Military Morale for the Long haul.(EDITORIALS)

Article excerpt

Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

President Bush was right to say that the war on terrorism will be long and hard. Our military planners are undoubtedly looking not only at the coming campaign in Iraq, but what will come after it, and how we will meet those challenges. One part of any military force's ability to fight is its morale. The morale of our front-line forces - the Special Operations troops, Air Force and Navy pilots, and the others who are first to go in harm's way - is very high. Morale is a key to fighting readiness, and the great majority of the people serving in these high-profile forces have a concomitantly high morale. But our sources tell us that all is not well with many of the others, including many who may have to go into combat in the near future.

There are many ways to measure morale. It can be measured objectively by comparing re-enlistment rates to the rate of military disciplinary actions. A unit with high re-enlistment and low courts martial is thought to have high morale, and vice versa. There is much more to the question because morale is not something that can be measured merely by counting numbers, and the factors that really determine morale are different in peace and war. In peacetime, factors such as overall quality of life, work hours and schedules, and the time away from home all affect morale. In war, things are different. But a year after September 11, Americans - including many in the military - have followed all too well the president's advice to get back to normal. And "normal" - for us - is peace, not war. While many of our troops have been in the fight and some of these brave people have been killed or injured, most of our active-duty military still lives in its peacetime mode. …