U.S. Troop Deployment Patterns Put Families Under Stress
- Chad Groening and Jenni Parker Agape Press
- 2005 6 Jun
A retired U.S. Army officer and military analyst says he is not surprised that the divorce rate among military personnel grew dramatically last year, coinciding with the continued deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the Army, the most severe trend was among officers, with the divorce rate rising 78 percent since 2003 and reaching more than three and a half times the rate in 2000.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis points out that the constant strain that military deployment puts on an entire family, along with the stress of living with uncertainty about a loved one's safety, can weigh heavily on a marriage. After all, he notes, "You just don't know if your husband or wife is going to be killed or wounded. Marriages are incredibly fragile."
Maginnis feels the pace at which the U.S. military has been deploying its personnel has definitely tested that fragility. "I deal with these people every day," he says, "and I've seen people come and go back and forth from combat tours. It's going to strain even the best relationship."
The veteran Army officer points out that U.S. military leaders have found it necessary to maintain a continuous rotation of many thousands of troops in order to conduct the war on terror, including operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East. "In order to keep those numbers of U.S. personnel in those countries, much less the other 118 countries around the world [where] we have U.S. service members," he says, "that means the main force has to keep rotating through itself."
This constant cycle of deployment is putting tremendous pressure on military families, Maginnis notes. "I know of people who are on their third combat tour since 2001," he says, "and combat tours typically take not only a lot of energy and put an individual at risk, but it tears at the fabric of a family."
The Deployment Health Support Directorate, an agency that advises the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) on armed forces health issues, provides resources and information on government-sponsored support for military families. In addition, the DHSD's DeploymentLink website also offers links to several independent volunteer and nonprofit groups providing assistance and advocacy for military personnel and their loved ones, including such organizations as Army Family Team Building, Navy Services FamilyLine, and the National Military Family Association.
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Deployment Health Support Directorate (http://deploymentlink.osd.mil)