Friday, May 16, 2008

Setting Standards

The headline is a grabber.

43,000 deployed unfit for combat

The truth is only a little less disconcerting. 43,000 is an aggregate number since 2003. In 2007 there were "only" 9,140 troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq who had been judged medically unfit for deployment.
"It is a consequence of the consistent churning of our troops," said
Bobby Muller, president of Veterans For America. "They are repeatedly exposed to
high-intensity combat with insufficient time at home to rest and heal before

The numbers of non-deployable soldiers are based on health
assessment forms filled out by medical personnel at each military installation
before a service member's deployment.

According to those statistics, the number of troops who doctors
found non-deployable but who were still sent to Iraq or Afghanistan fluctuated
from 10,854 in 2003, down to 5,397 in 2005, and back up to 9,140 in

The reasons for an assessment of medical non-deployability vary.
A Pentagon staffer examined 10,000 individual health records last year
to determine causes for the non-deployable ratings, Kilpatrick said. Some
reasons included a need for eyeglasses, dental work or allergy medicine and a
small number of mental health cases, he said.

This is the first war in which this health screening process has
been used, the Pentagon said.
Most of the non-deployable service members are
in the Army, which is doing most of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. From
5% to 7% of all active-duty, National Guard and Reserve soldiers slated for
combat were found medically unfit due to health problems each year since 2003,
according to statistics provided to USA TODAY.

Unit commanders make the final decision about whether a
service member is sent into combat, although doctors can recommend against
deployment because of a medical issue, Army spokeswoman Kim Waldron said.

I'm not sure that I'm comfortable with the DoD's assessment of only a small number of mental heath issues and I certainly can't see the benefit in deploying a soldier needing eyeglasses to the lines. Some in Army leadership question the process as well.
At Fort Carson, in Colorado, Maj. Gen. Mark Graham ordered an
investigation into deployment procedures for a brigade deployed to Iraq late
last year. At least 36 soldiers were found medically unfit but were still
deployed, Graham told USA TODAY.

For at least seven soldiers, treatment in the war zone was
inadequate and the soldiers were sent home, he said, and at least two of them
should never have been deployed.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in
February, the panel's chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked Army leaders
about an e-mail from the surgeon for the Fort Carson brigade that said medically
"borderline" soldiers went to war because "we have been having issues reaching
deployable strength."

"That should not be happening," Army Secretary Pete Geren told the
committee. "I can't tell you that it's not, but it certainly should not be

This is one of the definitions of "overcommitted." It's time for new leadership, not more of McSame.

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