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January 26, 2005

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What do MEU and SOC stand for?

Slarty not everyone will understand military jargon. So since I figure someone will ask about it:

Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)

and it used to be called:
Marine Amphibious Unit (Special Operations Capable)

"The six and duration policy was canned after WWII as means to deal with combat fatigue. Some units in WWII (3ID) suffered 120% casulties. When adjusted for only combat arms units, the numbers skyrocketed. Therefore, it was decided to limit combat tours to one year, which was found to be a maximum time before combat stress started to affect an entire unit."

From the comments. This is not a criticism of the troops, but humans wear out, just like tires on a jeep. This is a fact that can't be trained away. The shrink I saw at West Point (CSPAN) said 30 days continuous, 90 days lifetime was all the combat an average man could handle with degrading.

What is "combat"? Well, it was horrible, but English, Russian, German civilians were bombed every night and got up to rebuild every morning. Combat is the stress of picking targets and killing people. Watch "Band of Brothers" and try to count the days the troop were actually shooting their weapons. Maybe not 90 days total in the year in theatre.

Most urban cops I think are allowed three shooting incidents and than are desked. Why? What are the symptoms of combat fatigue? Well, not always breakdown and avoidance of combat. The dude who got shot at and survived by shooting becomes less and less discriminate in his choice of targets. The cop becomes dangerous, the soldier becomes callous and brutal. "Friendly fire" and "collateral damage" and "fragging" become a real problems.

Who knows why they didn't massively increase force strength in 2002? But because they didn't, I think casualties out of Iraq are in six figures. Men have had their souls destroyed.

"Who knows why they didn't massively increase force strength in 2002?"

Couldn't have gotten the war.

"But because they didn't, I think casualties out of Iraq are in six figures. Men have had their souls destroyed."

Christ I hope not six figures. Gladwell or someone had an article in the New Yorker recently arguing that people are better at burying trauma than we currently tend to think.

Christ I hope not six figures.

Only if you don't count Iraqi casualties.

rilkefan, could you could link to that NYer article? I'm curious, since I've read just the opposite: that PTSD is a lot more prevalent in veterans than was once thought/admitted.

And 'better at burying trauma' implies there's something to bury it in, like a sustainable personal/professional support system.

I'm agnostic about counseling, per se. There just aren't very many good counselors out there; too many seem to think their job is enabling emotional/mental problems rather than healing them. I'm referring more to a rewarding career/loving family/loyal friends support system. The problem with this is that soldiers, since they tend to come largely from areas and families already suffering socio-economic stresses, are less likely to have a rewarding career/loving family/loyal friends waiting for them when they (eventually) return to civilian life.

Casey, here you are. I haven't reread it to see if it says what I assert. And I think Gladwell generally gets a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong, so caveat emptor.


"Only if you don't count Iraqi casualties."

I'm talking about the additional horror.

Interesting that this thread should take this turn. I have been considering posting the question, who here has been in or near a war? -- just to see, and also to ask, what did you learn? I was in Israel during the war in Lebanon, and therefore right next door to one, but not in it. And at the time I was in one of those odd phases when it seems as though I have a great big sign on saying: You may not know her, but you can tell her anything. At any rate, people did. And there were a lot of guys just back from the war, and they were in absolutely terrible shape. One wasn't sleeping, and his mind was just racing a mile a minute in a way he couldn't control. (45 days doing special forces kinds of work.) One had horrified his entire (conservative Jewish) family by converting to Christianity as a result of Christ's having appeared (physically, he said) next to him in a firefight. I mean, these guys were really, really damaged. And I should say that none of them were trying to seem damaged; on the contrary, they were trying desperately to hold it together and make it seem as though nothing was wrong. The lesson I took away from it all was: casualty figures are always low. I didn't meet people who had died, obviously, and those who had been wounded were generally still hospitalized. The people I talked to weren't on any casualty list. But they were casualties by any stadard I recognize.

One had horrified his entire (conservative Jewish) family by converting to Christianity as a result of Christ's having appeared (physically, he said) next to him in a firefight. I mean, these guys were really, really damaged.

Uhmm, excuse me, but you might want to put a little more daylight between those two ideas.

You're right; part of the reason I didn't was that I remember his having described this meetings in ways that struck me as out of character for the actual Jesus, so I was inclined to discount the explanation 'Christ really did appear'. But I should have made that clearer.

If I tell you all about my meeting with Quetzalcoatl the other day and his take on the Bush admin's Central American policy, will anyone doubt my sanity?

rilkefan: when I was little (maybe seven), I decided that since other people had religions, I was going to worship Quetzalcoatl (who I knew mostly from Bellarophon coloring books), and promptly set about carving a fireplace log into an idol with my jackknife. Imagine my amazement when I actually got a postcard from Quetzalcoatl, a postcard which was actually postmarked in Mexico City. In retrospect it seems clear that one of my parents' friends had heard about me and my religion and had mailed it, but at the time I was really thrown for a loop.

hilzoy, no, actually that was Him, I mentioned I hang out here and He said some appreciative stuff about your work, which He knew back then was going to be good. He also said something about how you ought to seek out a warmer climate, but maybe He was joking.

Mortals are so hung up on names. Quetzalcoatl was described as bearded and light-skinned, and the son of a virgin. You say tomato, I say tomato

Quetzalcoatl was described as bearded and light-skinned, and the son of a virgin.

...so, obviously no relation to the swarthy, bearded, son of a carpenter of the House of David. ;-)

Uhmm, excuse me, but you might want to put a little more daylight between those two ideas.

Why? I realize that this sort of experience is a staple of certain sects and religions--but when a person starts experiencing hallucinations, that counts as damaged in just about any professional, scientific evaluation. Either that, or they're under the influence of mind-altering substances--a staple of certain other religions, to be sure, but not mainstream Christianity.

rilkefan- Thanks for the link. The article is interesting, and makes some good points, but I can't call it persuasive when most of its case consists of excerpts from a novel; one, moreover, set in a very different cultural milieu from today.

In fact, even in its own context, the novel doesn't make a good case for "recovery" from war-associated PTSD. Yeah, those people drink. A lot.

The duration-plus-six formulation is interesting. Comments at the Blackfive site suggest that this deployment formula could not be employed without a specific declaration of war by Congress.

And that's the basic issue, isn't it? The war against Saddam Hussein's regime is over, but the Global War on Terror doesn't even have territory that the military can hope to occupy. These thousands of soldiers are deployed, but they're not quite sure which war they're fighting in service of.

It sounds like Blackfive's poll suggests that the military servicepeople surveyed belived that they were deployed to Iraq on the mission of overthrowing the old Iraqi regime and securing the transition to a new Iraqi regime (or elections, or whatever). It sounds like the servicepeople polled are getting a little (and understandably) frustrated over mission creep. They want to know, and wished they had known, at what point their jobs will be considered to have been done. That's a damn good question, one to which they deserve an honest answer. Does anyone have a decent sense of the current answer?

"Does anyone have a decent sense of the current answer?"

When the ideology is so unattractive as to pose no significant threat.

If the analogy is the cold war, a fifty year containment, attrition and conversion process, we are going to need a whole lot more resources than are currently allocated.

I had really hoped someone with more military experience would have demolished my earlier comment.

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