West Point Grads Don’t Want To Get Stuck In Iraq

Let’s look back at John Kerry’s botched joke as if he meant it the way it was twisted by some conservatives to mean that those with an education don’t wind up getting stuck in Iraq. (In case anyone hasn’t yet heard the truth on this one, Kerry was actually joking about George Bush getting the country stuck in Iraq). It turns out that the conservative twist on this one really works–especially if we’re talking about West Point grads. They don’t want to get stuck in Iraq. The Boston Globe reports:

Recent graduates of the US Military Academy at West Point are choosing to leave active duty at the highest rate in more than three decades, a sign to many military specialists that repeated tours in Iraq are prematurely driving out some of the Army’s top young officers.

According to statistics compiled by West Point, of the 903 Army officers commissioned upon graduation in 2001, nearly 46 percent left the service last year — 35 percent at the conclusion of their five years of required service, and another 11 percent over the next six months. And more than 54 percent of the 935 graduates in the class of 2000 had left active duty by this January, the statistics show.

The figures mark the lowest retention rate of graduates after the completion of their mandatory duty since at least 1977, with the exception of members of three classes in the late 1980s who were encouraged to leave as the military downsized following the end of the Cold War.

In most years during the last three decades, the period for which West Point released statistics, the numbers of graduates opting out at the five-year mark were between 10 percent and 30 percent, according to the data.

The rising exodus is blamed on a number of factors, including the economic lure of the private sector. But interviews with former West Point superintendents, graduates, and retired officers pointed to another reason: the wear and tear on officers and their families from multiple deployments.

“Iraq is exerting very strong influence on the career intentions of junior officers,” said retired Lieutenant General Daniel Christman, a former superintendent of West Point, who recently outlined the war’s toll on young officers in a speech to West Point alumni in North Carolina.

You would think they would have learned a lesson from a similar mistake in the past:

Reed likened the departure of recently minted West Point graduates to the situation during the waning days of the Vietnam era, when “at the five-year mark you were losing a lot of officers because of the wear and tear.”

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