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Survey indicates US troop morale problems in Iraq
( 2003-10-17 11:11) (Agencies)

The Pentagon's top general expressed concern on Thursday over a survey suggesting major morale problems among the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, saying he was sometimes allowed to talk only to "happy" troops.

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters he was personally worried that when he and other top officers visited troops, they were only allowed to talk to "all the happy folks."

"I want to see the folks that have complaints. And sometimes they won't let them near me," Myers said when pressed about the Stars and Stripes newspaper survey in which half of 1,939 troops responding said morale in their unit was low or very low and that they did not plan to reenlist in the military.

The newspaper, which receives funding from the Pentagon, also said that a third of the survey respondents complained that their mission lacked clear definition and characterized the war in Iraq as of little or no value.

"It is useful insight," said Myers. "Morale is really important because it's people who get the job done."

Four in 10 respondents to Stars and Stripes said jobs they were doing had little or nothing to do with their training. Some called their tasks "make work."

The findings conflicted with statements by U.S. commanders in Iraq and Bush administration officials that portray the forces there as gung-ho and well-prepared.

The survey also suggested that difficult conditions in Iraq and prolonged tours of duty have left the U.S. military so stressed that it could cause a major exodus from the armed forces.


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the Pentagon briefing that military recruitment and enlistment figures did not appear to reflect the complaints among Reserve and National Guard troops and their families about yearlong tours of duty in Iraq.

Rumsfeld and Myers said there might be a problem in the part-time Army Reserve but they did not specify what it was. Both vowed to improve predictability in troop deployment.

"I'm told it was an informal and admittedly nonscientific poll," said Rumsfeld.

"I do talk to a great many of the troops. They seem up and recognizing the importance of the task they're doing and proud of what they're doing," he told reporters.

"On the other hand, I'm sure that you could go to any one of those groups and find people who are concerned about something, or unhappy, or don't have sufficient access to Internet or telephone to their families."

The secretary said that one problem being addressed was that the families of active forces tended to be live close together around military bases in natural support groups.

But part-time Guard and Reserve members in a single unit could be spread over four or five states, he added.

Rumsfeld and Myers addressed troop morale after the Army said that at least 13 U.S. troops have committed suicide in Iraq, representing more than 10 percent of American noncombat deaths there, and that it had dispatched a suicide-prevention expert to assess the problem.

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