- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2009

Children of U.S. military personnel are likely to suffer behavioral, emotional and social problems resulting from repeated deployments that continue after eight years of war, says a report published Monday.

The Rand Corp., in a report in a peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says that about a third of 1,500 children surveyed reported symptoms of elevated anxiety - more than twice the rate in the general population.

The study’s release coincides with an acknowledgment by the Pentagon that the continuing buildup in Afghanistan means it will take longer to meet its goal for all troops to get at least two years at home between deployments.

“The more cumulative total months deployed, the more problems their children reported,” said Anita Chandra, a behavioral scientist and the study’s lead author.

In addition to suffering increased anxiety, children of deployed personnel reported heightened levels of behavioral and emotional difficulties, like feeling sad or getting into trouble at school.

About 2 million children in the U.S. have a parent in the military.

Jo Koeniger, a mother of two, said the yearlong deployment of her husband, Col. Mark Koeniger, in Iraq is made easier because of Skype - the Internet-based video-phone service that allows subscribers to make free calls overseas.

“The first time we saw him [on screen, during a Skype call], I broke down and cried,” she said, adding that the eight-hour time difference with Balad Camp in Iraq, where her husband is based, still makes communications challenging.

“It’s just a question of fitting it in,” she said. “Weekends are our time to talk.”

Mrs. Koeniger said what the military calls “dwell time” - the interval between deployments - is critical.

Her husband returned in January this year from his last deployment and was told almost immediately that he would be going to Iraq in July.

“You have that hanging over you, even during … the euphoria,” she said, looking back on the weeks after her husband’s return.

The report said the impact of longer periods deployed was more pronounced among girls, particularly during the reintegration period once a parent returns home.

The researchers said they were surprised that older children reported more problems related to parental deployment, because most earlier studies had focused on younger children.

The study found that children living on base reported fewer difficulties than those whose families did not.

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