Senate Democrats

With Troops Strained from Multiple Extended Deployments, They Deserve a GI Bill Worthy of Their Sacrifice

Yesterday, the Pentagon announced troop rotations for units rotating into Iraq and Afghanistan, putting thousands of soldiers on notice that they will be deployed again. These repeated and extended deployments have put great strain on our forces, hurting their ability to do their jobs and resulting in increased mental health problems. These numerous deployments have also strained our military families, with higher divorce rates and incidence of domestic disputes. Our highest military and civilian leaders, including Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen, have expressed great concern about the strain on our troops. Our troops have sacrificed greatly for us, and they deserve a 21st Century GI Bill that is worthy of their sacrifice.  

Announcement of troop rotations puts units on notice that they are facing third and fourth tours.

25th Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade – Facing Third Tour. 

25th Infantry Division, 1st Brigade – Facing Second Tour.

4th Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade – Facing Third Tour.  

1st Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade – Facing Third Tour. 

82nd Airborne Division, 3rd Brigade – Facing Fourth Tour. 

1st Cavalry Divsion, 3rd Brigade – Facing Third Tour. 

172nd Infantry Brigade – Facing Third Tour.  

[Associated Forces Press Service, 5/19/08; Veterans for America, “The Consequences of Churning,” 4/4/08]

National Guard units are also facing multiple deployments:

Louisiana National Guard, 256th Brigade – Facing Second Tour. 

Pennsylvania National Guard, 28th Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade – Facing Second Tour. 

Tennessee National Guard, 278th Armored Calvary Regiment – Facing Second Tour. 

Texas National Guard, 72nd Brigade – Facing First Tour. 

[Associated Forces Press Service, 5/19/08; Veterans for America, “Weekend Warriors to Frontline Soldiers,” 4/4/08]

Army study found repeated, extended deployments hurt job performance, cause mental health strain.

Army Study of Soldiers Deployed to Iraq Found Longer 15-Month Tours Hurt Soldiers’ Ability to do Their Jobs Effectively. “The Iraq study, based on anonymous surveys of 2,295 soldiers in Iraq in October and November, also was the first to look at how soldiers were affected by the 15-month combat tours implemented at the start of last year… Similarly, the longer tours had a significant effect on soldiers’ ability to do their jobs effectively. Soldiers reported that they were increasingly less able to work carefully and were getting more complaints from their supervisors by the end of the 15-month tour.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/7/08

  • Report Shows Morale Down With Multiple Tours, Causing Significant Increase Duty Performance Problems. “The report showed a sharp decline in morale for those on their third and fourth tours — with 15.6% saying they had "very high morale," down from 27.1% for NCOs on their first deployment — as well as a significant increase in problems doing their jobs.  ‘Soldiers are not resetting entirely before they get back into theater,’ said Lt. Col. Paul Bliese, who headed the team that conducted the study. ‘They’re not having the opportunity to completely recover from the previous deployment when they go back into theater for the second or third deployment.’”  [Los Angles Times, 3/7/08]

Army Study Found Rates of Mental Health Problems in Noncommissioned Officers Rose From 12 Percent Among Those on Their First Tour, to 27 Percent for Those on their Third Tour. “The report showed that 27.2% of noncommissioned officers — the sergeants responsible for leading troops in combat — reported mental health problems during their third or fourth tours. That was up from 18.5% of those on their second tour and 11.9% of those on their first tour. Mental health problems include signs of depression, anxiety and stress disorders.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/7/08]

Colonel Charles Hoge Testified 15 to 20 Percent of Combat Troops in Iraq Experience Mental Health Issues Due to Longer and Multiple Deployments.  “The results of these investigations have shown that 15-20 percent of combat troops deployed to Iraq experience significant symptoms of acute stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, or depression, and 15-20 percent of married service members experience serious marital concerns. The MHATs have shown that longer deployments, multiple deployments, greater time away from the base camps, and combat frequency and intensity all contribute to higher rates of mental health problems.” Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel  Hearing on Department of Defense Mental Health Services, 3/5/08]

  • 12 Month Dwell Periods Between Deployments “Not Sufficient.”  “We have good data that after a 12-month deployment, 12 months back home is not sufficient to reset. We actually see rates of mental health concerns rise slightly during that 12-month period. They certainly don’t go down.” [Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel  Hearing on Department of Defense Mental Health Services, 3/5/08]

Repeated, extended deployments have strained military families.

Army Behavioral Study Detailed Family, Relationship Strains After Extended Deployments.  “Most strikingly, soldiers reporting they intended to separate from or divorce their spouses shot up over the course of the 15-month tours, with 30% of all junior enlistees saying they planned to break off personal relationships by the end of their deployment. Only 10% reported similar feelings at the start of their tours.”  [Los Angeles Times, 3/7/08

  • U.S. Troops on Third, Fourth Tours of Duty Face Real Strains on Family Life.  “Some U.S. soldiers are now on their third or fourth tours. Deployments have been extended from a year to 15 months, with only a year at home between tours.  The long deployments take a heavy toll on personal relationships, said [U.S. Army Capt. Jaron] Wharton, whose wife is also an Army captain who has served two tours. ‘In most of these deployments, the girlfriend, she’s not there at the end,’ said Wharton, 29, of Hoover, Alabama, who has also served in Afghanistan. ‘Fiancees are hit or miss. And sometimes even wives are gone.’”  [Reuters, 3/14/08]  

Army Divorce Rates Skyrocketed For Troops Serving in Combat Zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The number of active-duty soldiers getting divorced has been rising sharply with deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. The trend is severest among officers. Last year, 3,325 Army officers’ marriages ended in divorce — up 78% from 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion, and more than 31/2 times the number in 2000, before the Afghan operation, Army figures show. For enlisted personnel, the 7,152 divorces last year were 28% more than in 2003 and up 53% from 2000. During that time, the number of soldiers has changed little.” [USA Today, 6/8/05]

Army Survey Found Combat Service Increased Rates of Divorce, Anger and Other Family Problems. “In post-deployment reassessment data completed in July, researchers also saw soldiers with anger and aggression issues increase from 11 percent to 22 percent after deployment. Those planning to divorce their spouse rose from 9 percent to 15 percent after time spent in the combat zone. And that’s just the start of the problems, according to military family support groups. ‘At the end of the day, wounded servicemembers have wounded families,’ said Joyce Wessel Raezer, government relations director for the National Military Family Association. ‘More must be done to link servicemembers and families with the services they need and the information about PTSD and other mental health issues.’” [Stars and Stripes, 12/9/05]

Military and civilian leaders have expressed serious concern about the strain of multiple extended deployments on our troops.

Admiral Mullen Said Military is Tired and Worn Thin by Wars. “The top uniformed military officer on Wednesday described a tired U.S. military force, worn thin by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and unlikely to come home in large numbers anytime soon. The assessment comes as President Bush decides whether to continue troop reductions in Iraq — possibly endangering fragile security gains made in recent months — or not, and risk straining ground forces further. ‘The well is deep, but it is not infinite,’ Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. ‘We must get Army deployments down to 12 months as soon as possible. People are tired.’” [Army Times/Associated Press, 2/8/08]

Secretary Gates Admits that Current Deployments Are Difficult on Soldiers.  “Obviously, I worry about the strain on the force. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Joint Chiefs, we all worry about the strain on the force. We all know that these 15-month tours have been very difficult on our soldiers. We know that the longer tours for the Marines have been very difficult for them. But the generals will tell you these young men and women are amazingly resilient and determined. And I think that Admiral Mullen has said, just this week, that there’s a spring in their step because they know that they’re being successful. So, yes, they’re under strain, but they’re determined. And frankly, the decision to go back to 12-month deployments the increase in the size of the Army and the Marine Corps — there are a number of measures in effect to begin to relieve that strain.”  [Statement of Sec. Gates, "Face The Nation", CBS 04/13/08]

Admiral Mullen Expresses Concerns about Suicide; Admits Forces Near ‘The Red Line.’ In an April interview with reporters, Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen said that we need to reduce stress on our troops or risk crossing the “invisible red line” of placing too much strain on our forces.   "We’re all concerned about the increased number of suicides in the Army," he said, and stated, "I think we’re close to (the red line) now.”  [“Lengthy, Repetitive Deployments Risk Forces, Mullen Says” Defense Department Documents and Publications, 4/1/08]

General Cody Testified He Has Never Seen Our Lack of Strategic Depth Be Where It Is Today. “Right now, as I testified, I’ve been doing this for six years. As you know, I was at G-3 of the Army and vice chief now for almost four years. And I’ve never seen our lack of strategic depth be at where it is today.” [Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Readiness, 4/1/08]