R&R came to be known as I&I

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachIn any democratic society, equality of sacrifice is a cherished ideal, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), yet in war nothing is more difficult to attain:

Soldiers know that it is never possible to share the load completely. One man went to Korea; another — who equally served — never went west of San Francisco. While American units were decimated in the Far East, others went through training in the European Command, without hearing a shot fired in anger.


R&R at first worked wonders. Men came off line, away from incessant danger and hardship, for a flight to Tokyo, Yokohama, or Kyoto. They boarded planes at Seoul and elsewhere, gaunt, unshaven, some with the thousand-yard stare. Five days later they returned, new men, rested, bathed, refreshed. R&R gave the troops something to look forward to; it was a morale factor without equal.

It was only later, when the pressure in Korea was not so great, that men going to Japan turned R&R into the great debauch that came to be known as I&I — intercourse and intoxication. Men coming out of weeks and months of hard combat are too tired and beaten down to seek trouble.

Men leaving months of filthy living and screaming monotony tend to seek something else again.


  1. Lu An Li says:

    “While American units were decimated in the Far East, others went through training in the European Command, without hearing a shot fired in anger.”

    Same as during the Vietnam Era. The American 300,000-man army in Europe always needed replacements from the draft and an influx of trained NCOs from state-side.

  2. Kirk says:

    One of the many issues with this sort of thing is that there’s a price to be paid by the men whose war experience is constantly flipping back and forth between “War” and “Not-war”. The cognitive dissonance created by living in Japan, flying to Korea, and then getting into life-or-death scraps in the air or bombing the hell out of ground targets while in communication with men who were pretty much stuck there in ground combat was not at all easy on the pilots who had to do it.

    Today, you have drone operators living in Las Vegas, with the wife and kids, while operating drones that are in contact around the world and in support of soldiers who’re stuck in combat situations they can’t get out of. Same sort of thing, creating the same issues. Lots of mental health problems for the pilots.

    The other issue is the one I’m actually more familiar with–The shift in how connected the ground combatants are with the folks still at home, living in peace and tranquility. There’s a huge problem for the guys whose wives and kids can’t seem to grasp that Daddy is at war, and has other things to be concerned with than the petty issues of home and household conflicts. Distract Daddy with your acting-out BS, as one teenager I know did, and there’s a very real chance that he’s going to be off his game the next day enough that he’s going to get himself killed. I don’t know that anybody from the unit actually told the selfish little bitch what she’d accomplished with her petty little bullshit, but we were all of the opinion that she’d basically killed him and another guy, plus several wounded.

    I really don’t like the whole “brave new world” of the connected-to-home battlefield. To my mind, you’re at war, and that’s a different mindspace than being with the wife and kiddies at home. Having to make that daily transition from going out the wire and then coming back to commune via the internet with a wife and kids who’ve got no earthly idea what you’re dealing with can be a whip-saw affair that will do far more damage than you’d have accrued in the old days when all you got to communicate with were letters that took weeks to go back-and-forth. Couple the usual immaturity of service wives, these days, and… Yeah. Recipe for disaster.

    I’m still waiting for something I predicted years ago, which is that we’d see someone call home via satellite phone to say “Goodbye…” from some modern-day Camerone or Little Big Horn, and we’d see that patched through in real time to a news program. That’s gonna happen, one of these days, and I’d lay long odds on it being something that happens to an American or European unit. I tried warning commanders about this sort of thing, but none of them took me seriously until someone showed up to deploy with a sat-phone their in-laws bought him. After that, it was like “Uh… Hey. Uhm… Y’know that thing we laughed at you about, during the staff meeting several months ago…? Do you still have that proposed policy letter about satellite phones?”.

    If you’re at war, you need to be at war mentally, full-time. You can’t be mode-switching on a daily basis, and I’m not even too sure about doing it for R&R, to be honest. You need time to decompress and “take your war off”, before transitioning to “home with the kids” mode. The Canadian Forces do it better than we do, mandating a couple of weeks at a resort in Cyprus before flying home. You need that, and when it’s “Shot at today, home tomorrow…”, it is mentally unbalancing.

    One of my guys was home on his mid-tour leave, and casually got into the car with his wife and kids to drive home from the airport. Driving down I-5 from Sea-Tac, he spotted what instinct told him was an IED in the road. This caused him to swerve out of the way in heavy traffic, causing a chain collision that totaled their car and nearly killed them all. After that, due to injuries, he did not return to theater and was still in physical therapy when the unit came back. It was something like a year or two later and a lot of therapy with a headshrinker before he could even drive again, because he kept having PTSD-induced flashbacks from the IED strikes he’d been in and the car accident. Dude was a trainwreck for like two years after…

    Things like that are why I question the entire premise of R&R and mid-tour leaves. To do them right, I think it would be better to just shorten the tours and add legit decompression periods to the end of them.

  3. Harry Jones says:

    Say this for the drone operators: seeing (relative) peace every day reminds them of why we bother to fight wars in the first place. Without a basis of comparison, people go insane without knowing it. That’s the worst kind of insanity.

    Whether dicking around in Krapistan serves the cause of peace is another question. Yes, there needed to be a muscular response to 9/11. But it’s beating a dead horse at this point. So why not beat the dead horse by remote control?

    The world is full of crazy, evil people. Not just the other side of the planet. The whole world. And I don’t think it’s healthy to compartmentalize the world into war zones and peace zones. It’s a continuum. There are good neighborhoods, there are so-so neighborhoods, there are bad neighborhoods, and there are neighborhoods you should nuke from orbit.

    Las Vegas has a dodgy reputation. Afghanistan has a worse one.

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