Andrew Exum at WPR: After a Decade of War, U.S. Army Emerges Unbroken
This past week ... the U.S. Army released the results of an internal survey it conducted on the health of the force (.pdf), and the findings are encouraging. For the survey, 41,000 soldiers and Army civilians responded to an initial questionnaire, while another 500 soldiers and civilians responded to questions posed during focus group sessions.
The survey makes explicit what has been implied in defense policy conversations for the past several years: The all-volunteer force, which was never intended to fight a decade of continuous conflict, has nonetheless succeeded beyond all expectations in Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of maintaining its health and professionalism. High-profile stories such as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ massacre of civilians in Afghanistan have convinced many Americans and others that a decade of war has broken the Army and Marine Corps. But military officers are quick to point out that Bales is the exception, not the rule, in an Army in which 51,270 other soldiers have seen four or more combat deployments, and in which an additional 81,000 soldiers on active duty have seen at least three.
Six out of seven soldiers and Army civilians, the study reveals, trust their senior leaders to make the right decisions for the Army, and 90 percent of those surveyed remain willing to put the Army’s needs above their own. Whereas the soldiers who fought in Vietnam considered themselves amateurs and conscripts, 98 percent of the soldiers in the Army today consider themselves professional fighting men and women. As such, those who serve in the U.S. Army today are in no danger of losing their pride, heart or soul. And based on personal observations from the field, I can report the U.S. Army is today more combat effective than it was when I myself first led a light infantry platoon in Afghanistan in 2002.
There are, of course, causes for concern, which are outlined in the rest of the article.