Largely due to a considerable discrepancy between the number of estimated soldiers needed to sustain the battles currently being fought in the Middle East and the actual number of new soldiers being recruited, the United States army has bulked up its number of soldiers “stop-lossed” in recent years.
The term stop-lossed refers to the process in which soldiers, who agreed to enlist in the U.S. army for an allotted amount of time, are forced to extend their service. According to a report compiled by NBC, over the past six years the number of soldiers required to serve past their terms of service has reached 58,000, with these extensions ranging from a few months to over a year.
This regrettable milestone functions as the latest – though far from the only – example of how the U.S. army’s presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has failed to retain public support and is losing any credibility it once had. However, the U.S. army has failed to pick up on these sentiments. Instead, military officials are looking to get as much bang for their buck as possible out of American soldiers, whether it is in these conflicts or elsewhere.
While surprising volunteers with the news that they will have to serve an extra year is unethical, at least in doing so the military should gain enough manpower to carry out any reasonable conflict. However, the U.S. army’s presence in the Middle East, and more specifically in Iraq, has passed the point of reason. Therefore, regardless of the limits it extends for enlisted soldiers, the army has been unable to fill enough brain buckets to carry out its aims.
The U.S. army’s desperation goes beyond stop-lossed soldiers, as its endeavor to bring in 80,000 new soldiers annually has also decreased its once strict recruitment standards. This is apparent in the fact that the U.S. army issued more than a 50 percent increase in felony waivers in 2007. Felony waivers allow those convicted of felonies, ranging anywhere from rape to arson, to serve in the United States military. The number of felony waivers distributed totaled 511, which was a sharp increase from the number of felony waivers issued in 2006, which numbered just 249.
But at least after serving a year longer than they agreed to in the military, side-by-side with convicted felons, soldiers will have plenty of benefits to look forward to. However, while the U.S. army is willing to take much more than originally advertised, they are unwilling to give as much back to its servicemen—even a safety warning.
For example, a recent Washington Times article reported that veterans were offered small cash payments to test out an experimental drug known as Chantix to prevent smoking. However, it was not until after three months of testing that the Department of Veterans Affairs alerted test subjects that taking the drug could result in severe episodes of confusion and psychosis.
One silver lining that soldiers have to look forward to is the 2008 expansion of the GI Bill. The expansion pays for the tuition of any soldier at a four-year public university if he or she served three or more years in the military following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. However, prior to the bill’s expansion, President George W. Bush’s statements that he would veto the expansion of the GI Bill show that the problems in the U.S. army go far beyond the military itself. After all, it was only after a 75 to 22 vote in the U.S. Senate – a number that is outside of the President’s veto powers – that President Bush signed the expansion.
Although the practices of the U.S. army may fluctuate, those with power over the military, ranking as far up as President Bush, remain consistent in their inconsistency. Because of these shortcomings in leadership, attaining any progress in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan may be improbable. However, abusing soldiers, watering down the military and mistreating veterans is not the way to increase these odds.
Daniel Johnson is a fourth-year literary journalism and film and media studies double-major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filed Under: Opinion