The Long Wars: We kill them, they kill us -- and we kill us. 2010 was a record year for US troop suicides.
The military of the United States is fighting two wars in Asia. They are Long Wars, and have lasted considerably longer than the US military and its allies took to achieve the unconditional defeat and surrender of all its combatant enemies (Germany, Japan, Italy and other Axis nations) in World War II.
Wars can end with formal surrender ceremonies. But when our enemies are not politically organized into governments and nations which can surrender -- for example, al Quada and the Taliban, different combatant groups in different nations, affiliated, but with different leadership goals and structures, guerrilla irregular combatant forces referred to as Non-State Actors -- then our progress in these Long Wars must be measured less precisely and less dramatically, and more analytically.
Are we winning at any given moment? Are we losing? We count our battlefield casualties and combat deaths, and as accurately as we can, we count the enemy's battlefield casualties and combat deaths. Defeat and victory at each given season become matters of simple arithmetic -- not because this kind of analysis is a clear indication of winning and losing, but because arithmetic is the best we can do in these kinds of Long Wars. Someone -- political leaders, the press -- wants an accountability of the progress of the Long Wars, and the best response is to crunch our numbers, our dead soldiers and their dead soldiers, our maimed Marines, their wounded soldiers. We also tally combat troops in the field -- how many of our troops versus our estimate of how many enemy troops we face and engage.
In this kind of un-clear, fuzzy winning-losing war analysis, there are odd but very important catagories of the War Arithmetic. In all our Hollywood movies about the great victories of World War II, there was never a mention, never a whisper, of this category: troop suicides.
But in all wars, there are soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines who finish off their service by taking their own life. Despite war's generous distribution of firearms, typically troop suicides are by hanging, often by bootlaces from barracks rafters.
Nor are our troop suicides limited to enlisted men. Commissioned officers -- lieutenants, lieutenant colonels -- take their own lives.
Nearly every year during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, troop suicides have reached such high levels that the Pentagon has declared a Stand-Down Day service-wide, for commanders and specialists to spend 24 hours to draw attention to the troop suicide problem, and to the official resources service personnel can call on to steer themselves away from suicide.
Asking for official help with thoughts of suicide is a difficult request. In traditional leadership structures, asking for psychiatric help can be equivalent to exiting the career military. You don't get help with your suicide problem -- you get no help, and you get tossed out of the military.
But this is part of how the US military wins or loses a Long War. The enemy kills some of our combat soldiers. And some of our combat soldiers kill themselves.
The San Antonio Express-News
daily broadsheet, San Antonio, Texas USA
Thursday 20 January 2011
[US Army Fort] Hood,
Army suicides hit record mark
At least 22 confirmed last year in and around Fort Hood, doubling the post’s total from 2009.
Suicides continue to plague the Army, with 2010 setting a new record. Fort Hood, which has repeatedly sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, led all posts worldwide, with 22 GI taking their own lives.
by Sig Christenson / Sigc@express-news.net
KILLEEN, TEXAS -- Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Eugene Giger was a “tall quiet Texan” even after his wife filed for divorce while he was in Iraq, his mom says.
Still, he was devastated.
“The only thing that I know is when she sued for divorce, she charged him with $2,000-a-month child support and insisted that he pay half of the house,” said Helen Giger, 71, of Chandler, east of Dallas. “And by the time she got through charging him with various things, he had very little money left over, not even hardly enough to pay for his rent.”
Authorities found Giger, 42, of Houston dead in his apartment near Fort Hood, hanging by necktie. He was one of at least 22 GIs from the post to commit suicide in 2010.
The Fort Hood mark is a new record for the post and contributed to the Army’s worst year for suicides. There was, however, a sign of hope in the grim tally. Slightly fewer active-duty soldiers died by their own hand compared with 2009. But there was bad news, too: The number of suicides in the National Guard and Army Reserve rose sharply.
The Army’s vice chief of staff, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, told the San Antonio Express-News that suicides at or near Fort Hood have increased as more soldiers have returned from combat.
Fort Hood’s 22 confirmed suicides, meanwhile, doubled its 2009 mark and was eight more than Fort Bragg, N.C., which had the second-largest tally.
And the Fort Hood mark could grow since some deaths haven’t been resolved. Others will remain mysteries, like that of Sgt. Bradley Dale Penman, 34, of Punxsutawney, Pa. Justice of the Peace Garland Potvin of Killeen said that Penman’s body, found last summer, was so decomposed no cause of death could be determined.
The Pentagon has launched mental health and suicide-prevention programs and created an Army task force in hopes of turning the tide. In 2008, the Army began a five-year study with the National Institute of Mental Health. That research effort examines risk and resilience factors associated with suicides. A new military research consortium will test and develop interventions.
So far, however, little has changed. The vast majority of the victims were men, with the bulk of the soldiers coming from lower enlisted ranks.
Eighteen of last year’s 301 suicides were women, prompting Chiarelli to tell reporters on Wednesday that resiliency among females in some cases “seems to be higher” than for men. That could explain “why we have a lower suicide rate in women based on the number that we have deployed,” he said.
Time in the war zone is one factor in the deaths. Roughly two in three active-duty soldiers committing suicide have gone to war, while nearly half of all guardsmen have fought. But other issues also are in play, including depression, alcohol and drug abuse, failed or failing relationships, financial woes, and legal or disciplinary troubles.
The Army Reserve’s chief, Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, said his troops often are far from their units when not on duty. Leaders now must maintain greater contact with their troops, he said.
“Dwell” time at home is another factor. Chiarelli predicted that “when we put more time between deployments, that is going to be a huge factor in helping us get at these problems.”
Giger had spent close to a quarter-century in the Army and been to Iraq three times since 2004, receiving two Bronze Star medals for valor. If he felt stress from the divorce and financial problems, he didn’t let on.
“I think he probably had a lot going on that he just stuffed down inside of him,” Helen Giger said.
Chiarelli told reporters that he believes the programs instituted by the Army in recent years have saved lives, but Col. Carl Castro, director of the medicine research program that established the suicide consortium, said no one is sure of their effectiveness.
“We think they’re effective,” he told the Express-News, “but we haven’t done the research to demonstrate that they may in fact be effective.”
Chiarelli pointed to the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, which offers screening tests for soldiers, family members and Army civilian workers, as one successful effort. He said research comparing soldiers who committed suicide against a control group showed that, “broadly speaking, resilient soldiers do not complete suicide.”
The Army has pocket guides on suicide awareness, and Fort Hood has started its own stress-reduction programs and a soldier “resiliency campus.”
The post’s senior commander, Maj. Gen. Will Grimsley, ordered commanders to inspect soldiers’ cars and on- and off-post homes after four GIs committed suicide over three days in September.
A trend of increasingly public suicides last year, one in the restroom of a Killeen sandwich shop and another at the end of a police chase near Waco, was a concern for Grimsley, who sought to identify GIs who might be suicide risks.
“I worry about the trend,” he said in October. “The violent nature of it concerns me only because the potential is that it’s bad enough if a soldier chooses to kill himself by violence but the potential impact on others, that that notion of violence could spread to somebody else either by accident or by design.”
7:57 AM on January 20, 2011
$2000 in child suppoert, holly crap how many kids did they have together??
Spouses and their lawyers should be held accounted for if they file divorce and the soldier commits suicide during or after deployment. The story lacks some info regarding to why she filed for divorce but by her wanting all his money is crazy. Hope the system doesn't give her what she wants, she needs to be stoned to death
9:40 AM on January 20, 2011
How about the VA LISTEN TO THE SOLDIERS?
The soldiers don't want to be on Psycho-Wacko meds that don't work.
The soldiers don't want to be labeled for life CRAZY, ADDICTED, & ALCOHOLIC.
The soldiers don't want never-ending group therapy nonsense.
The soldier don't want anything to do with the 12-Step Religious Cult
LISTEN TO THE SOLDIERS ISSUES! NO MORE ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL!
9:29 AM on January 20, 2011
Congratulations to the former Mrs. Giger! You discovered a legal way to commit murder. I hope your greed is finally quenched by the blood of your childrens father.
Labels: Fort Hood Army suicide