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Friday, May 7, 2010

Feeling Warehoused in Army Trauma Care Units

I just found out about this. Read the article by clicking on the link.
Fort Carson was originally cited in 2006 as the place where soldiers with PTSD were mistreated, and guess what, they are still doing it! Imagine my surprise.
The fact is that Army psychiatrists, Army doctors, and Army officers and NCO's have a conflict of interest in dealing with PTSD. They want drugs and discipline, so they can send people back to combat. The conflict of interest is that the medical personnel should first do no harm, and sending someone with PTSD back will only make it worse. This was illegal in Vietnam and World War II. Once you had combat fatigue, you could not be sent back to a combat zone. Of course in World War I they sent guys with shell-shock induced paralysis, blindness, etc back to the front after connecting them up to an electrical apparatus and cranking it till, as the report states, the blind see, and the dumb speak and the paralyzed move. I wonder if they have thought of that at Ft Carson? Maybe I shouldn't give them the idea.
There are no randomized clinical trials of whether sending guys back on drugs, who already have PTSD, is even safe. Israeli studies of veterans of several wars show that people with PTSD get it faster and worse in subsequent wars... But you know, they are foreigners...
From the article, it seems that the medical staff are being ignored and exploited by the chain of command. Their recommendations are not being followed. I believe this is because it is not designated a hospital where the medical staff would be in charge, not the brass. This needs to be changed.
To get back to my original idea, that those in charge have a conflict of interest: the Army, as represented by the officers and NCO's, is in loco parentis to the soldiers, in the place of a parent. There are abusive parents we all know, but the Army doesn't advertise "We'll use you and then screw you over." They say we'll give you a future. They say join us and be a hero, not that we'll make your life hell if you have a normal reaction to too much combat trauma.
The people who get PTSD have the most traumatic events (including childhood events), the biggest losses (severe wounds, friends, belief in God and country or that the Army will take care of them, their sense of self), the least social support (so these Trauma Care Units, intended to be social support, but staffed with ignorant abusive NCO's simply make PTSD WORSE), the fewest resources (not just money, also emotional skill in dealing with painful events, relationship skills in dealing with friends and family, etc.). Human cruelty and neglect make PTSD worse. So instead of helping these soldiers, what they are doing makes it worse.
Of course, the NCO's who are doing this, are probably acting out their own PTSD, emotional numbing, irritability and outbursts of anger, feeling like these losers just don't understand being a real man/soldier like me, unable to concentrate on information about PTSD because they are concentrating on their own (survival) priorities: getting these bums in line. Can I keep my job if I can't keep them in line. It's a heads you win/tails I lose situation for everyone.
I am so depressed by this that I can't even rant.


  1. Patience, I don't think it was illegal to send wounded/disabled soldiers back into combat in Vietnam -- the 4th Division's General Stone had a well-publicized policy of sending wounded soldiers back to their units as soon as possible. We often had guys coming back with their arms still in slings or even casts. I was sent back when I still needed a cane to walk, after a knee wound.

    I think the "official" reason for this was that the army so valued their experience that they needed them back on the line as soon as possible. Of course, the real message was that you weren't going to get out of anything just by catching a little wound.

    When Stone was relieved of his command, scuttlebutt was that this and related gung-ho policies (sending people immediately into the field for uniform shortcomings or not saluting a vehicle) were one reason. He was evidently not a very good general, either.

    Joe Haldeman
    (4th Eng. Bn, 1968)

  2. Joe,
    You are right about that for the most part, now that I remember the push they had in WWII and Vietnam to get them back in the field. But but Bob's diagnosis of combat fatigue in 1967 or so said that he could never go back to a combat zone, so I thought it probably applied to everyone. In Recon Scout, one of the WWII Africa, Sicily, Italy vets was sent home and could not be sent back because of combat fatigue, but was then set to guarding Germans in the US, which made him really nuts.
    i generalized from those two that I knew about.

  3. 1) Soldiers are human beings first. To expect the same behavior from someone with PTSD as someone without it is nothing but short sighted.

    2) The book 'War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning' should be required reading for Congress, the President and all military leaders, complete with a tattoo of Sun Tzu's quote 'There is no instance of a country having benefited from a prolonged war.'

    3) War, and that is what the environment in Iran/Afghanistan is, wounds the human soul much more deeply and profoundly than shrapnel.