Tuesday, July 8
Troop Morale in Iraq Hits 'Rock Bottom'
Soldiers stress is a key concern as the Army ponders whether to send more forces.
Ann Scott Tyson, Christian Science Monitor , July 7, 2003
WASHINGTON – US troops facing extended deployments amid the danger, heat, and uncertainty of an Iraq occupation are suffering from low morale that has in some cases hit "rock bottom."
Even as President Bush speaks of a "massive and long-term" undertaking in rebuilding Iraq, that effort, as well as the high tempo of US military operations around the globe, is taking its toll on individual troops.
Some frustrated troops stationed in Iraq are writing letters to representatives in Congress to request their units be repatriated. "Most soldiers would empty their bank accounts just for a plane ticket home," said one recent Congressional letter written by an Army soldier now based in Iraq. The soldier requested anonymity.
In some units, there has been an increase in letters from the Red Cross stating soldiers are needed at home, as well as daily instances of female troops being sent home due to pregnancy.[...]
... The open-ended deployments in Iraq are lowering morale among some ground troops, who say constantly shifting time tables are reducing confidence in their leadership. "The way we have been treated and the continuous lies told to our families back home has devastated us all," a soldier in Iraq wrote in a letter to Congress.
Security threats, heat, harsh living conditions, and, for some soldiers, waiting and boredom have gradually eroded spirits. An estimated 9,000 troops from the 3rd Infantry Division - most deployed for at least six months and some for more than a year - have been waiting for several weeks, without a mission, to return to the United States, officers say.
In one Army unit, an officer described the mentality of troops. "They vent to anyone who will listen. They write letters, they cry, they yell. Many of them walk around looking visibly tired and depressed.... We feel like pawns in a game that we have no voice [in]."