After 12 years of war, the military’s most elite forces are ‘frayed’ and reporting struggles with alcohol, sleeplessness and emotional numbness.
In a survey of active-duty special operations forces, nearly 10 percent of respondents reported potential alcohol abuse or dependence, 8 percent said they were uncharacteristically irritable or angry, and more than one-quarter of those surveyed said they were sleeping five or fewer hours a night.
Many marriages among these frequently deployed troops also are struggling — more than 14 percent of survey respondents said they were less than happy with their marriages, while 17 percent said they wish they had never married.
The goal of the survey was to hear directly from the force, and U.S. Special Operations Command is implementing several initiatives to tackle these issues, including hiring more psychologists and nutritionists, and putting in place a system to give service members more time at home, said Navy Capt. Tom Chaby, a SEAL and director of SOCOM’s Preservation of the Force and Families Task Force.
“We knew the force was frayed, that there were challenges,” Chaby said.
Many of these challenges came to light when Adm. William McRaven, the SOCOM commander, conducted town hall meetings, held 455 focus groups and met with more than 7,000 of his troops shortly after he took command, and they were confirmed in the survey, Chaby said.