Subject: What affects morale?

There has been much debate recently about whether a congressional resolution of disapproval for the U.S. troop increase in Iraq would undercut the morale of forces there. Here an officer who has served two combat tours in Iraq reports on what has affected his morale:

Ten Worst

1. getting blown up

2. buddies getting blown up

3. re-securing a town we secured year before last

4. "Taps"

5. the "catch and release" detainee program

6. colostomy bags

7. civilian young men who won't look me in the eye when I'm in uniform

8. any scene from any shopping mall anywhere in America

9. editorials pointing out that casualties are "light by historical


10. lies

Ten Best

1. Iraqis willing to fight for their country

2. good sergeants

3. clean, dry socks and T-shirts

4. cigarettes and chai without body armor

5. the USO at the DFW airport

6. meeting an Iraqi leader from my last tour who's still alive

7. "nothing significant to report"

8. sleep and KBR macadamia nut cookies (tie)

9. dead generals (this one is hypothetical, at least for the past six

years, but Ridgeway said "It's good for the troops' morale to see a dead

general every once in a while.")

10. truth

Tom Ricks is The Post's military correspondent. This feature aims to give readers a snapshot of the conversations about Iraq, Afghanistan and other matters that play out in Ricks's e-mail inbox. Have an interesting document? Send it to