228436 Lengthy enlistments in "the long war": What are the costs for servicemembers and their families?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 : 12:30 PM - 12:50 PM

Stephen K. Trynosky, JD, MPH , U.S. Army Reserve, Washington, DC
Despite ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. military enlistment terms remain largely unchanged from the post-Vietnam, peacetime era. The four year enlistment remains the standard, initial service commitment for active duty enlisted personnel. Given recent unit operational tempos (OPTEMPO) and individual personnel tempos (PERSTEMPO), the four year enlistment ensures multiple, overseas deployments for many Army and most Marine personnel during their initial active duty enlistments. The frequency and cumulative duration of these deployments is unprecedented in modern, U.S. military history. Over the past eight years, a sizeable body of research has emerged that suggests that repeated deployments have an adverse impact on the physical well-being and behavioral health of servicemembers and their families. The suicide rate among active duty soldiers rose in 2009 and it represents the fifth year in a row this rate has increased. The U.S. Army Office of the Surgeon General reported that personnel with 3 combat deployments have over twice the risk of developing behavioral health problems than those with a single deployment. Families are not immune to these adverse trends as a Rand Corporation study revealed that the longer a military parent had deployed in the previous three years, the more likely their children were to have difficulties at home. Considering both the demonstrated and potential impacts that repeated deployments have on military personnel and their families, the peacetime, four year enlistment term may not be an appropriate policy in an era of prolonged conflicts.

Learning Areas:
Administration, management, leadership
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the correlation between servicemembers with multiple, combat deployments and their increased risk of behavioral health problems. Compare the duration of current U.S. military enlistment lengths and the frequency of individual military deployments with those during previous U.S. armed conflicts. List the potential challenges faced by military healthcare providers with lengthy, initial service obligations.

Keywords: War, Veterans' Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have 12 years of service as Medical Service Corps Officer in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Reserve. I gave two well received presentations on issues related to military healthcare at the 2006 and 2008 APHA meetings. This presentation is a continuation of that research. NOTE: This presentation represents the views and opinions of the author alone. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the US Army Medical Department, the US Army Reserve or the Department of Defense.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.