Prev | List | Random | Next
Are you happy?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your happiness?
How about your next door neighbors? How happy are they - on your scale?
That last question was admittedly a bit tricky. It's hard to rate such a thing, since "happiness" is relative, (no to mention subjective), and you only know as much about your neighbors as they want you to.
How about this then: Are you more or less happy than the American troops in Iraq?
In this case you'd likely choose "more" with less uncertainty than when considering your neighbors. I can't imagine too many places I'd less rather be than downtown Baghdad, where a small but lethal minority of people, indistinguishable from everyone else in the crowd, wants me dead. Meanwhile my home and loved ones are far away, perhaps they are in Germany even, if I deployed from here. So I've got to worry about them being far from home too.
All in all, a bleak situation. I've got one thing going for me though, and I'll get back to that shortly. But there's not much reason for celebration, is there?
Now how's my morale? I began this discussion referencing happiness intentionally, because I would bet most civilians, when hearing that morale is low among troops in Iraq, think they know what morale means, and erroneously think it means something like "happiness".
Now I'll confess: I can't explain morale to you, anymore than I can explain happiness. But as you read about "low morale" among troops on the ground in Iraq, make sure you understand what's being discussed.
A few points to review from the press release on the topic (we'll leave the WaPo piece to those who prefer that spin):
The survey revealed that the most common combat stressors were seeing dead human bodies, being attacked or ambushed, and knowing someone who was seriously injured or killed. The most common operational stressors were uncertain redeployment date, long deployments, being separated from family and lack of privacy.
Perhaps not surprising but worth noting. I heard the same things first hand from folks coming back; when yesterday's battleground becomes today's campground, you wake up to corpses littering the area. Most people aren't preparred for the view. The negative reaction is part of being human.
The survey was taken at a time when conditions in Iraq were extremely stressful, yet 77 percent of Soldiers reported no stress or low stress. In this environment, 16 percent of Soldiers reported moderate stress and seven percent reported severe stress. Soldiers also reported low to very low morale personally (52 percent) and low to very low unit morale (72 percent).
The "morale" issue is the one the mainstream media (and a few bloggers) will focus on. But note that few soldiers would admit to stress.
Here's an explanation many won't like: That 48% of those surveyed reported something other than low morale is astounding. Many people I know would claim low morale regardless of reality. Why? Because, if you claim morale is not a problem, then no one will consider morale a problem. Then no one will do as much to improve morale. Get it? If your boss asked you "are you earning enough?" what would you answer?
Now lets make this clear: there are very few reasons for morale to be high in Iraq. There is no 'upside' to being far from home in a place where people want to kill you. Couple that with the previous observation and you'll realize what an amazing number that 48% is.
And note the larger number reporting low unit morale. It's the "hey I'm okay but take care of the other guys" attitude. It's the selfless nature of the American soldier.
Here's another fact sure to be unpopular with the doomsayers: the survey was taken last Fall. Almost everyone has missed the significance of that, anticipating a continued decline in morale. The group that was 'in country' at that time was the invasion force, they'd had their tours extended and were facing an uncertain future with no specific return time. They've since been replaced with a group that knows they will be in place for a year; that element of certainty does a lot for morale.
Finally, this statistic is also being used to mis-diagnose the situation by those still clinging to hope for a quagmire:
Twenty-three OIF suicides occurred in Iraq and Kuwait in 2003, yielding a suicide rate of 17.3 per 100,000. To date, only one suicide has occurred in 2004. During the same time period in 2003, the Army experienced 75 suicides worldwide, including those in Iraq and Kuwait. The total Army rate for calendar year 2003 was 12.8. The overall rate for the Army is consistent with previous years; the rate in Iraq is higher than historic rates for the entire Army...
Tragic, to be sure, but the less often repeated statistic is that the number
...is still lower than the rate for young males in the general U.S. population.
The last part doesn't fit the desired worldview of those wishing to depict the Army as a self-destructing entity, thus it is conveniently ignored or dismissed. It also would indicate that 'overwhelming despair' is not the primary emotion motivating of our new generation of heroes.
Make no mistake, we're not discussing a trip to Disney World here, and no one signed up for the sheer personal benefits of twelve months in Baghdad. But this is the first step in the Army's move to improve conditions - an acknowledgement and identification of a problem. This is good, for without that first step there would be no hope for improvement. Sadly, the information will be used for exactly the opposite purpose by many who see the world through 'nam-colored glasses.
And that's a morale buster.
Update: More from Blackfive here.
I just went through an investigation at my job over the same thing, result.... a bitching troop is a happy troop... and as long as they report doing something good "morale" is high or what ever. in the end "morale" is a meaningless politicol talking pointPosted by Richard at March 28, 2004 03:23 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(1) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)