Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Sunday, December 12, 2004

Appel and Beebe
Written by: Goemagog

Rather than add to the already too big post where I brought them up, I'm writing a new one.

Appel and Beebe were two army shrinks who studied combat fatigue around the end of the second world war. Their study showed that every soldier will be incapacitated by the stress of battle, most being hit before they hit 90 "combat days". A combat day was not a calendar day, and under the way they defined "combat days" each ran around 3-5 calendar days, depending on theater. Things could be done to slow, mellow, and recover from it, but it was something that was going to hit every soldier. Rotating units back for rest, refit, and reinforcement kept units from constantly accruing "combat days". Soldiers who were fresh to combat tended to have a better recovery rate, with more of them being able to return to combat and sooner. Experienced soldiers were usually unable to return to combat, and had to be replaced.

So what does this have to do with Rumsfeld being an idiot?

We're also losing soldiers due to enlistment expirations. This is pretty normal, as soldiers not being deployed anywhere will normally be released (a declaration of war would have changed this, extending all enlistments to the duration of the war plus sixth months). Recruitment is running at about normal levels, capable of offsetting attrition in our armed forces.

Dead and wounded haven't been astronimically high, which means that normal recruitment will help replace those soldiers as well. The problem comes with the stress of battle rendering soldiers unable to fight. This, like the battlefield casualties, won't just be hitting soldiers doing just one enlistment, but will hit officers and career soldiers as well. Rotating units will help reduce the stress levels, but even disciplined soldiers will be hit eventually. This means that senios nco's and officers, people that have already spent a decade or more in uniform, will start becoming undeployable in larger and larger numbers.

In short, our soldiers have a shelf-life. Like milk, they last a certain period of time while sitting around keeping cool until they hit their retirement age. Each time they're pulled out and used in real combat situations, the greater the chance they'll "sour" early. With milk this isn't a real problem as you can always pop down to the grocery store and get more, but grocery stores don't carry first sergeants, S-3's, or any of the military specialities that take a very long time to train. Promoting people up to fill in the holes isn't much of a long-term solution, as the people being promoted have most likely already been deployed and have lost some of their own shelf-life.

The current rotations mean that most soldiers can be expected to make it through two or three rotations, three years deployed, which is a lot longer than the 200-240 days that was the threshold for many soldiers of the second world war. During that war, we had a draft to constantly provide fresh troops and replacement leaders were chosen from among them so that any hole could be filled. We don't have a draft now, and after three years in Afghanistan and half that time in Iraq, we don't know how long we're going to be rotating troops through combat areas. Once we've stabilized either of those two fronts, winning the war means we'll have to open new ones, stamping out terrorist sanctuaries in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

Rumsfeld's current plan has us fighting this war for another few decades. We can't keep rotating our soldiers indefinately, and that means exceeding current recruitment goals. Reenlistments won't be enough, returning soldiers may be highly motivated but time and battle will wear them down. If you think that's a depressing point of view, I haven't even brought up the implications of dumping so many broken bodies and minds on the practically useless Department of Veterans Affairs, an organization that couldn't keep up with peacetime operations.

Something else I've been meaning to bring up.

Rumsfeld and many others talk often of our soldiers being highly trained. I mentioned in the other post that many of them are highly trained in things they're not doing while deployed. A key part of the training is the time put into it. Things are done over and over until the soldiers can do whatever the training covers at a level the army wants. Yes, our soldiers are well trained, but every day spent deployed is a day not spent training. Our army may be well-honed, but it's not Ginsu, and the more time units spend doing what they haven't trained for, the edge they've gotten from their training will fade away.

Goe, saying rumsfeld is an idiot.

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