Are soldiers being pushed too far?

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by AIR FILTER, Mar 16, 2012.

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  1. In light of the US soldier who massacred Afghan civilians in Kandahar last week, reports now being circulated that he was very reluctant of serving yet another tour with his unit after the carnage he had witnessed to his comrades on previous tours, one has to ask the question if coalition forces are now being pushed too far under such arduous conditions from a mental/psychological point of view.

    The question is .... Should all combat tours of duty be strictly limited to a maximum number within a certain time frame of a soldiers career ??

    Or we could end up with a Johnny Rambo in every other town in the near future!
  2. Cold_Collation

    Cold_Collation LE Book Reviewer

    Hm. Let me put it this way:

    When I see coffins being carried out of aircraft or into and out of churches, one of my thoughts is often that the coffin-bearers are wearing too many medals. I'm not saying they haven't earned them; far from it. I'm happy that they have. But look back at the Cold War era: a soldier could finish a 22-year term with, say, a GSM for Northern Ireland, a UN medal and an LS&GC (maybe!) and be considered to have had a full career of soldiering.

    These days, a lot of still very young men are wearing the strings of awards that we're more used to seeing on WWII veterans and yet we're supposedly 'at peace'.

    What those strings of medals tell me (and the fact that we habitually call up reservists during that 'peacetime') is that our army is way too small. The same could be said of the air force and navy.

    PTSD and the like may be better understood and accommodated than in the past, but I think there's a major mental health problem just ticking along. Yes, some of that will manifest itself in criminality but I don't want to indulge in lurid 'Johnny Rambo' sensationalism. A lot of the results are rather more prosaic: depression, homelessness, alcohol and drug addiction, suicide. There's plenty of precedent in recent times, whether it be NI, the Falklands, or GW I/II.

    Will something be done about it? Probably not. Will the forces be expanded to accommodate what they're being asked to do? I doubt it.

    Remember: once a serviceman or woman is no longer serving, he or she is in many respects no longer a 'military' concern or cost but a social/health service one.

    Should it be different? Absolutely. Some no doubt will get the help and treatment they need from the state and others will be supported by the various charities. Others, unfortunately, won't be that fortunate.

    It stinks but it won't change. But please, please don't try and turn this into a cheap outrage thread.
    • Like Like x 24
  3. the_boy_syrup

    the_boy_syrup LE Book Reviewer

    I would go the other way and state yes they are busy as per C_C's post above.
    But (and it's a big but) this is perhaps the golden age of soldiering.
    Soldiers IMHO have never been so highly thought of and respected by the nation.
    They are no longer a conscript army of National Servicemen fighting in Korea or elsewhere it's a highly trained force with good support.
    There are mechaniisims in place for people feeling the effects and strains to go to both in and outside the forces (the recent Red Arrow case for instance)
    I think we'll pretty much swing back to the one or two medals we saw previously after 2014 except for senior NCO and Officers.
    It's no good complaining about the lack of care after you've got hammered and shot 16 people.
    If it's not for you sign off and seek help if required but I'm sure there are lads out there who do enjoy the high tempo of ops against the boredom of normal barrack duties.
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  4. do you get any kind of psychological screening upon joining? how easy is it for a psychologist to determine if someone has sociopathic tendencies? training should weed out the people who ar ephysically not good enough but do we really try and weed out people who are psychologically unsuitable?
  5. No they are not. Haven't seen much evidence of WWI and WW2 vets going spastic and many had it harder than we have it on current tours. I wouldn't say Afghanistan is exactly arduous conditions with the FOBs and kit/supply chain we have these days. I'd say North Africa, Singapore , The Somme, Pachendale was arduous conditions.

    I just think many aren't as robust as our forefathers.
    • Like Like x 32
  6. Brotherton Lad

    Brotherton Lad LE Kit Reviewer

    I've read it can take 10 years for major dramas to emerge after a conflict.

    I certainly remember old blokes shouting and cursing in the streets as a youngster in the 60s and my mother explaining I shouldn't mind because 'it was the war that did it to them and they can't help it'.

    Don't see how psychological testing could help, you'd have to expose people to extremely abnormal levels of stress to find out if they were 'wobbly throwing' material.

    What's perhaps surprising is how rare these events are, though, personally I'd expect more as the mission winds down.
    • Like Like x 2
  7. i dont disagree with you but if as a population we've got a higher % of people who are mentally unfit for military service shouldnt we consider trying to weed them out? to be honest until fairly recently the forces were struggling to recruit and i think they'd have been reluctant to turn away a fit and healthy bloke just because some shrink said he was radio rental.
  8. There have been far worse conflicts for us with much higher rates of attrition as mentioned by Fallschirmjager, even the Falklands was worse. Current ops are nothing like as bad as our campaigns in the far east in WW2 and Korea or the Atlantic campaign. We don't often go to the sandpit for more than 6 months, 60 odd years ago it was years.

    It can't be helped that the occasional nutter gets recruited or becomes nuts.
  9. I was watching the Vietnam series on one of the sky channels recently and I'm sure it stated that during WW2 the average soldier faced 10 days of fighting per year bug during the Vietnam war it rose to 270! I served between the 2 iraq wars so cant speak with any knowledge of them and never went to afghanistan but if the figures are anything similar it's no wonder there's problems cropping up..
  10. I agree CC. Let's keep this focused on what matters.

    Multi medalled individuals are impressive on a superficial basis and I agree that they have been earned. However, as I have said in other threads, the issue of medals means people have been getting hurt, whether physically or psychologically. The proliferation of medals is a sign of being very busy. It is also a signpost for the health professionals to be ready for a long term busy future.

    HM Forces are sized by accountants' calculations rather than by what is necessary to retain a fully functioning and flexible combat capable military organisation. Train, deploy, recover, train, deploy, recover ... cannot be entirely healthy. WW2 lasted 6 years. The troops who served throughout were knackered by the end of it and many of them were not facing the enemy for more than a year. They did a great job and are rightly recognised for their great service to their country.

    Afghan has been going for 10+ years and started to ramp up whilst we were still putting a big effort into Iraq. Many whom I have met in my civvy job are on third or even fourth Herrick tours. They are knackered, jaded, going through the motions. It is not good for them or their troops.

    I feel that I left a job unfinished when I left both Herrick and Telic. I was not at the sharp end and only one personal friend died on ops. However, that feeling of a lack of completion, of a lack of success does bug me sometimes. I wonder whether those who have seen/done nasty stuff will experience these feelings in a more intense way that can affect their day to day life. The current support for HM Forces will not last once we withdraw from Afghan.

    H4H/RBL et al have got a huge challenge over the next 60 years. The National Lottery advert running at present is a good indication to those who have no idea. Funding will be a problem. Forward planning is needed.

    Will it change ? Not whilst the accountants are in charge.
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  11. i'm not really talking about PTSD/shell shock/bomb happy etc, i understand that if you put people in highly stressful situations they can struggle to come to terms with it and this can affect them. what i'm talking about is a guy who is a sociopath who just needs an incident to make him a psychopath.

    we all react to stress in different ways but that bloke who killed those afghans to me is no different to a guy who when faced with divorce or possible bankruptcy decides its a good idea to go and kill his wife and kids.
    • Like Like x 4
  12. but could it be helped? do we even try?
  13. It could also be that here was a greater support network once soldiers were de-mobbed with a far larger portion of the population being able to relate to 'post-service' issues that many faced. Not only would their freinds have servered and seen action, but many of their work collegues too, and signs that something was amiss in an individual recognised quite early on. In the forces I still have the suspicion that many hide potential career halting problems because, well, it's then end-ex for them should they come to the fore.
    There is also the fact that many in the media are not aware of just how much some troops deploy, and whilst the MoD likes to point out that unit x has only deployed once every 24 months, the troops in unit x have been 'lent' to othter units to bring up their numbers in the mean time, then return and once more deploy as unit x. I left in 2000 and still managed to pack in 3 tours in my final 2 years (Bosnia-Bosnia-Kosovo), and I know how exhausted I was after that. I shudder to think what that kind of tempo in Afghanistan does to someone.
    Plenty of former collegues of mine have 8 or more medals now, and in may cases have done more than one tour for each of them. Once you begin to tot that up into time served on ops factored into a 22 year career things get quite shocking.
  14. Brotherton Lad

    Brotherton Lad LE Kit Reviewer

    I haven't got the faintest idea what motivated the SSgt, nor do you. (Though a man who kills his own family is perhaps destroying something he believes is 'his' to destroy and frequently he then closes the deed by topping himself.)

    And I'm no psychiatrist who can decide that someone down the line is about to become a psychopath, so I'm unable to comment on the effectiveness of screening.

    I do believe, however, that centuries of practice in recruiting and training soldiers seems to work at least 99% of the time, which is why these things are so rare. The potential danger to my mind is much more long term and usually when the individual is no longer in the military.

    I agree that today's soldiers, once out, are more on a limb than WW2 vets. That was a war of national survival which every family had been through, so it was a shared experience. Nevertheless, that also led to a culture of bottling things up. Ask any WW2 or Korean vet for stories of wobblies been thrown and they all know one.

    The Great War even more so, to the extent that negative reporting is the most efficient way of describing the death toll:

    The Thankful villages where no men from the village died in the First World War
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  15. Tough one. I think we do but its hard to get a squaddie to open up to a RMN, MO or whoever. It's not in the culture to say I'm struggling and can't take it anymore.
    What reception is a someone gonna get that rocks up at a FOB asking people about their mental health?
    There is some advertising to try and change attitudes but I doubt this will change much.