WASHINGTON -- The National Guard and Reserves are suffering a strikingly higher share of US casualties in Iraq, their portion of total American military deaths nearly doubling since last year.
Reservists have accounted for one-quarter of all US deaths since the Iraq war began, but the proportion has grown over time. It was 10 percent for the five weeks it took to topple Baghdad in the spring of 2003, and 20 percent for 2004 as a whole.
The trend accelerated this year. For the first nine months of 2005 reservists accounted for 36 percent of US deaths, and for August and September it was 56 percent, according to Pentagon figures.
The Army National Guard, Army Reserve, and Marine Corps Reserve accounted for more than half of all US deaths in August and in September -- the first time that has happened in consecutive months. The only other month in which it even approached 50 percent was June 2004.
Casualties in Iraq have shifted toward citizen soldiers as their combat role has grown to historic levels. National Guard officials say their soldiers have been sent into combat in Iraq in numbers not previously seen in modern times.
Forty-five percent of all Guard and Reserve deaths since the start of the war -- 220 of the 487 total -- occurred in the first nine months of 2005, according to Pentagon figures.
The deadliest month was August, when 49 Guard and Reserve members died.
The mounting casualties among reservists in Iraq has been overshadowed by the attention focused on a rising overall US death toll, now approaching 2,000. It also complicates recruiting for the National Guard and Reserve.