Staff Published: October 16, 2007 11:00 PM ET
NEW YORK For several weeks, E&P has documented what appears to be a surge in non-combat deaths among U.S. troops in Iraq. These fatalities come from vehicle accidents, illness, suicides and friendly fire.
The military always states that they are under investigation and it is local newspapers that usually first get word, often from families, about what might have really happened.
Now today comes confirmation of these concerns. A team of U.S. army safety experts are in Iraq studying this trend, which has coincided with extended 15-month deployments for troops, a senior military official said this week.
Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, operations director of the Joint Staff, said commanders in Iraq were concerned enough about the spike in non-combat deaths that it has asked for an assessment by the army team, according to an Agence France Press report.
According to Pentagon figures, 29 soldiers died in August for non-hostile reasons, and another 23 died of non-combat causes in September.
Shockingly, this compares with seven in August last year and 11 in September 2006.
The military has official confirmed more than 125 suicides in Iraq with many others under investigation. "We don't yet know what may have caused an increase in the non-battle casualties," Ham said." That's why the commanders in Iraq have asked for the Army Safety Center to come analyze that and to map out the way ahead, to maintain focus on safety for all the troops on the ground," he added.
Ham said morale remains high, but added, "I think there is a general consensus, and several leaders have said this, that for the army 15 months is a long hard tour. It's hard on the soldiers, it's hard on the families."