Milestone for Deaths in Iraq
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JIM LEHRER: The 2,000th U.S. military death in the Iraq war was registered today. Who are these Americans who have died in Iraq?
Well, Tobias Naegele is editor-in-chief of the Military Times Media Group, which publishes weekly newspapers for every branch of the U.S. military. Welcome.
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Thank you.
JIM LEHRER: All right, the 2,000, let’s go through just some basic facts about them, you have got some notes and whatever. How many were regular army?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Regular army is the biggest piece; it’s 960, so it’s almost half our active-duty army.
JIM LEHRER: All right. National Guard, Reserve.
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Guard and Reserve is about a quarter of the overall total, about 500.
JIM LEHRER: About 500. How many were U.S. Marines?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Marines are the large portion. They’re about 500, so disproportional to the size of the Marine Corps –
JIM LEHRER: That’s roughly one-fourth of the 2,000 who died. How about Air Force and Navy?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Very small. Air Force about 16, Navy 28.
JIM LEHRER: And as a practical matter, there are very few Air Force personnel, Navy personnel involved in this combat, right?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Well, there are Navy people, Navy corps men who go with the Marines. There are Air Force people driving convoys so there are quite a few airmen doing ground work on — throughout Iraq.
JIM LEHRER: All right, gender, of the 2,000, how many are women?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Just 42.
JIM LEHRER: Forty-two out of the two thousand.
And of course we need to put that in context. Women are technically forbidden from participating in combat. These women, none of them, had combat jobs. They just got caught in a bad situation, right?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Well, defining what is a combat job today is not so easy. There are a lot of women who are military police, and they are doing ground work patrols, leading patrols, and taking fire. So they really are doing combat jobs.
JIM LEHRER: Right. And how many — percentage-wise, or whatever — are African American?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Only a couple of hundred. Percentage-wise, 17 percent of the military force is black. But only about 10, 11 percent of those who have been killed have been black.
JIM LEHRER: What about African American — I mean Hispanic?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Hispanics about the same number. But what’s different there is that the Hispanics are more likely to be in combat jobs. They’re more likely to take a combat job, and more likely to be in the Marine Corps. So they, as a proportion of the service, are greater than their numbers. About 9 percent of the military services are Marines, but about 11 percent, 10 percent or 11 percent are the casualties for Marines.
JIM LEHRER: I see. And a large percentage of those are Hispanic?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: I’m sorry, 11 percent of the casualties are Hispanics.
JIM LEHRER: I see, 11 percent of the casualties. Got you. Okay. All right now. Officers and enlisted, how does that break down?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: 90 percent enlisted.
JIM LEHRER: Is that the way it normally, throughout history–
TOBIAS NAEGELE: That’s who you would expect. They are the ones doing the fighting out on the front line.
JIM LEHRER: How about married?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: I don’t have that.
JIM LEHRER: I saw somewhere that roughly 40 percent were married. Does that ring true to you?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: The military is a highly married force. Today’s military is a professional force, and it’s a retention force, so these guys are going to stay, primarily, and they do have families.
JIM LEHRER: And I read also about 30 percent of them have children, at least one child.
TOBIAS NAEGELE: That’s right.
JIM LEHRER: What about their ages? Give us some feel for that.
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Well, you’re talking about a group of people who are mostly those who died are 17 to 24, more than half.
JIM LEHRER: Seventeen to 24.
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Yes, more than half.
JIM LEHRER: So when you talk about the young, it’s true in this case.
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Absolutely. But a third of them are 25 to 35. So, you know, a third are the age where you really would expect them to be married, to have kids, and so on.
JIM LEHRER: And these are probably the higher ranked noncoms, right?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: That’s right.
JIM LEHRER: Noncommissioned officers, whether Army, Reserve, National Guard, or Marine, correct?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Absolutely. And that’s where you’d expect at least a portion of your officers to be.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah, exactly. Now, is there any breakdown about where these kids– kids, some are kids, 50 percent are kids, just the word flows that way — of the American dead in terms of what part of the country they came from?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Well, they come from all over.
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
TOBIAS NAEGELE: In terms of numbers, the most come from California, but those — the numbers that we’re working with here are a little deceptive because people will — we’re talking about their homes of record, and homes of record, as opposed to where they actually came from, may not be the same.
JIM LEHRER: Because professional soldiers, Marines, or whatever, put their home of record, and they may be — it may be a military base.
TOBIAS NAEGELE: That’s right. Particularly if they’ve been based in Florida or Texas, where their income tax rules may make it preferable to put down roots there.
JIM LEHRER: Right. And, of course, in the case of the Marine Corps, a lot of the Marines came from Camp Pendleton, and Marine bases in California.
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Camp Pendleton as a base suffered the most casualties.
JIM LEHRER: Is that right?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: I think about 240.
JIM LEHRER: Two hundred and forty from that one Marine base in California. What about urban-rural, is there a breakdown there? Everybody says, well, most of these deaths are among people who come from small-town America. Do the figures back that up?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: You know, you see quite a few people coming from the New York area, so I would say that’s probably not entirely the case. Today’s military draws from a wide swath of the country, and I think a lot of them do come from small-town America, looking for someplace to go, and probably more likely to come from the South than from the North, and so on.
But if you were to plot it out on a map, you’d see some significant concentrations around Washington, significant concentrations around New York.
JIM LEHRER: And these 2,000, have they been plotted on a map that way?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: We have done that.
JIM LEHRER: And it does follow what you just said?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: There’s not a state that has not been touched. If you were to do it by per capita, you know, then you get some kind of strange numbers, like American Samoa and Vermont are way up at the top of the list.
JIM LEHRER: Sure, just because they have a smaller population. What about education level and income?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Well, again, we don’t have statistics from where these guys came from, but we’re talking about — these are young soldiers, young Marines, are making 20-25 thousand dollar range. They’re not making a whole lot of money for their service.
But if you were to compare them to their peers who have, you know, the same educational background, most of these enlisted guys don’t have a college degree, although some do — then you’d find that, you know, they’re probably doing okay.
JIM LEHRER: Finally, how many of the 2,000 died since major combat ended, since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: All but about 180.
JIM LEHRER: Only 180 had died up until the end of major combat, and so roughly 1800 have died since in the insurgency?
TOBIAS NAEGELE: That’s correct.
JIM LEHRER: All right, Mr. Naegele, thank you very much.
TOBIAS NAEGELE: Thank you.