Nearly 16,000 service members have died while on active duty since 2006, but more than seven in 10 of them have been while outside combat zones, a report from the Congressional Research Service has found.
The report, which used statistics from the Defense Manpower Data center, divides deaths into Non-Overseas Contingency Operations and Overseas Contingency Operations. It notes that U.S. law defines OCO as military operations “in which members of the armed forces are or may become involved in military actions, operations, or hostilities against an enemy of the United States or against an opposing military force.”
The report found 4,510 military personnel have died in OCO since 2006 in 25 countries. The most have been in Afghanistan—2,139—and Iraq—2,371. About half of the deaths in war zones have been the result of improvised-explosive devices. In Iraq, 38 percent were under nonhostile conditions, mostly from accidents involving aircraft or ground vehicles, or suicide. Suicides counted for 151 deaths in Iraq and 90 in Afghanistan.
A majority of service member deaths—11,341—were unrelated to overseas contingency operations. Most of them—93 percent—occurred in the U.S., but service members also died in more than 70 other countries and at sea.
Accidents, self-inflicted wounds and illness were responsible for most non-OCO deaths. Fourteen percent of them involved substance abuse and 16 percent involved vehicles. The report did not indicate when substance abuse played a role in a vehicle accident.
Overall, the report found that 5,070 deaths, or 32 percent, were from accidents and 3,540, or 22.3 percent, were from self-inflicted efforts. Those killed in action numbered 2,704, or 17.1 percent, and 874, or 5.5 percent died of wounds.
Homicide was responsible for 499 deaths, or 3.1 percent, and terrorists accounted for 20 deaths or less than 1 percent. Of the 20 deaths caused by terrorists, 18 were outside of OCO zones.
Four service members died while captured.