Repeat Combat Tours Zap Troops' Mental Health

Survey finds steep rise in mental problems among soldiers on third, fourth tours
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2008 3:30 AM CST
American soldier passes death notices on patrol central Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008, a year after the US President ordered a surge in troops numbers to battle the raging violence in the capital....   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Cutting the time soldiers have between tours of duty helped the Pentagon boost troop numbers in Iraq—but has taken a heavy toll on soldiers' mental health, Reuters reports. An Army survey found a steep rise in mental health problems among soldiers returning for their third or fourth combat tour, and experts say the troops are not getting enough time to recover . "Soldiers are not resetting entirely before they get back into theater," said the head of the Army's mental health advisory team.

Among noncommissioned officers, 27% on their third and fourth tours suffered mental health problems last year,  compared with 18.5% on their second tours and 12% on their first tours. The Army admits its goal of stationing soldiers in the US for three years for every year in a combat zone is unrealistic given its demanding commitments. Troops now get just a year between deployments to war zones, and the Army is struggling to recruit extra mental health professionals.