Health Issues Affecting Military Officers
Military officers are both patriotic and selfless in their service to the nation. They willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the country and our interests abroad. In the line of duty, they are exposed to many health issues. Even though combat-combat related injuries are in the limelight, there are many other health problems that military officers face. Keep reading this narrative article to get additional info on the different health issues military officers’ face in the line of duty.
- Combat-related injuries and fatalities
The most obvious health issues facing military officers are the likelihood of combat-related fatalities or injuries. Hundreds of soldiers due each year and many others get life-altering injuries while fighting insurgents around the world. Due to the nature of their responsibilities, combat-related health issues are an ever-present reality for military officers.
- Psychological disorders
Another widely known health issue affecting soldiers is psychological stress. Since the 1980s, PTSD has been recognized as a serious and common health problem affecting both active service members and veterans. Military officers commonly develop these psychiatric disorders due to the high-stress environment and traumatic events they experience for months at a time.
- Non-combat injuries
Military officers are often at risk of non-combat injuries common among servicemen and women. They are mostly accidents during training or day-to-day life on military bases. They range from accidental vehicle injuries to injuries from falls or jumps. Most of these injuries are minor, but sometimes they can be quite serious and life-threatening.
- Infectious diseases
One of the single most significant threats to the health of military officers is infectious diseases. Historically, infectious diseases have been known to ravage entire armies. These diseases become exponentially more dangerous in tropical environments. In the Vietnam war, a large number of military admissions were due to infectious diseases. In such cases, infections have a heavier toll than combat-related illnesses and deaths.
As a policy, the military now mitigates the impact that such illnesses can have. Servicemen and women are vaccinated against many illnesses, particularly the contagious ones. In tropical environments, vaccines against malaria, typhus, dengue, and yellow fever are administered. Additional care is taken, particularly when handling food and water, to prevent gastric-related infections.
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars are a good example of how serious infectious diseases can be. A study found that several chronic infections decimated active troop numbers. In particular, the most common deployment-related illnesses during the Iraq war were respiratory infections, gastroenteritis, brucellosis, Q fever, leishmaniosis, and antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.
- Injuries from extreme exposure
The hostile environment where military officers are deployed can also pose a serious health risk. Most such injuries or illnesses arise when they are pinned down for extended periods in unfavorable weather conditions. The type of injury is dependent on the terrain.
In desert environments, like Iraq or Somalia, military officers can be negatively impacted by excessive heat. They can get health issues ranging from simple sunburns and heat rash to life-threatening problems like heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Even dehydration can be a life-threatening problem when pinned down for days.
Cold or arctic environments are no different. Health issues like hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot have swayed many modern military campaigns. These health issues are sometimes so severe that they result in permanent disability.
- Chemical exposure
Exposure to toxic chemicals is also a risk that servicemen and women face while in deployment. There are still hostile insurgents who are still willing to use chemical and biological warfare, even though both are banned by the UN. In the Iraq war, the retreating army burned oil wells, releasing hazardous chemicals into the air.
Newer research is revealing how long-term exposure commonly used equipment and products pose a health risk to military officers.
Measures to minimize health issues
Despite the large number of health issues military officers’ face, the army is always taking measures to reduce the adverse outcomes. Many protocols have been created to reduce the risk of accidental exposure to hazardous materials. Medical protocols have reduced the impact of infectious diseases while prompt response ensures that troops are not exposed to extreme weather conditions unnecessarily. VA hospitals also ensure that the psychological needs of veterans are monitored.
By realizing how much these military officers sacrifice in the line of duty, we can develop a newfound appreciation of what it takes to be one of the men and women who protect our country.