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American Forces Press Service

Military More Aware of Stress on Troops, General Says

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2007 – The military is more sensitive to problems concerning stress and mental exhaustion than ever before, but more needs to be done, the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq told Pentagon reporters today.

“I think our awareness is up, I think our programs are in place to collect data, and now it's incumbent on us to take care of these men and women, once they redeploy, to make sure they get the care necessary to help them to progress in the future,” Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said.

Servicemembers burdened by combat pressure and lengthy or multiple deployments away from family members are experiencing “significant stress” in Iraq, Odierno said.

“I clearly understand there's a problem,” he said. “I want to make that very clear that … there is significant stress here in Iraq.”

The general said his overall goal is to reduce the U.S. military’s commitment in Iraq. But until then, servicemembers continue to deploy for up to 15-month increments.

“It's a long time for every soldier and Marine and airman … and sailor who's conducting 15-month deployments,” Odierno said. “It's a long time if you're the rifleman; it's a long time if you're commander; it's a long time if you're the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq; it's a long time to operate in a stressful situation.

“I do worry about it,” he said. “Fifteen months is a long time.”

The general said troops who redeploy show “extreme dedication,” but he expressed concern about their long-term health.

“I spoke to one of the new brigades that are coming in here to replace one of our brigades, and I asked, ‘How many of you leaders have been here before?’” he said. “Every one of them raised their hand.

“It's extreme dedication that these young men and women are giving to our country to conduct this operation,” he said, “and I do worry about their long-term health.”

Deployments also take a toll on servicemembers’ families, the general said.

“I worry not only about the soldiers, but their families and the impact it has on the families at home,” he said. “It's a combination, and that builds extra stress. It's not only now the stress of combat; it's the stress of being away from your family.”

Odierno said the military reduces servicemembers’ stress by rotating troops within country, which sometimes occurs on a weekly basis, he said.

“What we're trying to do is mitigate the risk of this increased stress on our soldiers and Marines, and we do that by rotating them out of these combat outposts and joint security stations back into bigger garrisons, and we do it based on unit responsibilities and capabilities,” he said.

The general has seen rotation programs enforced at every unit and battalion he’s visited in Iraq. Company commanders, platoon sergeants and first sergeants also are “rotated out” to reduce stress. “So I feel confident that they are very aware of this,” he said.

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