave behind soldiers who can no longer perform, putting additional strain on those who still can. The growing pool of “non-deployable” soldiers make up roughly 10% of the 116,423 active-duty soldiers currently in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

(4)  For more information

  1. Valuable background information about the Warrior Transition Units:  “Army Health Care:  Progress Made in Staffing and Monitoring Units that Provide Outpatient Case Management, but Additional Steps Needed“, Government Accountability Office, 20 April 2009
  2. Website of US Army Warrior Transition Command
  3. Website of the US Army Wounded Warrior Program
  4. Website of the Wounded Warrior Project — a private non-profit organization

(5)  Other posts about an army near the breaking point

  1. The Army is losing good people. That is only a symptom of a more serious problem., 18 January 2008
  2. News: “U.S. Army Isn’t Broken After All, Military Experts Say”, 20 March 2008
  3. An effective way to support our Troops: help the Blue Star Mothers of America, 8 June 2008
  4. Time: “America’s Medicated Army”, 12 June 2008
  5. “VA testing drugs on war veterans” – The Washington Times and ABC News, 18 June 2008
  6. Support the USO – more effective than a bumper sticker, 5 July 2008 — Another way to support our troops, more effective than a bumper sticker.
  7. Is post-traumatic stress disorder more common now than in past wars?, 17 July 2008
  8. “VA testing drugs on war veterans” – The Washington Times and ABC News, 18 June 2008
  9. Is post-traumatic stress disorder more common now than in past wars?, 17 July 2008
  10. Suicides skyrocket among US soldiers, 26 March 2009
  11. Another important story about our army nearing the breaking point, 28 July 2009

For more about this see the FM reference page An Army near the Breaking Point – studies & reports.

(6)  Afterword and contact info

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