When strains of deployment lead to fragging it is way past time to rethink Afghanistan

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A few weeks ago (March 2009), the Veterans Service Organization, Veterans for America (VFA) sent out an ACTION ALERT that our military family responded to. In it VFA expressed concern that repeated deployments with too little rest, or dwell time, in between is taking both a physical, mental, and moral toll on our troops even before they become Veterans. Now these concerns of VFA have become national news that once again makes the Army if not our troops look bad. Though hopefully an isolated case FOR NOW, that stress of endless deployments had led to allegations of MURDER, of note every time a troop or troops go over the edge what institution is the first to abandon them? You got it, the Army or Marines will be the first institution to dam them right or wrong.

Robert L. Hanafin, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired

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“While a critical problem requiring immediate and effective treatment, combat stress is not a true psychiatric diagnosis. Instead, combat stress to a generally temporary state in normal people dealing with an abnormal situation." LtC John P. Allen, PhD, USAR 785th Med. Co. (Combat Stress Center) Iraq

Stress in combat is a given and happens, at least to some degree, to almost everyone. With well directed efforts from service members, their leaders, and mental health professions the effect of combat stress, however, can be managed, thus making units more effective in combat and helping their members to cope with the very real rigors and horrors of war.” Coping with Stress.

http://www.combatstresscenter.com/index_files/Page3455.htm

The first questions our military family would ask if our child had been the one who shot those trying to well help him or her is what if the Colonel’s approach to PTSD above or combat stress as the Army prefers the Colonel to call it is well part of the problem instead of the solution? What do mental health professionals outside the Pentagon have to say about the professional views of career military men and women?

Question for the Professional Medical community outside the Armed Forces, is combat stress a true psychiatric condition or not? This Colonel leads us and his Combat Stress Center now the center of scandal to believe it IS NOT???

Is combat stress (or PTSD if you prefer) a “generally temporary state in normal people dealing with an abnormal situation (combat) or are there long term permanent effects including death from suicide or murdering others?

The Colonel tends to believe that since everyone is under stress this temporary condition is a given when it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan so just learn to deal and cope with it as long as you are owned by Uncle Sam. After that you are on your own.

“The effect of combat stress…can be managed, thus making units more effective in combat and helping their members to cope with the very real rigors and horrors of war.”

Colonel, with all due respect tell that pep talk to the troops who thrive on combat, but is that what you are going to tell the young wife who lost her husband to combat stress, or the father of Sgt Russell who wiped out four of the troops under your command?

Suffice it to say that Congress needs to take a very close look at what really goes on at the Combat Stress Centers in Iraq even before our troops increase in Afghanistan: http://www.combatstresscenter.com/index.htm

The rest of our story: Veterans for America (VFA) has spent years tracking the strain our troops are suffering as a result of repeated deployments with too little rest, or dwell time, in between. The strains are piling up. New deployments to Afghanistan are only likely to exacerbate the problems now making headlines: soaring military suicide rates, domestic violence, murder, and post-combat trauma in the ranks. Too many troops are returning to battle still hobbled by the wounds of their previous deployments. Our military’s own system for determining who is fit for deployment is apparently broken. This latest case of a Soldier killing fellow troops at what was supposed to be a Combat Stress Program IN IRAQ. Without concerted action by our leaders, our troops will continue to suffer long after their tours have ended, some will be in prisons, a few even on death row, as will their families and their communities suffer or begin to look sideways at our troops. President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, included 4,000 additional troops (FOR NOW) in addition to the 17,000 which he ordered shortly after he took office. It is likely that this deployment will include troops from the 10th Mountain Division and the 82nd Airborne Division
who will be on their fifth deployment, and will be facing dwell time ratios of less than one-to-one. That means they’ve spent more time in combat than they have at home with their families.

The collective WE of VETERANS and Military Families regardless of pro or con views on WAR must demand that our nation’s military leadership, supposedly led by the Obama administration:

  • Ensures every Soldier and Marine deployed receives adequate dwell time before shipping back to war. Active-duty soldiers who have had a dwell time ratio of less than 1:1 should be given more time before redeployment.
  • Guarantees that every member of our all-volunteer military receives top-flight psychological and neurological care before they are redeployed.
  • Conducts full mental health screenings on our returning troops so any psychological or neurological conditions can be treated early and effectively and military families can be made whole again.

Our contract with the members of our military is a sacred one which obliges us to honor their willingness to sacrifice and serve. Giving our troops adequate dwell time and the best medical care before sending them away is part of that obligation.

At the minimum, please send a short letter to President Obama and Secretary Gates asking for sufficient dwell time. and care for our troops.

Many Thanks,
Veterans for America

http://www.veteransforamerica.org/2009/03/27/
vfa-on-the-afghanistan-announcement/

I would add to contact your member of Congress and demand an Independent Congressional Investigation into the Combat Stress Center in Iraq to determine exactly how any Soldier was allowed or motivated to commit violence against other troops within the sanctuary of a military base. This is a must before the same happens at military bases here closer to home where a 44 year OLD E-5 faces charges of murder and aggravated assault.

The SGT was about six weeks from the end of his third tour of duty in Iraq, when his father said that his son e-mailed his wife in Germany early this month, telling her officers threatened him during what he called the two worst days of his life.

Did Army officers threaten him, exactly how, and is that what goes on at Combat Stress Centers. This military family’s asking questions that we all should be asking rather than reacting to rumors.

Another aspect of this case speaks volumes about the Project 100,000 mentality of Army recruiting during a time when manning is short and recruits are scarce. How come a 44 year old Sgt? During the brown boot Army this could be written off as being busted too many times to count and lucky this person still was an NCO.

Reality is that this Old Sgt grew up in a rural, (that’s a polite term for Red Neck) unincorporated area of Grayson County, Texas but he did graduate from Tom Bean High School in 1985 (Readers that was about 24 years ago on norm this Soldier should have been beyond retirement by NOW?) Military Records show he entered the Army National Guard in 1988 and served in the Guard until 1994, (Readers that means this Soldier served in the National Guard for 21 or so years prior to going REGULAR) when he became an active duty soldier.

I leave it up to our average or normal career National Guard members to explain to us just how difficult it is suppose to be to get a REGULAR appointment?

Of note he’d also had a divorce and a few minor criminal charges before being accepted into the regular Army – SAY WHAT? He had what amounts to scrapes with law enforcement in his hometown before enlisting. His military record shows he served in Serbia through the last half of 1996 and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last half of 199 while in the National Guard.

Despite all the QUESTIONS this case leaves hanging, the SGT had what appears to be an ADEQUATE service record. Excerpts of his military record, obtained by The Associated Press, show the Sgt previously did two one-year tours of duty in Iraq, one starting in April 2003 and another in November 2005.

Reinforcing the concerns of Veteran for America, the Associated Press also notes that: The stress of repeat and extended tours is considered a main contributor to mental health problems among troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Without being judgmental, WE should be asking the same questions that this SGT’s military family is not asking, “for this to happen, it had to be something going on that the Army’s not telling us about."
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090513/ap_on_re_us/us_iraq_shooting_suspect

To those who say I’m making a big deal out of an isolated case, I say WE tend to have this military family and troop mentality that this can’t happen to US until it does, then WE as military families start asking the hard question when we once were flag waving. Asking the hard questions after the flags stop waving for your love one is putting it mildly TOO LATE!!!

On a personal level to this retired military officer, this is but one more reason to rethink Iraq and Afghanistan. If we cannot provide the level of manning even if that means THE DRAFT to provide our troops the dwell time that will hopefully prevent them from becoming killers at home then no war is worth THAT COST!!!

Bobby Hanafin
The Mustang Major.

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Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I've posted on Veterans Today, I've had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner. My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me. Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000. I've been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I'm now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house. I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.