Killing Themselves

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The latest sad chapter in how not to fight a war is in the process of being written.

Here is the tragic story: More servicemen are killing themselves — committing suicide — than are being killed in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. Why this is happening is the subject of some conjecture, some thought, some writing and mostly the stuff that drops out of a tall cow's ass.

We are deploying Army and Marine Cops men and woman three, four, five and six times to a combat zone — and for the ignorant, a "combat zone" is where people die. That is it. Stop wondering, stop the conjecture and figure out a way to either decrease combat employment — which is difficult when you fighting a war — or increase the size of the military and with either choice get some real leaders in uniform who know how to fight and care for their soldiers one is not exclusive of the other.

We were doing "stop loss," which is another way of holding servicemen in a combat zone beyond their volunteer service. We extended tours in combat zones to 15 months; we rotated Marines into combat zones in 7-month intervals. We deployed both Army and Marines in lengthy training exercises when they were at home base. We failed to promote NCOs and officers who showed combat leadership skills ahead of those who were not.

You want two examples of what happens when you have bad leadership? Abu Grahib and being attacked 900 times a week as we were in 2007 is what happens. We continued to prosecute combat soldiers for doing their jobs, creating a “look over your shoulder” lack of trust in the chain of command condition that is intolerable.

All this — and so much more that we did to these great heroes — creates an unhealthy environment where suicide breeds.

Let me be clear, combat is an unmanageable human condition. You are exhausted; you are bored; you are terrified; you have peer pressure beyond belief to hold up your end to not “screw up” — responsibility for others that cannot be taught only experienced in moments that will never leave you.

You are dirty, blood-stained with the smell of burned flesh and death that holds you in a cage for all your days. One day in combat changes you, makes you take a turn in your life that God could not have intended. And we have put our servicemen through that for the past seven years, time after time after time after time.

The idiots who keep denying that a war lasting this long is not hurting the military, that any war lasting this long does not have a dilatory effect on those fighting it, are just flat wrong. And did I mention stupid as well?

So guess what we are doing to help? Guess what our country is doing to stop this madness? Guess what our military leadership is doing to help its own?


We are giving soldiers in combat classes telling them, not to let the stresses of combat stress them out! This cannot be allowed to continue unchallenged. All the classes and commentary will not change the facts: our military is too damn small and too damn stressed. When more soldiers die killing themselves than the enemy does, we are in trouble!

This is not about how well the surge did or did not work in Iraq. This is about the real consequences of taking too long to do the surge.

If we are going to continue with this War on Terror — and we are — then we need more of soldiers. We need to take much better care of the ones we have. We cannot keep asking the ones we got to do more — they are breaking; their families are breaking.

I will remind us again: There is a generation of military kids that are growing up without their fathers or mothers. Now those same parents are coming home and killing themselves.

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Colonel David Hunt, U.S. Army (Ret.), is a FOX News military analyst and the author of the New York Times bestseller They Just Don’t Get It. He has extensive operational experience in counterterrorism, special operations, and intelligence operations. He has trained the FBI and Special Forces in counterterrorism tactics, served as the security adviser to six different Olympic Games, testified as an expert at many major terrorist trials, and lectured at the CIA, the FBI, and the National Security Agency. You can read his complete bio here.