Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Meatgrinder metrics, redux 
Via Instapundit comes this truly eye-opening set of statistics:

On the third anniversay of the Iraq war, the MSM keeps bombarding us with stories and statistics trying to compare this war to the carnage in Vietnam, trying to make us think that US soldiers are dying at an alarming number due to Bush's failures.
While every lost serviceman and servicewoman is certainly tragic and should be mourned, the actual statistics tell quite a different tale from the MSM and Democratic doom-and-gloom outlook. Comparing the numbers of lost US military personnel to past years, and past presidential terms, may even be a shock to supporters of the war.

Take a look at the actual US Military Casualty figures since 1980. If you do the math, you wil find quite a few surpises. First of all, let's compare numbers of US Military personnel that died during the first term of the last four presidents.

George W. Bush . . . . . 5187 (2001-2004)
Bill Clinton . . . . . . . . . 4302 (1993-1996)
George H.W. Bush . . . . 6223 (1989-1992)
Ronald Reagan . . . . . . 9163 (1981-1984)

Even during the (per MSM) utopic peacetime of Bill Clinton's term, we lost 4302 service personnel. H.W. Bush and Reagan actually lost significantly more personnel while never fighting an extensive war, much less a simulaltaneous war on two theaters (Iraq and Afghanistan). Even the dovish Carter lost more people duing his last year in office, in 1980 lost 2392, than W. has lost in any single year of his presidency. (2005 figures are not available but I would wager the numbers would be slightly higher than 2004.)

In 2004, more soldiers died outside of Iraq and Afghanistan than died inside these two war zones (900 in these zones, 987 outside these zones). The reason is that there are usually a fair number that die every year in training accidents, as well as a small number of illness and suicide. Yet the MSM would make you think that US soldiers are dying at a high number in these zones, and at a significantly higher number than in past years or under past presidents. This is all simlpy outright lies and distortion.

Other unit's mileage varies, of course, but since September 2001, and despite nearly a year in Ramadi Iraq and an additional deployment of several soldiers to Afghanistan for the last year, my own infantry headquarters company has suffered more lives lost due to off-duty accidents (2) than to enemy action (0). A third fatality was only narrowly avoided, by the grace of God, just a couple of weeks ago. (As a result of that accident, several of my own soldiers have sold their sport bikes.)

Shockingly, Jimmy Carter had higher mortality - even expressed per 100,000 soldiers in 1980 than either Bush I or Bush II. What for I can't imagine. The blood spilled in preventable accidents under Clinton, on the other hand, did result in the expulsion of Milosevic from Kosovo, at least, and ultimately, in the discrediting of Milosevic and his subsequent fall from power. But strategically, this had little upside for the United States - and we got precious little credit from the Muslim world for intervening on behalf of Muslims.

Why the downward trend?

1.) Body armor.
2.) Our troop quality is better than ever.
3.) Safer helicopters
4.) Better understanding of injury prevention - especially heat injuries.
5.) More and better institutional experience within OSHA.
6.) Smaller electrical components.
7.) Better enforcement of drivers' licensing regulations
8.) A smaller troop footprint in Germany, with its fast cars and strong beer.
9.) Low tolerance of alcohol abuse in the ranks. A DUI offense is generally considered a career-ender for officers.

The emphasis the Army places on safety management is also paying dividends - and the result is nearly a Brigade of soldiers in the field every few years. I'm sure the efforts are parallelled in other services. But in order to assume command of a company in the Florida National Guard, all officers are first required to complete an online course in safety management. By concentrating on company command and educating its unit level leadership in the principles of safety management, the Army is creating a culture of safety watchdogs. When it's important to the commander, that will drive awareness through the NCO support channels, which is where the rubber meets the road. No matter how educated the officer corps is, you don't really get traction until the NCO corps is fully engaged in the effort. And then there is no stopping you. Sometime in the last few years, the military's tremendous corps of professional NCOs really got engaged in safety management, and safety records improved substantially.

As a result, we have a much larger and stronger military for it.

Thanks, Top! From all of us.

Splash, out


I would think that higher troop moral would certainly be one of those variables that are difficult to measure. Most of the military that are in Iraq seem to truly believe in what they're doing, and understand its importance.

When you love your job you tend to perform better in just about all aspects.
My old Master Sergeant would have had your ass for using the term "Top." To the CO 3d Marines he said, "Sir, with all due respect, I do not spin on my head. I'm a Master Sergeant." As you went further down the ranks, the "with all due respect" was phased out and, by the time it was a Captain or a lieutenant, replaced by numerous f-bombs. Great Marine, and pretty useful to have in your corner when you're a young lieutenant.
I have no data to support this, but I think the biggest drop in deaths is due to decreasing DUI deaths.

Yeah, some First Sergeants don't care for the term. I've always called my 1SG "First Sergeant," even at a barbecue or over a beer. And I call my Master Sergeants "Master Sergeant."

In this case, though, the mood I wanted to set in the post was ultra informal, and I wanted it to trancend rank and branch, and apply as much to the CPOs and AF First Shirts as it was to the Army and Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeants. So I affected the term "Top" in this context.

It's actually the first time I've used it in years.

By the way, I don't stand for NCOs cussing out lieutenants and captains in any context. Nor vice versa for that matter.
This is the source for the "death rates":


Pretty obviously, the columns that "count" are not total deaths but HOSTILE ACTION plus TERRORIST ATTACK. From that we get:

Reagan 1981-84: 288
Bush 1989-92: 172
Clinton 1993-96: 56
Bush 2001-2004: 1157

Not quite as much of a "good news story" for Bush II, I'm sure you'll agree. On the other hand, the source does highlight the fact that a significant number of the deaths in Iraq are accidents and illness, which happen anyway, whether the military is at war or not.
Funny, I'd think any service member's death would "count". But what do I know?
We should only count the hostile action and terrorist attack numbers because those are the ones that are directly attributable to a Presidential decision - i.e. he put people in harms way. Peacetime deaths (accident and illness) happen anyway, regardless of what the President decides. Also, the problem with comparing non-combat deaths from 1981-92 with those of 1993-2006 is that the military got a LOT smaller after the Cold War ended, and thus there are twice as many non-combat deaths under Reagan as under Clinton and GW Bush.
Parenthetically, we're well on our way to the second lowest US/coalition death rate for a single month since the invasion:


Wonder how the press will report it?

"More March US casualties than Feb, 2004"
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