Nov 27, 2007
Best Not Last In Babylon
Below are some comments by Dr. Chris Demchak, former US army officer, now associate professor at the University of Arizona and author of the [interesting] Military Organizations, Complex Machines [Google Books Document].
In italics below each paragraph are Chris’s observations on [an AP] article. Chris offers caveats concerning the figures. But her overall conclusion is that “desertion is a powerful sign of an organization in trouble.”
Army Desertion Rate Jumps Sharply
Soldiers strained by six years at war are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80 percent increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. Overall, 4,698 Soldiers deserted this year, compared to 3,301 last year.
[note: about 9 per thousand in 2007 versus about 7 in 2006]
Army desertion rates have fluctuated since the Vietnam War, when they peaked at 5 percent . In the 1970s they hovered between 1 and 3 percent, which is up to three out of every 100 soldiers. Those rates plunged in the 1980s and early 1990s to between 2 and 3 out of every 1,000 soldiers. Desertions began to creep up in the late 1990s into the turn of the century, when the United States conducted an air war in Kosovo and later sent peacekeeping troops there. The numbers declined in 2003 and 2004, in the early years of the Iraq war, but then began to increase steadily.
[Most first term, most male, absent without leave for more than 30 days]
In contrast, the Navy has seen a steady decline in deserters since 2001, going from 3,665 that year to 1,129 in 2007. The Marine Corps, meanwhile, has seen the number of deserters stay fairly stable over that period, with about 1,000 deserters a year [but does not track desertions every year]. During 2003 and 2004, the first two years of the Iraq war, the number of deserters fell to 877 and 744, respectively
[but figures are guesstimates].
The Air Force can claim the fewest deserters, with no more than 56 bolting in each of the past five years. The low was in the budget year 2007, with just 16 deserters.
[Figures are suspect in general because everyone seemed to just stop counting for 6-9 months following the Iraq invasion in 2003, and USMC does not consistently track these numbers anyway. I found quite different assertions about desertions over the past several years, some rolling up 2003-2006, some counting back to 2001 in giving totals. Clearly these are being reported with an eye to the headlines.
Nonetheless, a clear jump without much fudging suggests a clear indicator of something….possibly the typical problem of not wanting to be the last soldier to die for a lost cause. No one wants to be just the guy who did not make it to the last ride out, and thus, no hero nobly defending the last stand. Soldiers talk about it, albeit obliquely, especially Reserve soldiers. I would guess the juniors are more prone to the panic effect. Not noted is largely where these desertions occur. My guess: pre-first deployment to Iraq and then pre-second deployment back in hard hit units. ]
-Hacked & Jacked Kings of War