Chapter Ten

The Gulf War: Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm

During the Gulf War, data were gathered on the stress, psychological status, and self-reported symptoms of a reasonable population of troops during deployment, prior to combat, and at several points following combat. Since I was responsible for organizing and carrying out this particular data gathering effort among U.S. Army personnel, I am able to present primary and historical source data. For the first time, we can systematically look at soldiers’ appraisals and responses to the perceived stressors of the deployment. We can then compare these responses and their patterning to the general consequences of combat and deployment.

Even more so than for the Vietnam War, the Gulf War presents us with a grave conundrum. The actual level of combat and combat exposure was minimal compared to past wars. The proportion of the force that required any form of medical attention in the precombat, combat, and prereturn periods was far lower than it would have been in garrison. For most, the stresses of the deployment outweighed the stresses of the combat period. In general, those who perceived themselves as most stressed and symptomatic in the precombat period were those who were most symptomatic following combat and also saw themselves as most stressed by those events following return.

Well after returning, a subset of the population attributed their medical problems to happenings in or during their time in the Gulf. A segment of the force experienced an array of physical and psychological symptoms that began to be attributed not to the erosive nature of the deployment, but to an unknown but probably unique toxin or pathogen. The similarities of these troops to troops returning from Vietnam who claimed exposure to Agent Orange is striking, as is the constant theme of trying to find the "singular" cause of Gulf War illness. This quest and belief has, for many, led to a dismissal or denial of the roles precombat, combat, and postcombat stresses, beliefs, expectations, and fears may have played in the amplification of and anguish caused by symptoms that may have less mysterious origins. These illnesses appear to share the same array of causal factors that have been noted throughout recent history and that many, particularly a number of veterans, appear to have rejected since Vietnam, in favor of the quest for a singular cause and thus the hoped-for cure.


Because of the perceived ease of the Desert Storm victory, which combined a short period of combat with an exceptionally low level of casualties, a mistaken impression is sometimes held that the operation could not have been a significant source of stress, save for those who were directly involved in traumatic episodes during its course. I believe such perceptions are far from true.

When examining the consequences for its participants, we must see Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm as a whole and not simply as a reflection of a hundred hours of the ground war. The operations were for many a source of continuing and chronic stresses and apprehensive expectations for months on end. The stressors that affected soldiers ranged from the daily, proximate, and tactile to the distant, symbolic, and perhaps notional. Still, morale was good to high in most cases, and soldiers performed effectively and with humor. But unease and anxiety lurked continuously at the edges, frustration levels were apparently high, and the soldiers’ universe was persistently seen and felt as threatening.

Drawing from soldiers’ statements in our interviews in the Gulf, we find that many of the usual mediating structures that buffered previous deployments were absent, particularly those provided by interaction with the host society and the opportunities for ease, recreation, diversion, and relief from military routine that such interactions provide. The deployment of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia in the initial phases of the operation was, in some ways, analogous to deploying a force to "the other side of the moon." While Saudi Arabia is a wealthy country with urban areas that rival any in the Middle East in terms of modern facilities, these areas were off limits to the overwhelming majority of American military personnel. While a number of support personnel operated in such ports of entry as Daharan and Dammam, most Americans were rapidly moved into a desolate hinterland. The agreements made with the Saudi governments that represented the frame of reference of the deployment were designed to keep American impact upon and interaction with the Saudi population to a minimum.[1]

To fully comprehend the stresses in the Gulf, we must examine the multiple contexts that affected the service members who were sent there. The rebuilding of the American military (and particularly of the active Army), following the severe erosion of morale, competence, and internal confidence wrought by the later years of Vietnam and the initial years of the All-Volunteer Force, appears to have passed unnoticed by most Americans. In Panama, where a small, highly skilled, and technologically adept force destroyed the capacity of the Panamanian Armed Forces to operate as an organized entity in a matter of hours, the message of operation "Just Cause" was misread. Far too many simply viewed Panama as the application of an overwhelming weight of fire and personnel against a trivial and ill-prepared enemy. Little attention appears to have been paid to the rapidity of the Panamanian collapse despite the small number of casualties inflicted on their forces, the very small number of civilian casualties, and the lack of use of indirect fire weapons–barred by the rules of engagement. The revolutions in training wrought by the National Training Center, the Joint Training Center, MILES (laser combat simulation) gear, and the use of simulators were also little appreciated.

Prior to the Gulf War, public doubt about our weapons systems was a matter of common discussion.[2] The Apache helicopter gun ship, the Abrams main battle tank, and the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle were all routinely assaulted as potentially ineffective weapons that represented a waste of the taxpayers’ money. In some cases they were derided as little more than rolling coffins or as vehicles too delicate and complex to be sustainable on the battlefield. The "smart" weapons developed for use by all services were untried, and the media had tended to focus more on test failures than successes. American forces were also untried; it had been a full generation since Americans had been involved in a major conflict. Minor conflicts had primarily been the province of "elite" and special operations troops, so our "ordinary" soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen were considered militarily naive. This was particularly emphasized if they were to go into combat against "the battle hardened and ruthless" Iraqi Army. The drum rolls of fear creation, which began before the first troops had arrived to draw "the line in the sand," continued throughout much of the Desert Shield phase of the deployment.

Complementing the vision of a vulnerable and "victimizable" American force was that of an almost invincible Iraqi military, which had been made combatwise and highly effective by years of conflict with Iran. It was said to be dedicated, cohesive, and well led, and it was assumed to possess high-technological capacity acquired from the former Soviet Union. Iraq was known to possess nerve agents and other gas weapons, and both the capacity to deliver them and the will to use them.[3] Major doubts were circulated in the media and in both military and civilian rumor systems about the quality and effectiveness of the U.S. military’s gas warfare protective gear and gas detection systems. The protective capacities of this gear and its potential utility under the climatic conditions of Saudi Arabia were often dismissed as probably ineffectual and potentially dangerous. The armed forces were perceived by a number of commentators as basically unprepared to meet a foe with nerve agent potential, despite the fact that they had spent decades preparing to fight the former Soviet Union, whose doctrine had been keyed to the massive use of both short-term and persistent nerve agent in its maneuver scenarios for a possible war with NATO.

Such perceptions of potential defects in our equipment and of enemy strengths were present at the beginning of the deployment, and our interviews showed that they remained part of the soldiers’ mental baggage throughout Desert Shield and Desert Storm. These concerns were a continuous aspect of the context of the lives of the deployed troops, reinforced by radio newscasts, CNN, and English-language newspapers and magazines.


I led a team from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research that was sent to the Gulf.[4] Among the questions we were seeking answers to were: How long can we keep people there? How are U.S. soldiers adapting to the Saudi environment? What is going on in terms of "human issues"? How stressful is the experience for them, what are the sources of stress, and what can we do about them?[5]

The Structure of the Studies

Following the mandate to assemble a team and proceed to Saudi Arabia, we decided that the initial approach to the assessment and research would be to carry out a sensing of perceptions, attitudes, behaviors, and conditions in the Gulf. Such a sensing, purely qualitative in nature, would be undertaken prior to attempting any more-rigorous quantitative assessments and research. To carry out this study, we had to understand the context and patterns of behavior and perception that characterized the population if we were to ask questions that would elicit meaningful responses. The strategy was to utilize the technique that had been developed in the Division of Neuropsychiatry at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), initially in consultation with S.L.A. Marshall. This technique focuses heavily on small group debriefing using preexisting work groups. Decades of previous work in the U.S. Army have demonstrated that adaptation parameters, levels of stress experienced, and soldier well-being and coping are strongly influenced by unit cohesion, unit climate, and the behavior of leaders in the soldier’s immediate chain of command. The power of these factors to influence the central tendencies of a given group can often be lost if typical polling of random samples across a military population is used. The award winning work by Bliese and Halverson (1996 and 1998) has demonstrated the significant effects of cohesion and leadership on the central tendency of soldier well-being scores in a number of troop databases (the Army COHORT program and other deployments).

We thus chose companies to interview from among the battalions comprising at least one brigade of each of the deployed divisions during the first survey, which was carried out in September—October 1990. As in our previous work, interviewees were stratified by rank so that there would be no possible constraints placed on free expression by the presence of superiors in rank. In infantry companies, all of the junior enlisted members of squads in selected platoons were interviewed as a group. The squad leaders of that platoon were then interviewed, and platoon leaders as a group also. Company commanders and first sergeants were interviewed individually, as were battalion commanders, sergeants major, brigade commanders, and division commanders. Notes were shared, qualitative data compared, and general patterns drawn by members of the team.

The team returned in October 1990 to brief senior Army staff and prepare for the next wave of data collection. In anticipation of the possibility that American forces in the Gulf would have to engage in combat, a decision was made to broaden the focus of the research. The next interview instruments gathered precombat psychological and stress-related data that might bear on possible combat stress reactions and risk for the development of postcombat syndromes, such as PTSD. The questionnaire for enlisted soldiers included the following sections (in addition to standard demographic information):

• standard psychological assessment instrument–the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI) of the Hopkins Symptom Check List 90

• a module assessing perceptions of leader effectiveness

• an assessment of individual and unit morale

• instruments developed and standardized at WRAIR over the previous decade for the assessment of both vertical and horizontal cohesion in company-level units.

In addition, based upon interviews that we carried out in the Gulf, instruments (primarily utilizing Likkert scaling) were designed to assess intercurrent stressors experienced by soldiers in the Gulf. Other modules looked at perceptions of family problems and support, deployment concerns, causes of stress, stress mediators, coping strategies, and concerns about potential future combat.

There were two unfortunate lacunae in our approach: We had included no physical symptom checklist and had decided to make combat arms units our first priority. The latter was a deliberate choice. In past conflicts, the overwhelming majority of combat stress and postcombat psychiatric and psychological casualties had come from maneuver units not support organizations. Limitations in personnel and funds thus made it necessary that we target the presumably highest risk group. We returned to the Gulf in November and stayed through mid-December 1990. The research and assessment program included continuing the interviewing program in the battalions we had initially selected, distributing and gathering questionnaires from all soldiers available for duty in the brigades under study, and expanding the program to newly arrived organizations.

In late December, a small team of two officers was dispatched to gather data from newly arrived VIIth Corps Divisions. For the sake of convenience, the questionnaire was shortened and the BSI reduced by psychologists on the WRAIR staff to the subsets dealing primarily with the results of trauma. The BSI appears to be an entrained instrument with military populations and a rise in scores in any segment is paralleled by rises in all. In test work, the correlation between the full scale and the truncated trauma scale was always over 0.9. Data, primarily questionnaire, were collected from a number of VIIth Corps units. (Unfortunately the commercial express delivery company lost a large follow-on shipment of questionnaires, and the team was limited to the instruments it had brought over initially.) The team, a psychiatrist, and a social work officer remained in theater and served as both mental health team and observers in the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment during Operation Desert Storm. Because of severe limitations that were placed on entry into the theater, the larger team that had been prepared to deploy in the event of conflict never received clearance to enter the theater.

A new set of instruments, including combat exposure scales, instruments for the assessment of risk for PTSD (the Horowitz IES), instruments for assessing intercurrent life stressors, soldier self-assessments, etc., was added to the base instruments used in the precombat period. In the proximate postcombat period, permission was received for one officer, a psychologist, to enter the theater, and some data were gathered. At the same time, a debriefing program, including a wide-scale questionnaire, was set up to gather data from units as they returned. It was decided to continue to focus on the brigades already under study and to expand the postcombat studies to look at units for which precombat data were not available. A first wave of questionnaire and interview studies was carried out in the period of May to September 1991. Essentially the same questionnaire was used for units in Germany (USAREUR) in November and December 1991 and another division in the continental United States (CONUS) in January 1992. In June and July of 1992, a follow-up survey was mailed to soldiers in the original database who were still on active duty. It included the BSI, the IES, the unit-cohesion modules, and a module on current stressful life experiences–it generated approximately a 35 percent rate of return.

A final survey wave was carried out approximately two years after Operation Desert Storm between November 1992 and January 1993. It included some shortened forms of some scales based upon analyses of previous data. The number of those remaining on active duty who had served in the Gulf obviously decreased during this period, but data were gathered from each entire brigade (i.e., all soldiers present for duty who agreed to participate during the data gathering period).

The populations for each survey wave were:

1. Precombat surveys in Saudi Arabia–2,853

2. First postcombat surveys, Saudi Arabia, CONUS, USAREUR–12,816

3. Mail survey–2,012

4. Final postcombat survey–5,084

The Field Study and Assessment Phase

We arrived in September 1990, when the deployment was a little over a month old. We operated on the assumption that this might be a prolonged siege, since there was, at that point, no firm public decision that we would necessarily go to war to liberate Kuwait. On our first trip to Saudi Arabia, we interviewed between 800 and 900 troops, primarily in small groups; senior leaders and commanders were interviewed individually. Our interviews took place primarily in Army combat arms units with some sampling of support personnel. Interviews took place both in cantonments and in those forward units deployed in the field, which would serve as the initial lines of defense against a possible Iraqi invasion.


It is an old and oft repeated saw that war is a prolonged period of waiting and boredom punctuated by brief periods of terror. I believe this assessment is in need of revision. Boredom, or some equivalent, may well have been the dominant behavioral state of soldiers in periods between pulses of battle when relative security existed and when there was no actual attack or exchange of fire. This was comparatively true of the latter half of World War II and most of the Korean War. In the Persian Gulf,[6] however, there was a constant undertone of apprehension and stress, ranging from vague unease to strong overt apprehension, referable to an ambiguous environment–superficially peaceful, but with constant lurking threats. Many of these threats were real, some were amplifications of possibilities, and others were fantasized but structured as real parts of the environment.

The soldiers of an airborne brigade that was the initial force deployed to the Persian Gulf were well aware of their limited capacity to contain or defeat a significant thrust by an Iraqi heavy force. They did not have a plethora of antitank munitions nor were there immediate reinforcements with major war-fighting capacity at hand. As they described their situation to us,[7] they had viewed their mission as sacrificial. They were, in their terms, to be a speed bump, to try to hold up Iraqi forces for as long as possible if they struck toward the oil fields or Riyadh. After that, according to many, their guidance was to head west into the desert and find "spider holes" to crawl into–then the Navy would try to get helicopters in to get them out. It is important to point out that this task had been accepted willingly.

As the ready brigade of the 82nd Airborne division, these soldiers were prepared to deploy anywhere and do whatever was asked of them. When we saw them in September 1990, there was a basic perception that they were a "time-limited" force that had done its job and should now be on the way home. The soldiers’ view of the division, and in good part the division’s view of itself, is as a "forced-entry asset." Their perceived task is to seize an airhead, neutralize the enemy locally, and provide the conditions for the entry and takeover of the mission by a heavier "conventional force," either Army or Marine Corps, that would carry out a more sustained battle scenario. The Marines were already there, and heavier Army forces had also arrived. But instead of being withdrawn to train for a new forced-entry mission, this unit of the 82nd Airborne had been detailed to the static task of guarding ARAMCO oil production and pumping facilities. A number of soldiers saw it as a misuse of their skills, training, and abilities. They felt they were performing a task that was legitimate for military police but not for paratroopers.

There was, for members of the airborne brigade and almost all other soldiers who were in the theater, the stress created by the ambiguity of the situation at the time. What was the United States going to do? How long would the deployment last? If we were not going to war, would they be there for weeks, months, or years? If this was to be a siege, when would they be rotated out? Three months? Six months? A year? Two years? Rumors were rife and answers were not forthcoming.

For many, deployment itself was described as extremely stressful because of the number of false starts they had been through. Members of some units had repeatedly said good-bye to their families and gone to the ramp with the expectation that they would fly out to the Gulf immediately only to have the trip canceled. The confusion and the multiple good-byes were very upsetting. After four or five false starts, some soldiers now questioned the competence of the entire operation. For others, simply deploying in an emergency fashion into an "imminent danger theater" was a major source of stress. Since the end of the Vietnam conflict, almost all unprogrammed deployments into potentially dangerous situations had been limited to Special Operations, Airborne, Army Light Division, and Marine Expeditionary Units–troops doctrinally prepared and trained for immediate deployment. Conventional and heavy forces had deployed only on training exercises, such as rotations to the NTC (National Training Center) or REFORGER (Return of Forces to Germany).


Almost all work done on stress has consistently demonstrated that stressors are additive and probably cumulative. New stressors do not displace old ones. The stresses of the deployment are added to the ones brought from or generated at home. More specific ones about home reinforced the locally generated concerns and stressors. Mail service was appallingly slow. Communication to and from home was measured in weeks, rather than days for the regular mail or seconds for telephone service that Americans have come to expect.[8] For Gulf-deployed Army personnel, telephone communication was difficult to impossible. For most it was simply not available. Therefore, problems at home could not be understood and dealt with in reasonable time frames. In some cases, this was underlined by beliefs, both true and fantasized, about potential dangers both to family members and property at home.[9] For a number in the Army, the salience of these issues was increased by the perception of a status of relative deprivation compared to other services–it was common knowledge that Air Force personnel had regular phone contact with home while soldiers did not.

In November and December 1990, a significant minority of XVIIIth Airborne and VIIth Corps soldiers from our sample registered dissatisfaction with a number of family support issues. Over 22 percent of both samples had a low level of confidence in the effectiveness of their family support groups. Almost 23 percent of the former division and over 21 percent of the latter corps had low confidence that their family support groups would help their families if needed, while almost 30 percent of both samples had low confidence that their units’ rear detachments would help their families if required. A somewhat smaller percentage of soldiers asserted that they had moderate to major family problems at home before deployment. Approximately 10 percent felt that there were family problems that "required" them to be home to deal with, although under 3 percent stated that they had requested to return home to deal with family problems.

The most salient stressor during this initial period was the high level of concern about a projected date of return to the United States. The question asked most often was, "When are we going home?" The deployment was perceived as open ended, which was very disturbing to most troops. Again, open-ended deployments had not been a part of Army culture since World War II. Even in combat such as Korea and Vietnam, the rotation system had bounded the time the soldier would spend away. Study after study, beginning with The American Soldier (Stouffer et al., 1949), has demonstrated that fundamentally, Americans fight "to go home."

Underlying the apprehension and concern about how long the deployment might last was the new experience of deploying a majority married professional Army. Over 60 percent of the force deployed to the Gulf was married and eager to return to spouses and children and certainly a significant proportion of unmarried soldiers were engaged in stable, long-term relationships at the time of deployment.[10] Chaplains noted that "Dear John" letters ending marriages or relationships arrived and were having the predictable psychological effects on the recipients and their primary groups. The best off-hand measure of the level of concern about deployment length was, I believe, the extraordinary number and variety of rumors that swept through each group about rotation dates home. These rumors came in letters from home in which spouses asserted that they had been given dates by the rear detachment of "x" weeks later of when the unit would return and also arose out of interactions between soldiers and mid-level leaders. Each denial and each failure to be alerted within the specified time was met with disappointment and a new round of rumors.

The ghosts of Vietnam were also present, particularly in generally expressed concerns about whether or not the nation supported the troops in this deployment. In the early stages of the deployment, even the lack of any significant antiwar movement at home did not still a sense of unease. Congressional debate stirred echoes of a past rejection of the military that few had lived through but many knew about. The paucity of news sources during this period undoubtedly contributed to the fogginess about where the nation stood in relation to the deployment.[11]


Living conditions varied, but few were luxurious. In some places, corps and division headquarters were in comparatively new Saudi military facilities. The gleaming concrete contemporary buildings and billets were deceptive since there was extensive internal crowding. These facilities were often surrounded by large and equally crowded "tent cities." Despite the "modernity" of these facilities, soldiers were physically and psychologically constricted. For the overwhelming majority of the force, there was no place to go–no place for people to physically escape from each other. The crowding–often considered a major source of stress–and the omnipresence of leaders gave soldiers and leaders both a sense of constant unbroken evaluation of each by the other to the discomfort of both.

A number of the techniques that armies had developed over the centuries to provide privacy for psychological and social space when there were no physical boundaries were relearned during the course of the deployment. For many, previous experience of living together under field conditions had been limited to short-term deployment exercises. Unlike the "old Army," in which one learned the cultural techniques for dealing with the potential stresses of prolonged crowding and observation by living in open platoon bays in which the necessary covert rules of behavior were a constant part of the soldiers socialization, a majority of these soldiers lived off post when at their home stations and in two- or three-man rooms when in billets.

The stresses created by these aspects of crowding were, of course, not universal. A number of junior leaders felt that aspects of it were positive. They and their men were truly getting to know each other and becoming a cohesive team. For others this was a source of chronic low-level erosion in relationships, among soldiers and between soldiers and their leaders. In interviews, a number of leaders and soldiers were adamant about the need to get away from each other and the emotional costs of this enforced togetherness. Over and over again each enunciated the sentiment: How the hell do I get away from them–my fellow soldiers, my leaders, my followers? For most, this was a new experience, because time-limited short field exercises prevented enforced intimacy.[12]

Living space was, overall, a chronic and persistent stressor.[13] In one division, many of the soldiers were living in holes next to their vehicles because cots and tents had not arrived. A number had cobbled shelters together from packing crates, spare bits of wood, and cardboard cartons. In a number of other places, particularly where troops were close to centers of population or strategic locations, military cantonments were in and around warehouses and on patches of industrial wasteland. One brigade of the 82nd Airborne that I spent some time with in our September—October visit period was centered on an old warehouse complex. The interior was a sea of cots with only inches between them. A circumscribed area outside was filled with tentage and equipment. Other battalions were housed in close packed rows of tents in nearby areas that might charitably be described as outside storage yards. A number of the areas rented for the erection of tentage and other troop housing might have been described as wastelands or dumps. At this time, the common denominator of life for most of our troops was crowding amid vast emptiness and fairly complete isolation in proximity to modern cities. In a land of limitless horizons, many of our military personnel lived lives as constricted as sardines in a can.

There was little MWR (morale, welfare, recreation) equipment available. If the soldiers’ military organization had not brought things with them into the theater on the initial deployment, there were few books, athletic equipment, movies, etc. available. They were, at best, in transit. The infrastructure that was being erected was being built upon the emptiness of the steppe and desert. Units began creating athletic equipment out of materials that were at hand. Weight sets were made out of cement and reinforcing bars. Funds were allocated to purchase ancillary sports equipment from Saudi stores by those authorized to enter towns. For troops deployed in the desert, most recreation was reduced to the time-honored forms utilized by men in isolation with few resources. Just as soldiers organized rat races in the trenches of World War I, our troops organized scorpion fights–get two scorpions, put them in a box, and bet on the outcome of the fight.[14]

Stresses generated by crowding and lack of recreation undoubtedly added to and amplified the stresses of social and psychological isolation that characterized a large number of base encampments. Life was almost completely restricted to what could be done within the very limited areas inside the wire, fence, or walls that encircled the base. Occasionally a soldier would say, "I came here to fight for these people and I feel like I’m in jail." Soldiers were often both impressed and disturbed by the contrast between the reception that they got from "ordinary" Saudis when their convoys moved through towns or people came by their bases and the rules that isolated them from the population. Saudis smiled, waved, and gave other expressions of friendship; yet, the rules isolated them from the population and dictated many aspects of their behavior and dress. Many complained that their commanders were "out-Saudiing" the Saudis in terms of the restrictions that were placed upon them. Many women, in particular, and some men, described a sense of identity loss at not being able to dress and act like Americans. This represented for some a subtle but continuing source of discontent and a sense of pressure. As one woman working in a unit of the Division Support Command (DISCOM) of an Army combat division put it,

In this heat the guys can all work in their T-shirts, I have to wear my sleeves down and buttoned. They say it might offend some Saudi male if he came in here and saw my bare arms. There’s never been a Saudi in here and even if there were . . . it just eats at you.

This set of stressors is probably akin to the generalized stresses of a form of culture shock (see above) since these dress codes and behavioral norms were dictated by Saudi culture rather than by our own.

Stresses Generated by the Perceived Threat

It is important to note that the isolation of the force was considered necessary for many good and sufficient reasons. However, we must remember that necessary acts may also have unintended collateral consequences that cannot be easily avoided. Concern about the possibility of terrorist attacks was a chronic source of apprehension for many of our troops. [15]

In a number of venues, soldiers went on their physical training runs in helmets and Kevlar body armor. In some, they were required to wear body armor throughout the day. Terrorism and the Middle East are inseparable in the American consciousness, and suspicion was rife. There was chronic suspicion of strangers, of vehicles that approached the encampments, and of many of the Saudis’ guest workers.

Soldiers were aware, through letters and, ultimately, conversations with home, and became more aware as time went on when they got television sets, downlinks, and CNN, of the extraordinarily high casualties we were expected to suffer if war came. In the initial period of the deployment, many were aware of the fact that the force was still badly outnumbered and outgunned. In the event of an attack, they did not doubt that they could hold the Iraqis, but there was concern over the potential level of casualties. In part because of the media, there was an extraordinarily high estimate of Iraqi military capabilities. Years of high valuation of Soviet military equipment were reflected in some of this, but another phenomenon seemed at work. The Iraqi military was viewed as mirroring our forces, armed and equipped with technologies that might be as advanced as ours. While such views were not heard at senior levels, they were commonly discussed among many soldiers when interviewed.[16]


In some units, problems were compounded by the large numbers of "fillers," i.e., soldiers new to the organization who had been rapidly moved in just prior to debarkation to bring various divisions up to combat strength. This caused extensive primary group disruption because of the need to form new primary task groups, crews, squads etc., out of strangers. Thus, those aspects of unit bonding and cohesion based upon knowledge of the skills and reliability of fellow soldiers and small-unit leaders were absent. In time, these issues would be more or less resolved, but they were the source of nagging doubts about immediate combat. In some cases, the concerns among commanders about the lack of collective training, bonding, and seasoning of squads and platoons led to further increases in stress for the troops. Some senior leaders pushed their people in highly stressful ways in attempts to rapidly bond their units, speed adaptation to the desert environment, and develop collective skills.

Sleep deprivation and severe physical stress were typical among support troops. Many worked 14- and 15-hour days, six and seven days a week building an infrastructure that would support hundreds of thousands of troops, prepare them for battle, provide enhanced training, protect them before battle, and sustain them in combat. The work was continuous and exhausting. These stresses were added to and increased by the pressure of unknown enemy intentions. This was equally true for the "fillers," who entered units with no ties to the already existent personnel and no knowledge about the level of support that they would receive.[17]

In our interviews and questionnaires, we found that units that had experienced problems prior to deployment (particularly those in which there were leadership problems at home bases) tended to be those whose members exhibited the most stress and had the most problems coping with that stress in the desert. Deployment and preparation for possible combat worked no magical transformation in leader-soldier or soldier-soldier relationships. Where problems of perceived competency, care, and intention had existed at home, they were, in most cases, magnified by the possibilities of an imminent dangerous deployment. Perceived marginal leadership or marginal fellow-soldier competence consistently increased levels of apprehension about the consequences of going into combat. While the majority of soldiers rated their leaders as average or above average, a significant number in both XVIIIth Airborne and VIIth Corps rated them as below average in the period prior to combat (see Table 10.1).


There were other nagging and chronic sources of stress for the troops. Climate was one–the daytime desert heat alternating with the chill of night. Flies were a constant annoyance, particularly for troops in the field, settling on food and hovering around hands and faces. Troops in some organizations were, after several months in the field, still eating MREs (meals ready to eat)–the Army’s emergency combat ration–three times a day because their T-Packs and supplementary Class A rations had not yet arrived.[18]


As the theater infrastructure was built and matured and as time passed, a number of problems and sources of stress did moderate. For some, the rumors of robbery, burglary, and threat to families became realities. At one site we surveyed, a battalion commander was informed that burglars had broken into his house at home the evening before but had not been able to penetrate beyond the kitchen where his wife and sons had barricaded the door. The post commander, he was informed, had now posted armed guards in the housing areas. This news, which spread rapidly, cast a pall over his entire organization–in part because of the esteem in which this officer was held and in part because of concerns about other families at the same post.

Table 10.1

Precombat Leader Effectiveness Percentage Ratings in XVIIIth and VIIth Corps




Leadership Position

Average or Above

Below Average

Average or Above

Below Average

Platoon sergeant





First sergeant





Platoon leader





Company commander





NOTE: All soldiers rated at least one position but not all rated all positions.

aSample number equals approximately 1,140.
bSample number equals approximately 1,440.

As the deployment progressed, a number of the initial sources of stress were dealt with and moderated as the theater infrastructure matured. While crowding continued, the supply of tentage and cots was adequate for all the troops by the November—December time period. T-packs, supplemented by at least some Class A rations, were now widely available, and, in the field, MREs were seldom utilized for more than one meal a day. By the end of November, telephone banks had solved a number of the problems of communication with home but had by no means resolved all the worry and strain. Unit recreation centers with large screen television sets and athletic equipment offered at least partial escape from the omnipresent chain of command in most organizations. The cruise ships, docked at Bahrain, the rest and recreation facility at Half Moon Bay, and the ARAMCO "home visit" program all offered relief to part of the force. A Thanksgiving dinner, including a presidential visit and celebration, provided another moment of relief.

One important resolution was the end of the fear of being treated with the same rejection experienced by Vietnam veterans. The outpouring of support from the American people was truly meaningful to the troops. Soldiers were deluged by "any soldier" letters, boxes of cookies and candy, and a tidal wave of other messages of support. The massive arrival of new equipment, the imminent arrival of VIIth Corps, and the military edge represented by the M1A1 Abrams tank all contributed to an easing about the capability of dealing with Iraq’s heavy armored forces.[19] With the exception of a minority of units in which leadership was still characterized as ineffective, unit cohesion had climbed to high levels.[20] While measurements of levels of bonding were well above those of conventional units we had studied in the past (and indeed reached levels previously seen only on elite and COHORT units),[21] problems still existed. While certain stresses moderated, other stressors increased as the force prepared for war and its possible consequences.


The ability of stressors to affect humans and the complementary ability of stress mediators (such as cohesion) to moderate or buffer stress effects are widely acknowledged to be enmeshed in both cultural and individual cognitive modes of perception and allocation of value (see, e.g., Brown and Harris, 1978). The sources of these differences and the differential consequences that exposures to stressors have for various subsets of the population remain open to debate, since there are many ambiguities in the data. However, it seems fairly probable that life event stressors in tandem with their mediators appear to be contributing factors, but not primary causal factors, in subsequent health problems (see, e.g., Gelder, Gath, and Mayou, 1991). Thus, it is important to record that the processes and events perceived as stressful during the course of the deployment varied widely among soldiers in our sample. In response to a set of questions[22] about subjective "levels" of stress, approximately 8 percent of soldiers responded to most topics as areas that were generating "quite a bit of" or "extreme" stress for them. Some topic headings were perceived as stressful by much wider segments of the population. In general, those who responded with the highest scores to the stressors that characterized the deployment tended to produce the highest (i.e., most symptomatic) scores on the Brief Symptom Inventory, a subset of the Hopkins Symptom Check List 90. Table 10.2 lists the questions to which 16 percent or less of the XVIIIth Airborne Corps sample responded this generated "quite a bit" or "extreme stress." Table 10.3 lists the questions to which 16 percent or more of the soldiers responded this generated "quite a bit" or "extreme" stress.

It is apparent from Table 10.3 that the most widespread perceived sources of high stress were those that involved alterations in normal predeployment life and behavior patterns, family issues, and privacy. It is clear from our interviews and the infinitesimal number of people evacuated from the theater for problems due to alcohol withdrawal that the stress from the lack of alcoholic beverages was symbolic and not physiological. The glass of beer that symbolized the pattern of off-duty relaxation had vanished–along with any significant off-duty time. The issues of crowding and privacy appear to have been very important ones. The sample scored the highest levels we had ever recorded on the "hostility scale" of the Brief Symptom Inventory. This was paralleled in interviews and observations. There had been a shift to fairly rough body contact sports and intense "sand wrestling" bouts, particularly between soldiers occupying the same tents. Athletic injuries, according to battalion surgeons and physician assistants whom we interviewed, had become the major reason for medical care and evacuations to hospitals, both within and outside the theater.

The multiple structures for allocating perceived stress causations, coping and mediation mechanisms, and some of the explicit biases of terms of "sources" are seen in the gross responses in the XVIIIth Airborne Corps’ sample, presented in Table 10.4.

Table 10.2

Questions to Which 16 Percent or Less of the Sample Responded This Caused "Quite a Bit" or "Extreme" Stress During the Past Week

Operating in the desert sand


Not being able to accomplish your mission while wearing MOPPa gear


Scorpions, snakes, spiders


Severe change in temperature from day to night


Terrorist attacks


Not having enough physical energy to do your job


Talk about QMPb cuts


Shift work


Not having bottled water


Desert storms


Having to train at night


Not having time or place to practice your religion


Terrorist threat


Not being allowed to practice your religion because of host nation restrictions


Becoming dehydrated


NOTE: Sample number equals 1,309.

aMilitary operational protective posture.

bQuality military performance, which was perceived by soldiers as a way of getting rid of those who had lower-quality performance.

We attempted to discriminate between categories that were coping mechanisms for some, and might be sources of stress for others. The questions were phrased as "During the past two weeks, ‘X’ caused me stress" and "During the past two weeks, ‘X’ helped me cope with stress." Clearly, certain issues are predominately seen as either perceived sources of stress or as coping aids. It should be remembered that while such allocations might be overwhelming, each category served some segments of the population differently than others. Some even responded that the section or issue involved had done both.

Leaving aside the small group of soldiers who responded to each category as having stressful implications for them (approximately 7 percent of the sample), with the exception of a few bimodal categories, we find clear demarcation between stressors and mediators. These both reinforce and parallel the materials gathered in interviews. To some degree, these sources of stress and patterns of mediation were counterbalanced by the sense of relief that soldiers felt when they decided Operation Desert Storm (ODS) was headed for a military solution. Soldiers approached the thought of combat complexly. There was, as can be seen in the tables, apprehension and stressful feelings about combat and its possible consequences.

Table 10.3

Questions to Which over 16 Percent of the Sample Responded This Caused "Quite a Bit" or "Extreme" Stress During the Past Week

Not having the opposite sex around




Lack of contact with your family back home


Not having private time


Not being able to act like Americans


Eating "meals ready to eat" a lot of the time


People in other units having things better than you


Having your leaders around too much


Lack of alcoholic beverages


Lack of adequate morale, welfare, recreation


Illness or problems in your family back home


Lack of understanding about why you were deployed to the Middle East


Eating T-Rations a lot of the time


Unusually long duty days


Having to do extra details


Not being able to stay in shape


Being at MOPPa level 3 or 4 for a long period of time


Maintaining equipment in desert operations


Behavior restrictions in the presence of the Saudis


Lack of confidence in MOPPa gear


What you see or hear on TV or radio about Operation Desert Storm


Operating in desert heat


Crowding at base camps


Fights or quarrels among soldiers in your squad/section or platoon


Not getting enough sleep


Talk about projected cuts in Army strength


Talk about reductions in force in my pay grade


What your family members write to you about Operation Desert Storm


NOTE: Sample number equals 1,309.

aMilitary operational protective posture.

There was also the positive sense that it would bring closure to the weariness and ambiguity of an open-ended deployment.[23]

There were other sources of stress that came out in our interviewing–a number of these most affected Reserve and National Guard units. These units expressed

Table 10.4

Categories Perceived as Sources of Stress or as Coping Aids
by XVIIIth Airborne Sample

Topic Area

% Caused Stress

% Helped Cope

Length of tour



Not knowing if we will go into combat



What I think the Iraqis might do



Sanitary conditions



Chain of command



Length of time between field rotations



Present living conditions



Lack of variety in things to do






Command information



Family problems*






Other soldiers in platoon/squad



Heat and climate



Information about Iraq



Choices as to how I spend my time



Health concerns*



Improvements in living conditions






Letters from home



Phone calls home



Rest days



Trips to rest areas*



Armed Forces Network radio



Entertainment we create



Cold sodas/munchies



Chaplain visits*






Watching TV*



Reading books



NOTES: Sample number equals 1,309. The responses were made on a simple three-point scale: 1. a little bit, 2. moderately, 3. quite a bit. For the sake of convenience, I consolidate the "moderately" and "quite a bit" percentages as indicating a more than trivial response and list only those. The sample is drawn from battalions selected from the divisions of XVIIIth Airborne Corps in November and December, 1990. In many cases, the category was not responded to by part of the sample. I have marked with an asterisk those categories in which over 40 percent of the sample either responded "does not apply" or had missing responses to both possible response sets.

greater concern than others did about family support, since a number of the institutions that take care of family problems in the active force did not then exist in the Guard and Reserve. In addition, a number of these interviewees pointed out substantive problems with equipment.[24] In some cases, soldiers complained bitterly about the way they thought they were being treated. A common sentiment was that the active force treated them as if they were "the red haired orphan" in the family. They felt that they were not being well-integrated and that facilities and messes were not being properly shared. A number of these soldiers felt that, at the higher levels, their leadership really did not seem to know what to do. A number also felt that their lives had been terribly disrupted and that their careers and their finances would suffer a great deal.[25] Reservists maintained their morale and did their work well, but many lived with a constant undercurrent of worry.


While a number of the sources of stress due to environment and infrastructure moderated over time, others became more salient in anticipation of combat. One question we wanted to explore was whether or not cultural expectations of the potential stressfulness of events prefigured actual stressfulness claimed if the events were experienced. Thus we asked soldiers to indicate how much worry or stress certain events might cause them should combat occur. Their responses are shown in Table 10.5.

Certain important observations should be made at this point. Despite the matrix of stressors that many soldiers experienced, both morale and health were good. The arenas in which stress was expressed were interpersonal–in evaluation of leaders and the normal griping soldiers do. These were manifest in one of our studies in an apparent increase in cigarette smoking, and in significant levels of symptom presentation on the Brief Symptom Inventory.[26] Both sick-call rates and mental health referrals were reported to us as having gone down. Most physician assistants and divisional mental health personnel asserted that their patient loads were about one-third of those in the garrison. This kind of drop during deployment is not uncommon but may be of particular note here. In our interviews it was obvious that, for almost all soldiers, obligations to each other and the mission came first. Thus they would bear anything and everything because of the obligations that bonding and interdependency required of each team, crew, and squad to survive a dangerous future.

Table 10.5

Amount of Worry or Stress Soldiers in Precombat Sample Thought the Following Events Would Cause


Percentage Saying It Caused "Quite a Bit" or "Extreme" Stress

Having a buddy WIA or KIAa


XVIIIth Corps


VIIth Corps


Being attacked by enemy aircraft


XVIIIth Corps


VIIth Corps


Being WIA or KIAa yourself


XVIIIth Corps


VIIth Corps


Having a company level leader WIA or KIAa


XVIIIth Corps


VIIth Corps


Having to kill or wound the enemy


XVIIIth Corps


VIIth Corps


Being attacked by enemy tanksb


XVIIIth Corps


VIIth Corps


Not receiving adequate medical care if wounded


XVIIIth Corps


VIIth Corps


Being attacked by enemy artillery


XVIIIth Corps


VIIth Corps


Being attacked by chemical or biological weapons


XVIIIth Corps


VIIth Corps


NOTES: XVIIIth Airborne Corps sample number equals 1,309. VIIth Corps sample number equals 1,544.

aWounded in action or killed in action.
bThis and some of the other differences between the two corps are probably due to two factors: (1) Two of the divisions of XVIIIth Corps were primarily composed of light infantry as opposed to the heavily armored VIIth Corps and thus quite correctly saw themselves as more vulnerable to certain weapons, and (2) XVIIIth Corps units had been in theater for four to five months when surveyed, while most VIIth Corps units had been in theater for a little over a month.

This might well include ignoring minor symptoms that would have brought them to medical attention in garrison.


A more objective measure of stress levels is the scale scores on the Derogatis Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI); see Derogatis and Spencer (1982) and Derogatis and Melisaratos (1983). The normal summed score of the BSI–the General Severity Index (GSI)–indicates the level of psychological symptoms being experienced by the respondent.[27] We used a shortened version–the Trauma Scale–Derogatis’ shortened scale, which correlates at over 0.9 with the GSI, to indicate symptom levels and change over time. The scale scores of participants in ODS were higher than scores of American troops deployed to Somalia, Haiti, or Bosnia.

The mean Trauma Scale score for the sample from XVIIIth Airborne Corps (N = 1,310) was 0.89 (on a four-point scale), compared with a mean of 0.50 for nondeployed controls and even lower means for civilians. The mean Trauma Scale score for the VIIth Corps sample (N = 1,528) was 0.68, still significantly above the control means. It is most likely that the differences between the two samples were due to the longer time XVIIIth Corps had spent in the theater and that VIIth Corps was a heavy armor/mechanized force and the XVIIIth Corps was a lighter armor force and hence more vulnerable.

An analysis of variance demonstrated that prior to the initiation of hostilities, eight stress factors accounted for 50 percent of the variance in these scores. These were

• work load

• family issues

• leader behavior

• company combat confidence

• personal confidence

• confidence in supporting weapons systems

• concern about enemy weaponry

• general group confidence.

As would be expected from the work done in the past on cohesion and unit climate, we found marked differences between the mean scores for units. These correlate strongly with horizontal and vertical cohesion scores of the units involved. Work done at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research by Bliese and Halverson (1996 and 1998) has demonstrated that vertical and horizontal cohesion exert a strong effect on the central tendency of unit scores on psychological inventories, such as the BSI. We found these to be correlations equally significant for the units in the Gulf. An array of unit means demonstrates this, as indicated in Table 10.6. We should remember that for an instrument like the BSI, small differences in scores can indicate substantially differing degrees of risk.

The subscale scores in the XVIIIth Corps sample mirror the interview materials, with peaks in the subscales for depression and hostility most marked. This may be of some importance because there is a fair amount of literature[28] that implicates a combination of enduring depression and anger as detrimental to long-term health given their effects on endocrine, neuroendocrine, and immune systems.

Table 10.6

Means on Trauma Scale for Company-Level Units

Company Notional Designators













































The air war brought a new source of chronic stress–continuous apprehension about Scud missiles and the anticipated Iraqi use of chemical warheads. This stress had been building up for months when one evening in December, well before the "air war" began, I was in the field with one division, we saw flashes of light across the sky. While there were no reports of either missiles or gas, there was a great deal of intense, concerned discussion about whether or not to go into military operational protective posture (MOPP) gear. In addition, there was a great deal of concern about the adequacy of MOPP gear to meet the chemical weapons threat.[29] Apprehension about gas warfare and the effectiveness of our countermeasures was most marked among recent arrivals in the theater–those who had been most widely exposed to the full range of assertions being made at home.[30]

We discovered other stressors during our postcombat debriefing interviews. Approximately 800 to 1,000 soldiers were interviewed. It should be remembered that these debriefings were designed to provide general background on soldier experiences. Quantitative data were gathered by questionnaire. As noted, our small-group interviews were carried out with subsets of five combat arms brigades representing four divisions that had been deployed to ODS and that had been assessed prior to the combat phase of the deployment.

One of the main stressors was taking "untried, experimental drugs." In many cases in our postcombat debriefings, soldiers claimed that they were the "guinea pigs" on whom these agents (i.e., pyridostigmine bromide (PB) and vaccines) were being tried to see if they would work.[31] The rumors about PB were much like those noted for Atabrine in World War I–it would produce impotence, chronic illnesses, two-headed babies, etc. They were told that the primary symptoms would be some minor gastrointestinal upsets. But some did not believe that could be true because the drug was deemed "investigational." At the time at which these data were gathered, there was no expressed scientific concern about the consequences of ingestion of pyridostigmine bromide, and no wide-scale qualitative data were gathered about patterns of compliance. Knowledge about the problems of compliance with regimens involving other agents in past wars led us to ask questions about whether soldiers had taken PB, and if not, why.

In each group interviewed, between 20 to 30 percent of the soldiers asserted that they had not taken their PB tablets or had ceased after one administration. Soldiers, on average, said that they took PB no more than two to two and a half days total. The first time they took it was the day the air war began because of fear of an immediate retaliatory Scud attack with chemical weapons. The second time most reported taking it was when they crossed the line of departure (LD) going into Iraq and Kuwait. Most reported taking it only during the first day. Some took it the second day, and a few took it for all the days of the ground war. The reasons given for not taking PB were almost universal and may be paraphrased as follows:

• We were told by the medics that this was an experimental drug. That meant it hadn’t been used in humans. I wasn’t going to be a guinea pig.

• I thought of Agent Orange when they said experimental. None of us knew what the real effects of taking that drug would be.

• People said it would make you impotent and that you would have two-headed babies if you took pyrido. I wasn’t going to experiment on myself and my future.

• It was a new drug. No one knows what the results of taking it would be. I wasn’t going to put my future at risk, particularly with the risk of impotence and other side-effects.

• I stopped taking it because of the stomach upset.

Combat was perceived as both a stress reliever and as a source of stress. In interviews, soldiers commonly noted that crossing the LD was the greatest stress reliever of the entire deployment, since it meant they were on their way home. Combat was of course also a source of apprehension; counterbalancing the apprehension was a strong sense of obligation. By November and December, knowledge of Iraqi atrocities in Kuwait had spread through the force, and a very strong feeling developed that the troops had a duty to end this kind of murderous behavior.[32]

It is instructive to look at the events that soldiers experienced and their overall assessments of their stressfulness six to nine months following the ground war. Out of almost 13,000 soldiers surveyed in both the United States and Germany after their return from ODS, varying numbers actually experienced given sources of stress. Of those who did experience them, the percentages of soldiers that reported the events as generating "quite a bit" or "extreme" stress are detailed in Table 10.7.

By comparing Table 10.5 and Table 10.7, we can see that a number of the precombat estimates of the stressfulness of various combat events were overestimates. There was a gross underestimate of the level of effect of knowledge of killing the enemy and exposure to enemy dead. The rapidity of the ground war, the lack of inurement to a prolonged combat scenario, and above all the one-sidedness of the combat[33] contributed to this underestimate.[34]

While almost 75 percent of the soldiers in our first postcombat samples claimed to have served in units that fired on the enemy, only 30 percent of soldiers claimed to have fired rounds themselves, and only 21 percent claimed to have been involved in firefights. These modest proportions would seem to indicate a minimum amount of inflation of combat experience. A number of interviewees

Table 10.7

Percentages Claiming Exposure to and High Levels of Stress from Combat-Traumatic Events


% Claiming Exposure

% Claiming Exposure to Event Generated Quite a Bit or Extreme Stress

Buddy wounded in action



Buddy killed in action



Was wounded or injured myself



Had a leader killed or wounded in action



Had a confirmed enemy kill



Saw an enemy soldier killed or wounded



Attacked by enemy tanks



Attacked by enemy artillery



NOTE: Sample number equals 12,815.

in two divisions asserted some embarrassment about receiving the Combat Infantry Badge since they had never exchanged fire with the enemy.[35] Of the respondents, 28 percent reported that they had seen civilians killed or wounded, and 31.7 percent of these reported that this was quite a bit or extremely stressful. This was confirmed in interviews, particularly with soldiers who were aware of the Iraqi slaughter of the Shiites, and it was compounded by their frustration about being unable to do anything about it.

Accidental losses of unit members to mines or "souvenir" hunting were also a source of stress, as were road accidents. There was concern about oil fires and smoke but, initially, it was not marked. After the war ended, the major concerns were about when they could return home and about familial adjustment upon returning home. The smaller subset who had been exposed to significant trauma in combat or immediately afterward was concerned about those actual events and the vividness of their memories of them, but was more concerned about grief for lost friends and their families.


[1] As the guardians of the sacred heartland of Islam and as the heirs and proponents of Wahabbism, the most austere and orthodox form of Sunni Islam, the Saudis have walked a fine line between foreign ties and xenophobia, both within the nation and in the Muslim world at large since the founding of the kingdom in the 1920s. Political and diplomatic considerations in regard to these sensibilities undoubtedly exacerbated the stresses of deployment.

[2] Indeed such doubts have, once again, become common in the media and other venues despite the systems’ overwhelming, if imperfect, success.

[3] Various gases had been used against the Iranians, turning the tide of battle in Iraqi favor at critical points, and nerve agent had been used against villages of rebellious Kurds in Iraq itself, killing thousands.

[4] This was under the sponsorship of General Gordon Sullivan, then the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, and General William Reno, then the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel.

[5] An underlying concern for us was the history of the British force that had been sent in to defend Kuwait from a threatened Iraqi invasion in 1961. It had suffered significant levels of heat, stress, and other medical casualties.

[6] Different in way and degree from Vietnam when I carried out work there during the advisory period in 1964.

[7] This was a couple of weeks after having been replaced in their frontline positions by a Marine Expeditionary Force and after significant Army antiarmor and armored forces had begun to arrive in theater.

[8] It must be remembered that as opposed to World War II, Korea, and even Vietnam, the revolution in telecommunications technology that has taken place in the last two decades has defined a set of basic expectations about communications between the deployment or combat zone and home that are radically different from those of the past. Instantaniety of communication is not simply valued–it is expected as the "normal" way of maintaining contact at a distance. In Panama, for example, the instant shooting died down, soldiers were lined up at public telephone booths with their credit cards in hand.

[9] The lack of real immediate knowledge about events at home was substituted for by rumor. There was concern about personal property, particularly automobiles that had been left behind, in some cases parked on the street, in others in company areas. Stories of theft and burglary had begun to circulate through the force.

[10] We can hypothecate this from interviews and from the overall changes in relationships that have taken place in American society.

[11] Radio news was passed around and hunted for; the Saudi English-language press, when it was available, also had a wide audience.

[12] Here soldiers were under 24-hour a day observation. Here platoon leaders lived with their platoons. Company commanders were in the middle of their companies, and in many cases battalion commanders’ tents were in the middle of one of their companies in the midst of their battalion. While a number used the situation creatively to enhance the readiness and bonding of their organizations, most still yearned to be able to get away and go somewhere where they might "let down [their] hair." Again we must recognize that for many, there was no place to go–one stayed behind the wire of the encampment or at best could walk out beyond a nearby sand dune in the desert to snatch a few moments of privacy.

[13] This was particularly true for those in the combat arms. Many of these soldiers were both socially and physically crowded together while living in the midst of an empty desert–an environment of almost utter barrenness.

[14] Tournaments were arranged between squads and then platoons. A dramatic variant was to arrange a battle to the death between a scorpion and a toad. The fact that these bouts were primary sources of entertainment underlines the austerity of the environment.

[15] One aspect of the physical and social isolation of much of the force was, of course, to provide maximum defense against the possibility of terrorism. Lessons from Vietnam and above all from Beirut had obviously played their part in the command decisionmaking processes.

[16] As an example, I was out with one group that was deployed fairly closely to the Kuwait/Iraqi border. These soldiers, including some junior officers and noncommissioned officers, were convinced that they were surrounded by Iraqi special forces, who were busy typing into their handheld computers all the information required to drop Iraqi missiles directly on them.

[17] There was an additional problem. In many cases, the families of the "filler" personnel remained under the sponsorship of the units from which they had been taken. This fact increased concerns about family support since the rear detachment supporting the families of the unit of present assignment might be at a different post from the one at which their family was quartered. The numbers involved were not trivial, 21.4 percent of a sample from combat arms units in the XVIIIth Airborne Corps stated that they had been in their present companies for less than three months at the time of deployment, 25.6 percent of the VIIth Corps sample asserted the same. These proportions rose to 24.1 and 32.5 percent, respectively, for time in the present platoon, and 29.5 and 37.5 percent, respectively, for time in the present squad.

[18] In many cases, the bulk of the MRE contents were being thrown away. In some desert cantonments, there were great piles of discarded MRE packages from which crackers, peanut butter, and candy had been removed and main course tossed on the refuse heap.

[19] The depth and reality of this alleviation are illustrated by two conversations I had. One with a colonel in the 82nd Airborne, who spoke of his great relief when the Marines had arrived to take over and provide a heavier line of defense to his position at Al Jubail. The other was several years after the war with a Marine general who spoke of his great relief after the 24th Division had arrived bringing in armor (M1 tanks) that could handle Iraqi T 72s. All he had in his initial deployment were obsolescent M60A1s.

[20] However, problems remained (see Wright et al., 1995).

[21] Cohesion, operational readiness and training units, which are designed for maximum cohesiveness and collective training skills development.

[22] Developed out of materials used in the September—October interviews.

[23] Generally, going into combat meant moving onto the road home. As a number of soldiers put it in interviews, "God help those poor damned Iraqis. They are between me and my wife and kids. They don’t stand a chance. I will roll right over them to get home." In addition, one of the other widespread feelings about going into combat was that it represented the ultimate test of both oneself and one’s training. Soldiers wondered aloud about whether or not they really were as good as they thought, or were told, they were. The most common metaphor was the Superbowl: ODS would be the ultimate test, their Superbowl. For a subset of mid-level noncommissioned officers, this was counterpointed by bitterness about their possible future in light of the Army’s projected downsizing. A number of them, in interviews with me, used variants of the sentiment, "I will go into Iraq, get my ass shot off, do what we need to do, and then they will give me a pink slip when I get off the aircraft at home."

[24] For example, large numbers of inoperative vehicles that had been brought into the country.

[25] There were physicians who claimed they would lose their practices. There were others who were deeply distrustful about being able to get their jobs back.

[26] The stressors that soldiers responded to on checklists and talked about in interviews did not appear to affect commitment to task and mission nor were they used to remove people from their units.

[27] While the full BSI was given to the XVIIIth Airborne Corps sample, a shortened version (the Trauma Scale) was in the questionnaire given to VIIth Corps troops.

[28] Including the Framingham study.

[29] Today many people have forgotten the arguments that raged in the media about whether our protective gear was effective and usable. These arguments had created an undercurrent of concern as they were disseminated among the troops.

[30] Some additional credence was given to these doubts by early assertions in the media that the Marines were going to buy British protective gear instead of U.S. MOPP because it was lighter and more effective.

[31] About one-third of the soldiers in my interviews asserted that they did not take PB.

[32] This, by the way, was in marked contrast to the anger that we heard in September and October in response to statements made in the press that indicated that if we went to war, it would be to keep the price of gasoline down. The typical response to that was the very angry statement made to me by a young sergeant, "I’m an American soldier, I fight for democracy, I fight to keep people free, not for cheap gas!" At the same time, soldiers were aware from various media of the beliefs (that few seemed to remember after the war) of many pundits and commentators that the ground war would produce 200,000 American casualties in 48 hours and that the American military was being sucked into the greatest trap in history; it was also thought that the Iraqi ground forces would fight at least as well, if as crudely, as they had fought the Iranians, and would inflict high casualties on the American forces crossing the berm and in the initial penetrations.

[33] Soldiers rapidly became aware of their exceptional leverage over the enemy and his comparative combat ineffectiveness.

[34] In interviews, many expressed great sympathy for their bedraggled, hungry, dehydrated Iraqi prisoners–often deserted by their leaders and left to face an enemy whose skill and technological advantage utterly outclassed them.

[35] Another common sentiment was that this "was a war with no bragging rights," given the disparity in skill and effectiveness between the forces.

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