Many young lieutenants & captains, key leaders in combat, seek exit & are deciding against Army careers in light of the open-endedwar on terrorism.
More than three years after the Sept. 11 attacks spawned an era of unprecedented strain on the all-volunteer military, [and w]ith thousands of soldiers currently on their second combat deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan and some preparing for their third this fall, evidence is mounting that an exodus of young Army officers may be looming on the horizon.
It is especially troubling for Pentagon officials that the Army's pool of young captains, which forms the backbone of infantry and armored units deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, could be the hardest hit.
The officers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan just wrapped up a year of grueling counterinsurgency operations — a type of combat the U.S. largely avoided after its struggle in Vietnam and that many in the Pentagon believe is the new face of war. They were in Iraq during last spring's uprisings in Fallouja and Najaf, June's transfer of power to an interim Iraqi government and block-to-block fighting during the retaking of Fallouja in November.
These officers have, in most cases, more counterinsurgency experience than any of their superiors. And they are the people the Army most fears losing.
By the time they make captain, young officers are usually approaching the end of their four- or five-year commitment. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty said the attrition rate for junior officers was not yet alarming, and the Army had several initiatives in place to help retain those deciding whether to make a career out of the military.
The Pentagon hopes that by next year, a significant troop reduction in Iraq will allow the Army to slow the pace of troop deployments, giving soldiers two years at home for every year in battle.
Yet Pentagon officials admit it is uncertain that this can happen by 2006."I still don't know if we can make it," said a senior Army officer at the Pentagon. "You tell me what Iraq is going to look like next year."