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Survey: The troops’ turn to speak

They say Iraq war worth fighting, though morale lags among some

In the third year of the war in Iraq, with debate flaring in the U.S., American troops surveyed by Stars and Stripes overwhelmingly said the war is worth fighting.

Seventy-four percent of Stripes military readers in Iraq who responded to a readership survey said fighting the war for America was “very” or “somewhat” worthwhile. About a quarter of the respondents said it was “not very worthwhile” or “not worthwhile at all.”

And while 81 percent of Stripes readers in Iraq said the definition of their mission is clear, responses also reflected some concerns about morale.

Troops in the non-officer, or enlisted, ranks tended to be less optimistic about the subject of morale than officers.

While half of the respondents between the ranks of E-1 and E-6 said their unit’s morale was somewhat low or very low, 82 percent of the commissioned officers who responded said they believed their unit’s morale was high or very high. The percentage of these officers rating their unit's morale as somewhat low or very low was 15 percent. Seventy-four percent of readers with ranks from E-7 to E-9 plus warrant officers rated their unit’s morale as high or very high.

In the military, E-1 through E-6 are the lower enlisted ranks, such as privates, corporals and junior noncommissioned officers, who make up the bulk of the force and have the most contact with the enemy. The higher-ranking sergeants, E-7 through E-9, along with warrant officers and all commissioned officers, are in leadership positions.

The survey also asked about the respondents’ personal morale, as opposed to their perception of the unit’s morale. While junior enlisted, such as privates, specialists, corporals or senior airmen, rated their personal morale higher than the unit’s morale, there was still a wide split between junior enlisted and everyone else: Sixty-six percent of those E-1 through E-4 rated their personal morale high, while 84 percent of senior enlisted and warrant officers said the same. Eighty-two percent of those O-1 through O-3, lieutenants and captains, and 81 percent of those O-4 and above, majors and above, rated their personal morale as high.

At the same time, although they rated their morale high, the junior officers, O-1 through O-3, were less inclined than others to feel that conditions in Iraq had improved compared to when they first arrived. Forty-eight percent of these officers believed conditions in the country had improved; 44 percent felt the conditions were the same or worse. Sixty-seven percent of enlisted believed conditions had improved, while 69 percent of officers O-4, or major, and above believed conditions had improved.

The results are culled from a readership survey inserted into printed editions of Stars and Stripes delivered to Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations on single days from December and February, with responses accepted through March.

The results were compiled by media research experts from MORI Research, a Minneapolis-based firm whose clients include USA Today, The Washington Post, Knight Ridder and The Seattle Times, among other news organizations.

The survey was filled out by servicemembers and sent back to Stripes via the military mail system. Nearly 600 readers in Iraq responded to the surveys, including high-ranking officers, lower enlisted troops and civilians.

Among the other findings of the survey:

Only about half of the military respondents in Iraq rated their interaction with Iraqis as positive. Fifty-two percent rated the interaction as excellent or good, while 44 percent chose fair or poor.

The outcome was more on the positive side in Afghanistan, with 60 percent rating their interactions with Afghans as excellent or good.

Surveys returned from Afghanistan (see accompanying story), showed some marked differences in response to certain questions. For example while 68 percent of those in Iraq rated the mail system as excellent or good, only 55 percent in Afghanistan gave the service those high ratings.

Sixty-eight percent of those in Iraq who returned the survey said they believed public support for troops in Iraq was “strong.” A slightly lower number — 64 percent — said they were “well informed” about public action in support of troops in the Middle East.

Seventy-nine percent rated their living conditions as excellent or good. A roughly equal number — 73 percent — rated their personal health as excellent or good compared to when they first arrived in theater.

Asked to rate their chain of command’s concern for their living conditions, E-5s and E-6s, the lower-ranking sergeants, gave the command lower marks than others did. Sixty-seven percent felt their chain of command was somewhat concerned or very concerned. Twenty percent responded “not very concerned,” and 11 percent said “not concerned at all.” Officers responded more positively overall, with 92 percent of senior officers, majors and above, responding that the chain of command was concerned.


What they said

See the results of Stars and Stripes' survey of deployed troops on the topics of:

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