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Female Troop Divorce Up Slightly, Male Rate Largely Unchanged

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About 2.6 percent of married male troops divorced last year, marking no change to the rate since 2013, while the rate among female service members slightly climbed from 6.2 percent in 2015 to 6.6 percent in 2016.

The military divorce rate is calculated by comparing the number of troops listed as married in the Pentagon's personnel system at the beginning of the fiscal year with the number who report divorces over the year. The information is managed and compiled by the Defense Manpower Data Center.

The overall divorce rate was 3.1 percent, barely changed from 3 percent in 2015. Experts prefer to analyze the divorce rates of male and female troops separately because they vary so greatly.

"For the men, it's quite stable," said Benjamin Karney, a researcher with RAND Corp. who has studied military divorce. "But for the women, this wasn't a great year. You see a notable increase in every active-duty service, and you see the end of what had been a yearly decline in the Army."

The largest changes came among female enlisted troops, who have traditionally shown rates more than double that of their male counterparts. For example, 2.8 of male enlisted soldiers divorced over 2016, compared to 8 percent of female enlisted soldiers.

The only service to see an overall divorce increase in 2016 was the Marine Corps. All categories of male and female Marines experienced an increase, with a jump from 2.3 percent to 2.8 percent among male Marines, and from 6.4 percent to 7.7 percent among women.

That change, Karney said, could indicate something negative is pressuring marriages in the Marine Corps.

"When you see a trend that appears for the men and the women, that suggests something real is happening there," he said.

The divorce rate among military personnel and the total U.S. divorce rate cannot be easily compared because they are not measured the same way. The total U.S. divorce rate, which is measured per 1,000 residents and does not factor in five states including California, sat at 3.2 percent in 2014, the latest year for which information is available.

Pentagon officials said the rates are a reminder of the sacrifice of military life.

"Military families are unique and make tremendous sacrifices on behalf of their loved ones in uniform. Strong relationships are important to our readiness, and the Defense Department provides a wide range of support for our troops and their family members," Army Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. "At times, the military life brings the joys of promotions, stress of deployments, and adventure of travel; along each step of the journey, military family members are a bedrock of support and encouragement. We value them."

Karney cautioned against using the divorce rates to judge the effectiveness of military marriage support programs offered by the Pentagon. Instead, he said, other factors such as the economy and counseling offered outside the military must also be examined.

"These data are an inadequate way of evaluating the support," he said.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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Amy Bushatz Headlines Military Divorce Family and Spouse

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