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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005

Part IV

Sustaining the Campaign

Chapter 13
Taking Care of Soldiers



During OIF the US Army devoted immense effort and resources to improving and sustaining its Soldiers’ quality of life. The phrase “taking care of Soldiers,” long a motto of the Army’s Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Corps, included a vast array of programs in OIF to protect the Soldiers’ physical and mental health, to maintain their morale during off-duty periods, to sustain them over the long duration of year or year-plus tours, and perhaps most important, to treat them when they became a casualty in battle. Though sometimes criticized for the cost or for creating an occupation mentality not suited to overall campaign objectives, the effort is consistent with the gradual evolution of the Army’s support for its Soldiers. Living on well-equipped FOBs provided Soldiers in this period of OIF with the only respite available from the 360-degree threat environment of full spectrum operations.

In a parallel effort, the Army has improved its programs to support the Soldiers’ families before, during, and after deployments. The greatly expanded use of the ARNG and USAR exposed the need to better prepare and support those Soldiers and their families. They faced the same challenges as their Active Duty brothers and sisters, as well as challenges unique to their Reserve status. Expanded counseling programs, family support groups, the R&R leave program, and instantaneous communications via the Internet shrunk the vast distances between Soldiers in Iraq and their families at home.

The Army’s greatest accomplishment in taking care of its Soldiers during this period of OIF was in the areas of emergency medical treatment and evacuation. Changes in doctrine, such as locating surgical teams further forward and rapid evacuation back to Level IV or Level V hospitals provided wounded Soldiers with more advanced care sooner than ever before. Improvements in personal protective gear and vehicle survivability, when combined with the tactical superiority of US Soldiers, kept overall casualty levels low. Improved trauma equipment such as clotting bandages and improved tourniquets saved many Soldiers who would have died of their wounds just a few years before OIF.

Advances in prosthetics and the AW2 Program allowed recovered Soldiers to continue to service in the Army with injuries that would have been grounds for discharge in previous wars. Indeed, many Soldiers wounded in OIF were determined to continue to serve the Army in whatever capacity their physical conditions would allow. In a great number of cases, Soldiers who suffered debilitating injuries saw the event as changing the nature of their service, not ending it. Unlike civilians drafted for temporary service in wartime, many volunteer Soldiers made a lifetime commitment when joining the Army. In 2003 and 2004, the Army continued and expanded on the long-standing tradition of treating its Soldiers as truly its “greatest asset.”


Chapter 13. Taking Care of Soldiers

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