One-Third Of US Casualties In Afghanistan And Iraq Were Non-Combat Accidents

The U.S. military's mishap problem is older than you probably realized: Of the nearly 30,000 U.S. service members wounded in … Continued

The U.S. military's mishap problem is older than you probably realized: Of the nearly 30,000 U.S. service members wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq during a 12-year period at the beginning of the forever wars, a full third were injured in non-combat incidents, according to a new study — and that proportion is only expected to grow in the coming years.

  • Shit happens — a lot: An analysis of Department of Defense Trauma Registry data published in the medical journal JAMA Surgery found that 34.1% of total casualties and 11.5% percent of all deaths from January 2003 to December 2014 occurred in non-combat conditions.
  • Unintentional falls: The largest proportion of so-called “non-battle injuries” (NBIs) occurred due to, well, falling. Some 1,283 service members died from unintentional falls, followed by car crashes and machinery or equipment accidents.
  • This isn't because of the sequester: Lawmakers have pointed to the 2011 Budget Control Act as a root cause of the Class A mishap epidemic that has rankled the Air Force and Navy in recent months — and 66.3% and 48.3% of those services' respective casualties were due to NBIs. But the time span of the report covers nearly a decade in the pre-freeze spending environment, too.
  • It's only going to get worse: Based on their analysis, the researchers posit that the proportion of NIBs among all U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan will grow to 41% by 2022 — and that's assuming “stable battlefield conditions,” an assessment that lays the burden of the U.S. military's recent mishap crisis on the sequester.

On the flipside, lawmakers took a moment last month to set up an independent commission to get to bottom of the DoD's worsening mishap crisis. Those results will likely arrive in 2022. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Jared Keller
Jared Keller

is the executive editor of Task & Purpose. His writing has appeared in Aeon, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the New Republic, Pacific Standard, Smithsonian, and The Washington Post, among other publications. Contact the author here.

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