The past three years seem to have been the hardest on army officers, as they have seen a steep, three-fold increase in departures due to misconduct and internal crimes, according to the documents. A total of 119 Army officers were forced to leave due to misconduct in 2010, which closely matched the average since 2000, but the figure more than tripled in 2013 to 387. For enlisted soldiers, the number jumped from 5,600 in 2007 to upward of 11,000 in 2013.
This may be in part due to the army’s rapid expansion in the last decade, owing to a soaring demand for soldiers in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq. This may have led to a relaxing of standards for the purpose of retaining soldiers in ranks that needed to stay filled.
Also, a possible reason is that long, repeated exposure to combat puts both an individual strain on the soldiers and their leaders, but also changes the ethics and style of how recruitment and behavioral oversight are conducted in periods of prolonged war.
Similarly, the protracted period of conflict could have led to a greater number of soldiers with psychological problems being allowed to stay, because commanders didn’t have the time or the luxury of being more selective about who to keep and who to dismiss.
At the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, the Army was inflated to a record 570,000, more than any other military service.
Speaking to the AP, one of the Army’s top officials, General Ray Odierno, had a slightly expanded take on the issue, believing that soldiers’ commitment and competence may also have forced commanders to overlook certain disciplinary or psychological issues in the military.
Odierno doesn’t believe that “a lack of character was tolerated in [the war] theater, but the fact of the last 10 or 12 years of repeated deployments, of the high op-tempo — we might have lost focus on this issue.”
Gambling, drinking and sexual misconduct form part of a series of high-profile scandals that have plagued the US military, leading to scathing reviews and changes in personnel regulations. One army general was demoted for lavish spending, while another had to face charges of sexual misconduct, with multiple gambling and drinking violations pinned on a number of others.