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Committee on the Assessment of the Readjustment Needs of Military Personnel, Veterans, and Their Families; Board on the Health of Select Populations; Institute of Medicine. Returning Home from Iraq and Afghanistan: Assessment of Readjustment Needs of Veterans, Service Members, and Their Families. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2013 Mar 12.

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Returning Home from Iraq and Afghanistan: Assessment of Readjustment Needs of Veterans, Service Members, and Their Families.

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3CHARACTERISTICS OF THE DEPLOYED

The focus of this chapter is on the demographic characteristics of US military personnel deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and/or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and it is based on data from the Department of Defense (DOD) Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) Contingency Tracking System (CTS). A CTS “deployment” for OEF and OIF is defined as “a DOD service member who is or has been physically located within the OEF and/or OIF combat zones or areas of operation (AOR), or has been specifically identified by his/her service as ‘directly supporting’ the OEF and/or OIF mission outside the designated combat zone (e.g., US Air Force aircrew or support personnel located at an airbase outside the combat zone)” (Bonds et al., 2010). The DMDC CTS includes all US military personnel who have been deployed to OEF, OIF, and OND in support of the Global War on Terror from September 11, 2001, to the present time. The committee, however, only has records through December 31, 2010. The file the committee received with the variables requested represents a snapshot in time, that is, the status of the deployed at the time the file was created. Thus, all descriptive analyses in the chapter reflect the characteristics of the deployed at one point in time. The committee did not use the descriptive analyses in this chapter to link with any other data in the report.

DEMOGRAPHICS

The following analyses are based on the 2.1 million service members who had been deployed to OEF, OIF, and/or OND by the end of 2010 (Table 3.1).1 Over half those deployed were in the Army, including all components; 28% were in the Regular Army alone. The proportion of those deployed by branch in the Regular components ranged from 56% in the Army to 84% in the Navy and Marine Corps. In turn, those in the National Guard and reserves (combined across all services) constituted one-third of all those deployed.

TABLE 3.1. Service Members Deployed, by Branch of Service and Component as of 2010.

TABLE 3.1

Service Members Deployed, by Branch of Service and Component as of 2010.

Pay Grade

As shown in Table 3.2, over 85% of those deployed in all components and service branches were enlisted, with nearly 6 in 10 of the enlisted in the senior enlisted grades (E5–E9). The proportion of total enlisted personnel (E1–E9) supporting the operations ranged from about 78% in the Coast Guard to about 90% in the Marine Corps. The proportion of senior enlisted personnel in those deployed ranged from 40% in the Marine Corps to about 62% in the Air Force.

TABLE 3.2. Service Members Deployed, by Branch of Service and Pay Grade, as of 2010.

TABLE 3.2

Service Members Deployed, by Branch of Service and Pay Grade, as of 2010.

Sex

Of the military personnel serving in OEF and/or OIF through 2010, about 88% were men and about 12% women (Table 3.3); the proportion of women deployed (across all components) ranged from about 3% in the Marine Corps to over 17% in the Air Force. By pay grade, the proportion of women among those deployed ranged from about 8% of the warrant officers to about 16% of the junior officers (O1–O3). The proportion of women deployed by branch and pay grade ranged from about 3% of junior enlisted marines to over 20% of junior officers in the Air Force.

TABLE 3.3. Proportion of Women Deployed, by Branch of Service and Pay Grade, as of 2010.

TABLE 3.3

Proportion of Women Deployed, by Branch of Service and Pay Grade, as of 2010.

Age

As shown in Table 3.4, the average age of those deployed was 33.4 years. Half the deployed were 25–34 years old at the end of 2010 (about 72% were 25–44 years old), with approximately equal proportions either under 25 years old or 45 years old or older. The proportions of those 25–34 years old by branch ranged from about 45% in the Air Force to about 60% in the Marine Corps. In addition, about 25% of marines were less than 25 years old (about 84% less than 35 years old). Marine Corps deployed had the lowest mean age, 29.5 years, and Air Force deployed had the highest mean age, 35.8 years.

TABLE 3.4. Age Distributions and Mean Ages of Deployed Service Members, by Service Branch, as of 2010.

TABLE 3.4

Age Distributions and Mean Ages of Deployed Service Members, by Service Branch, as of 2010.

The numbers of regular component and National Guard and reserve component officers and enlisted members by age are summarized in Table 3.5. On the average, those deployed from the National Guard and reserves were older than service members in the regular component, 36 vs 32 years old, respectively. Among National Guard and reserve component officers, 75% were 35 years old or older compared with 59% of regular component officers, primarily because of differences between junior officers (grades O1–O3), 47% vs 26%. Forty percent of the National Guard and reserve component enlisted members were under 30 years old compared with 55% of the regular component enlisted members; the magnitudes of the differences were consistent in the junior and senior enlisted.

TABLE 3.5. Age Distributions and Mean Age of Deployed Service Members, by Component and Pay Grade, as of 2010.

TABLE 3.5

Age Distributions and Mean Age of Deployed Service Members, by Component and Pay Grade, as of 2010.

Race and Ethnicity

The percentage of missing or unknown data in the DMDC database is especially high for race and ethnicity, particularly for Hispanic origin. Of service members with known race (92%) serving in OEF and/or OIF, about 77% were white, 17% black, 4% Asian, and 2% other races. Of those with reported ethnicity (59%), about 18% were of Hispanic origin.2

Education

Of those deployed to OEF and/or OIF in all service branches and components, less than 1% had less than a high-school education (see Table 3.6). Over two-thirds had a high-school degree or equivalent (GED), and over 30% had at least some college education. Of junior officers (O1–O3), 88% had at least a college degree, and over 70% of those who had advanced degrees were senior officers (O4–O10). High-school degrees and GEDs were most common among junior and senior enlisted, but over 75% of those who had some college education but no college degree were senior enlisted service members.

TABLE 3.6. Education Status of Deployed Service Members, by Pay Grade, as of 2010.

TABLE 3.6

Education Status of Deployed Service Members, by Pay Grade, as of 2010.

Marital Status

As shown in Table 3.7, about 59% of those deployed in all services and components were married—from about 40% of the junior enlisted (E1–E4) to 85% of the senior officers (O4– O10). Marital status differed somewhat by branch of service and component. In all components, the proportions of service members married ranged from about 53% in the Marine Corps to about 65% in the Air Force (see Table 3.8). In the regular component, 61% were married—from about 55% in the Marine Corps to about 66% in the Air Force. Among the two reserve components, 55% of the reserves and 58% of the National Guard were married, and the proportion of members married ranged from 44% in the Marine Corps reserves to 65% in the Air National Guard.

TABLE 3.7. Proportion of Deployed Service Members Married, by Branch of Service and Pay Grade, as of 2010.

TABLE 3.7

Proportion of Deployed Service Members Married, by Branch of Service and Pay Grade, as of 2010.

TABLE 3.8. Proportion of Deployed Service Members Married, by Branch of Service and Component as of 2010.

TABLE 3.8

Proportion of Deployed Service Members Married, by Branch of Service and Component as of 2010.

Dependent Children

The proportion of deployed service members in all service branches and components who had dependent children was 49%—from 35% in the Marine Corps to 52% in the Air Force (Table 3.9). Half those in the regular component and National Guard had dependent children compared with 44% in the reserves. The proportion in all branches and components who had dependent children ranged from a low of 28% and 35% among Marine Corps and Coast Guard reserves, respectively, to 53% in the regular Army and Air Force. In all services and components, 69% of those currently married and 11% of those who had never married had dependent children. The number of children of those who had children ranged from 1 to 14; the mean was just under 2 (1.97), with a narrow range of 1.8 in the Marine Corp Reserves to 2.02 in the regular Army.

TABLE 3.9. Proportion of Deployed Service Members with Children, by Branch of Service and Component, as of 2010.

TABLE 3.9

Proportion of Deployed Service Members with Children, by Branch of Service and Component, as of 2010.

DEPLOYMENT

Military deployments in support of the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have varied in duration, frequency, combat intensity, geography, service branch, and service component. Sudden and prolonged deployment and separation from family or home may be enough to warrant implication of deployment as the main exposure, though this approach lacks the understanding of the complex environmental factors that service members may encounter in theater. To begin to understand any lasting health impact of this complex exposure, we must first understand the nature of deployments.

Number of Deployments

By the end of 2010, 2,147,398 service members had deployed a total of 3,683,746 deployments in support of the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan—an average of 1.72 each and a range in frequency from 1 to 47. Of those who deployed, 57% deployed only once and 43% multiple times. Of those who deployed more than once, nearly two-thirds deployed twice (27% of the total number of deployers), one-fourth deployed three times (10% of the total number of deployers), and about 15% (6% of the total number of deployers) deployed four or more times.

As shown in Tables 3.10 and 3.11, the number of deployments varied substantially among service branches and components. The average number of deployments by service ranged from 1.3 in the Coast Guard and 1.6 in the Army and Marine Corps to 2.1 in the Air Force. Likewise, the proportions of multiple deployers ranged from 19% in the Coast Guard to over half in the Air Force. The proportion having four or more deployments ranged from less than 2% in the Coast Guard and 3% in the Marine Corps to 13% in the Air Force.

The proportion of deployers who had multiple deployments in the National Guard and reserves (35%) was appreciably less than that in the regular component (47%); the average number ranged from 1.56 in the National Guard to 1.77 in the regular component. When one examines the numbers by branch and component, those with the lowest average numbers of deployments were the Coast Guard and Marine Corps reserves (1.22 and 1.29, respectively) and those in the regular Coast Guard (1.28). Those with the highest average numbers of deployments were the Air Force Guard and reserves (2.24 and 2.58, respectively). Over 80% of the two Coast Guard components and over 75% of the Marine Corps reserves had only one deployment compared with fewer than half those in the Air Force Guard and reserve components.

TABLE 3.10Proportion of Deployed Service Members Deployed Multiple Times, by Branch of Service and Component,a as of 2010

ComponentArmy, N (%)bNavy, N (%)bAir Force, N (%)bMarine Corps, N (%)bCoast Guard, N (%)bTOTAL N (%)b
Regular287,938
(47.3)
145,043
(44.8)
137,760
(49.2)
107,462
(48.9)
920
(19.1)
679,123
(47.3)
National Guard88,291
(29.6)
N/A42,935
(53.8)
N/AN/A131,226
(34.7)
Reserves57,201
(32.9)
20,876
(34.7)
28,164
(51.5)
9,943
(23.5)
203
(16.0)
116,387
(35.3)
TOTAL433,430
(40.1)
165,919
(43.2)
208,859
(50.4)
117,405
(44.9)
1123
(18.5)
926,736
(43.2)

NOTE: Entire file contained 2,147,398, but 10 Air Force and one Marine Corps personnel had an unknown component.

a

In contrast with the Army and Air Force, the Navy and Marine Corps do not have National Guard components.

b

N, number with multiple deployments within each group; % are cell percentages representing the percentage with multiple deployments in each group based on denominators in Table 3.1.

SOURCE: Defense Manpower Data Center.

TABLE 3.11Mean Number of Deployments,a by Branch of Service and Component,b as of 2010

ComponentArmyNavyAir ForceMarine CorpsCoast GuardTOTAL
Regular1.761.711.941.691.281.77
National Guard1.38N/A2.24N/AN/A1.56
Reserves1.451.592.581.291.221.64
TOTAL1.611.692.081.631.271.72
a

The distributions of average length of deployment, average length of dwell time, and number of deployments were symmetric, and the medians were very similar to the means. Thus, the committee elected to report the means.

b

In contrast with the Army and Air Force, the Navy and Marine Corps do not have National Guard components.

Length of Deployment

Duration of deployment has varied among service branches and service components and has varied temporally over the decade of deployments (see Table 3.12). The committee has presented the range of average deployment durations per service branch. The average length of deployments (total number of months divided by number of deployments) in all branches and components was 7.7 months—8.3 months for single deployers and 6.8 months for multiple deployers. When stratified by branch of service, deployment length ranged from 4.5 months in the Air Force to 9.4 months in the Army, both appreciably higher among single than among multiple deployers. By component, for single and multiple deployers combined, the range of average deployment length was fairly narrow, ranging from 7.5 months in the regular component to 8.0 in the National Guard and reserves. The higher average among the two reserve components is driven largely by single deployers; among those who had multiple deployments, the average length was actually higher in the regular components. By branch and component, average deployment length ranged from 3.5 months in the Air Force National Guard to 11.9

TABLE 3.12. Mean Length of Deployment in Months, by Branch of Service and Component, as of 2010.

TABLE 3.12

Mean Length of Deployment in Months, by Branch of Service and Component, as of 2010.

Considering deployment length over time, Figure 3.1 displays a consistent pattern for Air Force and Navy personnel who maintained the lowest average length of deployments over the decade of operations. The Army and Marine Corps maintained higher average length of deployments that, as one may expect, spiked during times of heavy combat early in the operations and during the 2006 and 2007 heavy combat periods.

FIGURE 3.1. Average months deployed, by deployment start date and branch.

FIGURE 3.1

Average months deployed, by deployment start date and branch.

If deployment itself is considered an exposure, the “dose” may impact health, so more deployment time would theoretically be worse for subsequent health outcomes. Therefore, another way to examine duration of deployment is to compare the cumulative deployment length for multiple deployers. Overall, as shown in Table 3.13, those with two or more deployments averaged 16.9 months across all deployments combined. By branch of service, cumulative average length of deployment among multiple deployers ranged from 9.7 months in the Coast Guard to 20.9 months in the Army. By component, the range was much narrower, but it was higher, 14.6 months in the National Guard to 17.6 months in the regular component. Comparisons by branch and component, however, showed significantly greater variability: from 8.9 and 9.3 months in the Air Force National Guard and Coast Guard reserves, respectively, to 21.1 months in the Marine Corps reserves and 22.7 months in the regular Army.

TABLE 3.13. Cumulative Deployment Length in Months of Multiple Deployers, by Branch of Service and Component, as of 2010.

TABLE 3.13

Cumulative Deployment Length in Months of Multiple Deployers, by Branch of Service and Component, as of 2010.

Potentially as impactful on health and other outcomes as the length and frequency of deployment is the time between deployments during which a military member can “reset” before going back into theater. That has become such a focus of concern that in 2011 the Army initiated a 2-year dwell cycle for deploying units that was contingent on demand for personnel in theater. Over the last decade, however, in all services and components, the average dwell time of those deployed two or more times was 21 months, from 16 months in the Marine Corps to about 22 months in the Army and Navy (Table 3.14). By component, the average dwell time was about 24 months for those in the National Guard compared with about 20 months in the reserves and regular component. Average dwell time ranged from less than 16 months in the regular Marine Corps and Coast Guard to over 26 months in the Army National Guard.

TABLE 3.14. Mean Dwell Time of Multiple Deployers, in Months, by Branch of Service and Component, as of 2010.

TABLE 3.14

Mean Dwell Time of Multiple Deployers, in Months, by Branch of Service and Component, as of 2010.

There was also a notable downward trend in the length of dwell time over the decade of operations as seen in dwell times of the regular and reserve National Guard components stratified by service branch (Figures 3.2 and 3.3). Independently, the three components indicate the same trends, although reserve and National Guard components had a substantial decrease in average length of deployment early in 2003, potentially indicating the redeployment of reserve and National Guard back into theater as the operations in Iraq were about to begin (Figure 3.3).

FIGURE 3.2. Average dwell time, by deployment end date and branch, regular component only.

FIGURE 3.2

Average dwell time, by deployment end date and branch, regular component only.

FIGURE 3.3. Average dwell time, by deployment end date and branch, reserve and Guard components only.

FIGURE 3.3

Average dwell time, by deployment end date and branch, reserve and Guard components only.

Location of Deployment

Understanding where military members deployed can be just as important as understanding how long and how often they deployed. The statement of task and the focus of this report is on all those deployed to OEF and OIF, including (a) those physically located within the OEF and OIF combat zones or areas of operation (AORs) and (b) those specifically identified by their service as “directly supporting” the OEF and/or OIF mission outside the designated combat zone. For many purposes, a more refined analysis would focus on deployed members who specifically served in the combat areas of operation in Afghanistan, Iraq, or both. While the DOD DMDC Contingency Tracking System contains data fields for specifying the location of each deployment designated as in direct support of the OEF, OIF, or OND mission, some individual records do not have movements in and out of country. In particular, before 2005, while DMDC did track deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, the location codes were mostly unknown or based on the embarkation country for the service members (such as Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar). In 2005, the Defense Theater Accountability System increased the level of detail to include each change in country during a given service member's deployment. Thus, use of only the Afghanistan and Iraq country codes to identify those who served in these AORs would underestimate the numbers of service members who actually served there from September 11, 2001, through 2010.

Because that distinction is likely to be raised in many discussions on the impact of deployment on service members, veterans, and their families in the years ahead, we sought to explore the data further. Specifically, using the country codes, each deployment location in the file was service-classified as

  • Afghanistan or Iraq.
  • Middle East locations designated as eligible for combat-zone pay or benefits (Djibouti, Israel, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Yemen).
  • Other known countries or locations (such as Germany and Korea).
  • Unknown locations (location data missing).

Based on those codes, it was possible to categorize all those deployed as (1) at least one deployment to Afghanistan or Iraq; (2) at least one Middle East country and all other deployment countries/locations are known; (3) Middle East and/or other countries, with at least one unknown location; (4) only countries other than Afghanistan, Iraq, or the Middle East; and (5) none of the deployment locations are known (all are missing).

The distributions of deployment locations by branch of service are shown in Table 3.15 and described in detail in Chapter 2. Overall, 62% of those deployed in all branches had at least one deployment that included either Afghanistan and/or Iraq. In the Army and in the Marine Corps, 82% and 75%, respectively, had unambiguous deployments to those two countries. In contrast, in the Navy and in the Coast Guard, less than 20% and less than 10% had deployments to those countries. However, even in the Army and Marine Corps, 2–5% had no location coded for their deployments, and 15–17% had deployments to designated Middle East countries, some of which could well have been points of embarkation for Afghanistan or Iraq. Nearly 57% of those deployed in the Navy had no location specified, and over half those in the Coast Guard were deployed to other known countries and locations. Distributions by component show less variation in deployments by location in the regular and two reserve components. When they are examined by branch and component (Table 3.16), the differences described by branch on the average tended to be greater among the regular components (for example, 88% of those in the regular Army were deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, and 62% of the regular Navy had no location specified).

TABLE 3.15. Distribution of Deployment Location of Deployed Service Members, by Service Branch, as of 2010.

TABLE 3.15

Distribution of Deployment Location of Deployed Service Members, by Service Branch, as of 2010.

TABLE 3.16. Distribution of Deployment Location of Deployed Service Members, by Component, as of 2010.

TABLE 3.16

Distribution of Deployment Location of Deployed Service Members, by Component, as of 2010.

SUMMARY

The chapter describes the basic characteristics of all those deployed in support of OEF and/or OIF between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2010. Of the 2.15 million who were deployed during that period, over half were in the Army—nearly one-third in the regular Army alone—and those in the National Guard and reserves combined constituted one-third of those deployed. Over 85% of those deployed were enlisted, and 12% were women, including 20% of the junior officers in the Air Force. The average age of those deployed was 33.4 years—from an average of 29.5 years in the Marine Corps to an average of 35.8 years in the Air Force. Those deployed from the reserves and National Guard were older. Over two-thirds had a high-school degree or equivalent, and over 30% had at least some college education. Nearly 60% of those deployed were married, and nearly half had dependent children, 1.97 on average. By the end of 2010, the 2.15 million service members had been deployed an average of 1.7 times: 57% once, 27% twice, 10% three times, and 6% four or more times. Those in the National Guard and reserves had fewer multiple deployments than those in the regular component. The average length of deployments was 7.7 months—from an average of 4.5 months in the Air Force to an average of 9.4 months in the Army. The average cumulative length of deployments of multiple deployers was 16.9 months. The average dwell time between deployments was 21 months.

REFERENCE

  • Bonds TM, Baiocchi D, McDonald LL. Army Deployments of OIF and OEF. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation; 2010.

Footnotes

1

Although these descriptive analyses would ideally have included data and reference comparisons with the nondeployed or the total force during this period, providing comparable data would have required access to identifiable data on all the nondeployed as well as all those deployed. The committee was not able to obtain full identifiable information on all the nondeployed to conduct the descriptive analyses.

2

Because the proportions with missing data on race and ethnicity are significantly higher than the other characteristics in this chapter, we were concerned about providing additional descriptive analyses based on these variables.

Copyright 2013 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Bookshelf ID: NBK206861

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