For U.S. troops, it’s the pace, not the peril of duty during war, that sours them on re-enlisting.
That is the conclusion of a Rand Corp. study made public yesterday. It found that the biggest gripes of active-duty troops are long days and increased workload, not the personal dangers they face in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The study, based on focus-group interviews and surveys of scores of troops, showed many hours of work and an unrelentingly heavy workload are exhausting those in the war zone — where 20-hour days and seven-day weeks are common — as well as those at the home bases.
“Focus-group members said that personnel shortages caused by the loss of personnel to deployment meant that those left behind had to accept more responsibilities and take on extra work,” the study said.
The seemingly unrelenting “operations tempo” is a major contribution to job burnout, the study said. Even those who find combat deployments a positive experience say the prospect of continued combat tours is disheartening, both to them and their families.
“The increased operating tempo [has] led to longer work hours and a more intense work pace, which increased work stress and caused some members to consider leaving the military,” the Rand report said.
Many troops consider deployment to combat zones a plus, the study said.
Sweetened paychecks, which can grow by nearly $600 a month for those at war, and re-enlistment bonuses that average between $6,000 and $10,000 also help persuade troops to sign up for another tour in uniform, the study found.
These conclusions support the Army’s statistics, which show that the service has surpassed its targeted rate for retaining troops since 2001, by a growing margin each year. In fiscal 2005, nearly 70,000 soldiers re-enlisted, which was 108 percent of the Army’s goal.