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Strain on forces in the field at a five-year high

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Strain on military forces at 5 year highU.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan are experiencing some of the greatest psychological stress and lowest morale in five years of fighting, reports a military study.

"We're an Army that's in uncharted territory here," says Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, who has focused on combat stress. "We have never fought for this long with an all-volunteer force that's 1% of the population."

Mental health strain was most severe among veterans of three or more deployments, with a third of those showing signs of psychological problems defined as either stress, depression or anxiety, the report obtained by USA TODAY says.

The research, based on a survey of soldiers and Marines in 2010, also found that the praise the troops have for their unit sergeants has never been higher as the United States approaches the 10th year of its longest war.

The report says decline in individual morale is significant: 46.5% of troops said they had medium, high or very high morale, compared with 65.7% who said that in 2005. About one in seven soldiers — and one in five Marines — reported high or very high morale.

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