Statistics from an internal study show that an increasing amount of soldiers return from combat and then, once home, begin taking part in high-risk behavior such as drunk driving, drug abuse, street-racing, domestic violence, petty crime, and suicide.
Due to these facts, more and more of our soldiers are losing their lives because of accidents, drug overdoes, murders and suicides even more than they are losing their lives in actual combat. According to General Peter Chiarelli who is currently the Army’s vice chief of staff, this particular Army internal investigation or study that was conducted was able to put into perspective how often times, we as people are more dangerous to ourselves than even the enemies.
Another discovery of this study was that leaders are losing a great deal of accountability and visibility over their own soldiers and are often completely unaware that soldiers have been abusing drugs and committing crimes along with attempting suicide while under their command.
These exact facts can easily be reflected within a case of 5 soldiers from Fort Lewis, Washington’s 5th Stryker Brigade, who found themselves charged with murder of civilians in Afghanistan in Kandahar this previous spring. This case has brought about questions upon questions regarding how the commanding officers could have overlooked such drastic signs of danger as drug abuse.
Pressure is continuing to increase in this time of war and within the next year, the Army may be pulling nearly 70,000 soldiers away from their families and homes again to send them into even more combat regardless of whether or not this may be some soldier’s third time there.
According to Brigade General Peter Bayer, who is the director of strategy, policy, and plans for the operations staff of the Army, the reality is that when we are experiencing ‘active-duty force’, there are not many units that are immediately available since almost everyone is scheduled to head out to somewhere. Bayer believes that people can not be surprised by these actions because the fast-pace of the entire situation has to come at a price.
At this very moment, there are more than 100,000 soldiers that are being prescribed anti-anxiety medications. An additional 40,000 are believed to be using drugs illegally. The pressure on the Army has forced them to become desperate for manpower, therefore retaining about 25,000 soldiers that normally would be discharged because of bad behavior. This includes approximately 1,000 soldiers that already have at least two convictions for felonies. Unfortunately though, the Army today doesn’t have a choice of being choosy with their soldiers.
With the exception of suicides, the Army has been able to record over one hundred fatal accidents involving active-duty soldiers along with 50 murders, a shocking 345 active-duty non-combat related deaths, which are about 100 more deaths than within combat with the year of 2009.
A lot of the mental issues that soldiers are experiencing can be alleviated by reducing the stress and simply giving soldiers the time that they need and have earned away from combat. The Army investigative study found however, that regardless of their rank, soldiers simply do not have nearly enough time out of combat to be with their families at home in order to properly recover. According to Bayer, every time he is called back to duty, it takes an even longer time for him to what his family believes is normal. Bayer completed a total of three tours in Iraq and now is employed at the Pentagon.
Woods, T. Ph.D. Army Suffering Drug Abuse and Crime. 2010.