- Jul 31, 2005
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
WASHINGTON - The National Guard and Reserves are suffering a strikingly higher share of U.S. casualties in
Iraq, their portion of total American military deaths nearly doubling since last year.
Reservists have accounted for one-quarter of all U.S. deaths since the Iraq war began, but the proportion has grown over time. It was 10 percent for the five weeks it took to topple Baghdad in the spring of 2003, and 20 percent for 2004 as a whole.
The trend accelerated this year. For the first nine months of 2005 reservists accounted for 36 percent of U.S. deaths, and for August and September it was 56 percent, according to
The Army National Guard, Army Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve accounted for more than half of all U.S. deaths in August and in September — the first time that has happened in consecutive months. The only other month in which it even approached 50 percent was June 2004.
National Guard officials say their soldiers have been sent into combat in Iraq in numbers not previously seen in modern times — far more than were sent to Vietnam, where active-duty troops did the vast majority of the fighting.
Charles Krohn, a former Army deputy chief of public affairs, said the reservists are taking up the slack for the highly stressed active-duty Army.
"Decisions made years earlier made going to war in any significant way impossible without Guard and Reserve participation. But I can't imagine anyone postulated the situation we face today: We don't seem very anxious to bring back the draft and we can't get enough volunteers for a war that is not universally popular," Krohn said.
Forty-five percent of all Guard and Reserve deaths since the start of the war — 220 of the 487 total — occurred in the first nine months of 2005, according to Pentagon figures. The deadliest month was August, when 49 Guard and Reserve members died.
Gone are the days when the National Guard and Reserve served mainly as "rear-area" support, far from the front-line fighting.
In Iraq the front line is everywhere — on rural roads where Guard and Reserve soldiers drive supply trucks, at urban checkpoints, in remote villages and at major supply bases. Some units also have been attached to active-duty units with the specific mission of conducting offensive operations.
At present, of the approximately 152,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, about half are reservists: 49,000 Army National Guard, 22,000 Army Reserve and 4,000 Marine Reserve, according to figures provided by those organizations.
At least 300 soldiers of the National Guard, 78 of the Army Reserve and 93 of the Marine Corps Reserve, have died in the Iraq conflict. The Navy Reserve has lost 13, the Air Force Reserve three and the Air National Guard one. Together that is one-quarter of the total U.S death toll, which stood at 1,947 on Monday, by the Pentagon's count.