TABLE 3-2 Stressors Experienced by U.S. Forces in the Gulf War

Deployment Phase



Uncertainty of tour length, no projected date of return

Lack of communication (slow mail and poor telephone availability)

Information deprivation and resulting rumors

Ambiguous demands (precombat vs garrison environment)

Austere, crowded living conditions

Harsh desert conditions (heat and sand)

Lack of respite—always in chain of command

Lack of recreational or entertainment opportunities

Lack of amenities, such as hot meals

Cultural isolation, restriction of behavior, and ambivalent perceptions of rules

Uncertainty about public support


Lack of companionship of opposite sex

Lack of contact with family

Lack of private time

Leaders around too much of the time

Not being allowed to “act like Americans”

Lack of adequate morale, welfare, and recreation equipment

Lack of alcoholic drinks

Fatigue and lack of sleep


Anticipation of combat

Threat of attack with chemical or biological weapons

Expectation of massive casualties

Possibility of friend getting killed or wounded

Possibility of self getting killed or wounded

Fear of not getting adequate medical care if hit

Possibility of losing a leader

SOURCE: Adapted with permission from Gifford et al. (2006).


Sexual assault and harassment1 are widely acknowledged stressors in the general population and are severe stressors when incurred in a war zone. In the military environment with its overwhelmingly male population, sexual victimization is more likely to be experienced


The U.S. Army defines sexual assault as “intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority or when the victim does not or cannot consent. Sexual assault includes rape, nonconsensual sodomy, indecent assault (unwanted, inappropriate sexual contact or fondling), or attempts to commit these acts.” The Army defines sexual harassment as “a form of gender discrimination that involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” (U.S. Army 2005).

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