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Joint Chiefs Chairman Worried by Morale Poll

October 17, 2003|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers expressed concern Thursday over a survey suggesting major morale problems among U.S. troops in Iraq, saying he was worried that he and other top officers were sometimes allowed to talk only to "all the happy folks" when they visited service members.

"I want to see the folks that have complaints. And sometimes they won't let them near me," Myers said when asked about the Stars and Stripes newspaper survey in which half of 1,939 troops responding said morale in their units was low or very low and that they did not plan to reenlist.

The newspaper, which receives funding from the Pentagon, also said that a third of the respondents complained that their mission lacked clear definition and that they would characterize the war in Iraq as having little or no value.

Four in 10 respondents said their jobs had little or nothing to do with their training. Some called their tasks "make-work."

The findings conflict with statements by U.S. commanders in Iraq and the Bush administration that portray the forces as gung-ho and well prepared.

Myers and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld addressed troop morale after the Army said at least 13 U.S. soldiers had committed suicide in Iraq, representing more than 10% of American noncombat deaths there. The Army said it had dispatched a suicide-prevention expert to assess the problem.

Rumsfeld said military recruitment and enlistment figures did not appear to reflect complaints among Reserve and National Guard troops about yearlong tours of duty in Iraq.

Rumsfeld and Myers said there might be a problem in the Army Reserve, but they did not specify what it was.

"I do talk to a great many of the troops," Rumsfeld said. "They seem up and recognizing the importance of the task they're doing and proud of what they're doing. On the other hand, I'm sure that you could ... find people who are concerned about something, or unhappy."

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