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Thursday, March 15, 2007

OIF Reserve/National Guard Forces Especially Feeling Burden of War

Author and policy analyst Stacy Bannerman, on AlterNet:

The clock has already stopped for hundreds of National Guard soldiers and Army reservists who returned from Iraq suffering from PTSD that was either undiagnosed by the military, or the VA refused/delayed treatment. Pentagon statistics reveal that the suicide rate for U.S. troops who have served in Iraq is double what it was in peacetime.

Soldiers who have served -- or are serving -- in Iraq are killing themselves at higher percentages than in any other war where such figures have been tracked. According to a report recently released by the Defense Manpower Data Center, suicide accounted for over 25 percent of all noncombat Army deaths in Iraq in 2006. One of the reasons for "the higher suicide rate in Iraq [is] the higher percentage of reserve troops," said military analyst James F. Dunnigan.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more grafs and stats...


More than any previous war, the Iraq war is likely to produce the highest number of soldiers suffering from PTSD. There is considerable psychological distress associated with going into a country under the auspices of liberating a people, only to have them rise up against you, and it lingers long after the war has ended. Adding to the pressure is that many mental health officials believe that the nature of urban street fighting and insurgent warfare, coupled with heavy reliance on National Guard and Army Reserve troops, will result in higher rates of PTSD among this group of veterans than those in previous conflicts.

Another reason for the escalating mental health challenges is that while soldiers typically spent one tour of duty in Vietnam, troops are serving two, three and occasionally four rotations in Iraq. An additional challenge is the moral ambiguity of fighting a war without front lines, where the combatants are, or are dressed as, civilians. Many veterans are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile experiences such as shooting at civilians because they had failed to stop at a checkpoint.

"At least 30 percent of Iraq or Afghanistan [veterans] are diagnosed with PTSD, up from 16 percent to 18 percent in 2004," said Charlie Kennedy, PTSD program director and lead psychologist at the Stratton VA Medical Center. The number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans getting treatment for PTSD at VA hospitals and counseling centers increased 87 percent from September 2005 to June 2006, and they have a backlog of 400,000 cases, including veterans from previous wars. The most conservative estimates project that roughly 250,000 Iraq war veterans will struggle with PTSD.

Read the whole piece.

Interview with Bannerman:

Stats compiled from a wide variety of press reports, studies, etc:

National Guard/Reserves

- Reserve OIF KIA, as of end of Feb. 2007: 263
- National Guard OIF KIA, as of end of Feb. 2007: 408
- Combined reserve component, end of Cold War (early '90's): 1.2 million
- Combined selected reserve strength today: 830,000
- Portion of total overall military force: >1/3
- Portion of forces serving in OIF, 2004: 40%
- Portion of overall DoD budget: 8%
- Personnel deploying ANG units borrowed from other units in 2006: 1/3
- they needed to borrow: 60% (from a dozen other units)
- Of 170 guard troops required for deployment by the California National Guard's 756th in 2005, number available from the company: 7
- ...units tapped to arrive at needed 170 troops (called cross-leveling): 65
- ...locations individually tapped troops came from: 49
- U.S. reservist days of service, 2001: 12.7 million
- U.S. reservist days of service, 2006: 63 million
- Approved reservist permanent retirement disability claims, 2001: 16%
- Approved reservist permanent retirement disability claims, 2005: 5%

National Guard/Reserves - Equipment

- Portion of total military equipment funding allocated to reserves: 3%
- Guard units rated 'not ready' in U.S. due to equipment shortfalls: ~90%
- Current level of authorized stock of dual-use equipment: 50%
- Value of equipment needed to bring Guard units to full readiness: $38 billion
- Budgeted by Army to augment Guard equipment, through 2011: $21 billion
- Humvee shortage: 22,000
- Medium truck shortage: 42,000
- Rifle, machine gun, other small arm shortage: 53,000
- Night vision device shortage: 264,000
- Tactical radio shortage: 50,000
- Black Hawk helicopters available to fight forest fires in Montana, out of 12: 2

Please see The War List: OEF/OIF Statistics for additional and updated stats and figures.

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