Fort Carson soldiers' killing spree after Iraq combat

#1
Seventeen US soldiers from a Colorado military base who mostly served in Iraq have been linked to violent killings and attempted killings since their return to US soil. Three of them came from one platoon - highlighting how a generation of American soldiers are struggling to cope with life after military service.

"I was having a total mental breakdown. Every day we were getting in battles, and never having a break, it seemed like, it was just crazy.

"I just got to where I couldn't take it. I tried to go to mental health, and they put me on all kinds of meds, too. And I was still going out on missions... they tried different medications, different doses, and nothing worked."

Kenny Eastridge was a decorated gunner, but is now serving 10 years in prison for his role in the murder of fellow soldier Kevin Shields in Colorado Springs.

In November 2007, Eastridge along with two other soldiers, Louis Bressler and Bruce Bastien, were out drinking in a nightclub with Mr Shields after returning from a rough combat tour in Baghdad.

Drunk and stoned, they drove off to find more alcohol. Minutes later, Specialist Kevin Shields lay dead, gunned down in a drunken argument, and left in a pool of blood by the side of the road.

Bressler and Bastien were sentenced to 60 years in prison for the murder and a string of other crimes in Colorado Springs.

Kevin Shields' murder was not a unique case. At Fort Carson military base, 17 soldiers have been charged or convicted of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter in the past four years.


BBC News - Fort Carson soldiers' killing spree after Iraq combat

So basically because of the stress of combat soldiers are coming back psychotic lunatics. Was this not a problem in the World wars? Yes, veterans got shellshock, what we now know as PTSD and other mental scars, but did they go about shooting pregnant women at parties etc? is this generation (both in the USA and the UK) mentally weaker? Was PTSD just as common during/after WW2 yet hidden better?

Perhaps this platoon, and the US Army in general just reflects society in general. A society were the 'yoof' off each other in record numbers, drive bys, gang culture etc

But if society as a whole is de-sensitised towards violence why has intense combat in Iraq and Afghanistan fucked some soldiers up so much?

As a disclaimer I am by no means making fun of, mocking or suggesting anything about anyone unfortunate enough to be suffering from PTSD or any other mental issue. Just curious as to the cause of this particular platoons outrageous and criminal behaviour and the state of returnings troops in general.
 
#2
They also had a major problem with this with troops coming back from Vietnam. So much so that when the Falklands kicked off they warned the government to properly fund psychology support for those returning. It also brings up the validity of our 6 month deployments versus their 12, especially since they were talking about upping it even higher!
 
#3
Long tours, (to save money???).

Where is the support these guys need?

Gadge
 
R

randomgary

Guest
#4
before i even read the other posts i was thinking deployment length! i thought they covered 18 months in alot of cases! thats a long old stint that would break most
 
#5
This is another angle of the same thing:

Pentagon lacks a comprehensive suicide prevention strategy, report says

By Katherine McIntire Peters kpeters@govexec.com August 25, 2010
A new report on military suicides ordered by Congress recommends the Defense Department create a high-level office to develop and coordinate a departmentwide strategy for suicide prevention.
The report, conducted by civilian and military doctors with the Defense Department Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces, was sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates for review on Tuesday.
The task force found that while the services had taken a number of laudable steps to understand and prevent suicides, the initiatives suffered from a lack of strategic planning, evaluation, and standardization, leading to inefficiencies and gaps in support to troops.

"Many programs were misunderstood by service members, their families, and commanders in the field," the report said. "Finally, the task force concluded that the remarkable efforts of the services seemed to lack the consistency and power that could have been achieved had the policies directing the programs been centrally developed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense."
The military's rising suicide rate, especially in the Army and Marine Corps, has alarmed service leaders, Obama administration officials and lawmakers, and has generated numerous reviews and reports. Last month, the Army released its own findings after a 15-month study of its suicide prevention efforts.
The Defense task force noted that in the five years from 2005 to 2009, more than 1,100 service members took their own lives, an average of one suicide every 36 hours.
"The years since 2002 have placed unprecedented demands on our armed forces and military families," the report said. "Military operational requirements have risen significantly, and manning levels across the services remain too low to meet the ever-increasing demand. This current imbalance places strain not only on those deploying, but equally on those who remain in garrison."
The task force concluded the cumulative effects of all those factors have contributed to the rising suicide rates, and without change, the problems will persist well beyond the current operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The task force made 76 recommendations in four primary areas: organization and leadership; wellness enhancement and training; access to and delivery of quality care; and surveillance, investigations and research.
It also made 13 "foundational" recommendations considered vital to developing a comprehensive Defense suicide prevention model. Those were:

  • Standardizing policies and programs across the military services.
  • Holding leaders accountable for ensuring a positive command climate that promotes well-being, total fitness and seeking help.
  • Reducing stress on the force by giving troops more quality time at home between deployments.
  • Focusing efforts on improving total fitness and resiliency among troops.
  • Developing a comprehensive stigma reduction campaign plan to encourage troops to ask for help when they need it.
  • Strengthening strategic messaging.
  • Developing skills-based training for suicide prevention, especially among buddies, family members, first-line supervisors, clergy and behavioral health personnel.
  • Evaluating programs to determine their effectiveness.
  • Coordinating support for both active-duty and reserve service members.
  • Ensuring continuity of care, especially during transition periods.
  • Improving surveillance and standardizing data collection processes.
  • Standardizing suicide investigations to learn more about times preceding suicides.
  • Supporting and funding ongoing suicide prevention research. Pentagon lacks a comprehensive suicide prevention strategy, report says (8/25/10) -- GovExec.com
This is the actual report: http://www.health.mil/dhb/downloads/Suicide Prevention Task Force final report 8-23-10.pdf
 
#6
The UK Sunday Times had a piece a week back, by AFG veteran reporter Christina Lamb, accompanying the current Chair of the Jt Chiefs of Staff: she mentioned that he has this issue very high on his list of concerns.

Tonight on BBC 2 TV is a report about the unit (expalins why it is in the news)

If you want a some 'takes' on the big Q (why is this more common 'now' than it was 'then'?), Elliot Leyton is worth reading (anthropologist, wrote some interesting stuff on serial mass murderers and on the differing cultures and murder rates in the US and UK ), plus there is a book called something like War In The Mind (I think this it) which I haven't read, but whose author* I heard on the radio a few years ago.

He said that his understanding changed as he researched and wrote the book, but that he was on the verge of going to print (which meant he could not include it in the book) when he began to see how a 'tough' 'unsympathetic' attitude among peers [as was common in WW1 soldiers, at all levels] - towards whatever we call battle fatigue/shell-shock/battle shock this year - might actually be the best protection for individuals, against psychological collapse or breakdown . . . . I'd like to know if he has worked any further on that line of thinking.
=======
* The author I heard was a Brit - if the book I've pointed to above is by an American, well, it ain't the one I mean.
 
#7
I got my books mixed up.

Excellent as "War In The Mind" may be, this is the volume to read:

A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century
Ben Shephard
May/June 2001
Publisher Harvard University Press

[SNIP]Shephard brings a welcome skepticism to the discussion of PTSD. He emphasizes the role of individual differences in response to stress, a concept that challenges the post-Vietnam model championed by Lifton, Shatan, and others—namely, that prolonged war stress is a common and normal reaction to combat in almost everybody, everywhere. Shephard underscores the tendency of clinical psychiatry to medicalize normal distress in response to catastrophe.

This is not to say that Shephard denies the reality of PTSD—again, he clearly documents its manifestations in other wars—but he properly acknowledges the extent to which certain diagnoses flourish in an environment that offers incentives to shape distress according to a particular narrative. Examples of questionable cases of PTSD abound in the courtroom, in the benefits claims arena, and in the clinic.

Having worked in a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital for several years, I have developed a healthy skepticism about the virtue of PTSD wards. These intensive inpatient units often encouraged patients to view themselves as disabled war victims. Either deliberately or unconsciously they maintained themselves in a state of dysfunction so that they could collect service-connected disability. [SNIP]

The last chapter of the book, "The Culture of Trauma," is an insightful treatment of the ways that stress-related disorders have shaped our thinking about human response to adversity. These disorders have fueled the victim culture. They have turned pathos into pathology. People may perceive extreme crisis in three ways: as a threat, as a loss, or as a challenge. The emotional correlate of threat is fearful anticipation and that of loss is depression. Challenge, by contrast, is marked by optimism.

Today, the expectation of the mental health profession—and many other professions—is that threat and loss will predominate. As we saw after September 11, 2001, professionals presumed that the nation would be overwhelmed by stress. Experts would be required. The trauma industry of crisis counselors and debriefers—mobilized in full force after September 11—justified their work, without any evidence of its effectiveness, as an effort to prevent the development of PTSD. Hundreds of millions of dollars, private and federal, rained down on New York City to treat the expected legions of psychically damaged persons.[SNIP]

Review in full at: A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century -- Satel 54 (3): 405 -- Psychiatr Serv
 
#8
The UK Sunday Times had a piece a week back, by AFG veteran reporter Christina Lamb, accompanying the current Chair of the Jt Chiefs of Staff: she mentioned that he has this issue very high on his list of concerns.

Tonight on BBC 2 TV is a report about the unit (expalins why it is in the news)

If you want a some 'takes' on the big Q (why is this more common 'now' than it was 'then'?), Elliot Leyton is worth reading (anthropologist, wrote some interesting stuff on serial mass murderers and on the differing cultures and murder rates in the US and UK ), plus there is a book called something like War In The Mind (I think this it) which I haven't read, but whose author* I heard on the radio a few years ago.

He said that his understanding changed as he researched and wrote the book, but that he was on the verge of going to print (which meant he could not include it in the book) when he began to see how a 'tough' 'unsympathetic' attitude among peers [as was common in WW1 soldiers, at all levels] - towards whatever we call battle fatigue/shell-shock/battle shock this year - might actually be the best protection for individuals, against psychological collapse or breakdown . . . . I'd like to know if he has worked any further on that line of thinking.
=======
* The author I heard was a Brit - if the book I've pointed to above is by an American, well, it ain't the one I mean.
This phenomenon to which you allude has also been discussed and on occasion studied in many contexts whereby the more "understanding," "accepting," etc. attitude is said to be (depending on one's view) either a catalyst to prompt someone who might not otherwise report it to do so or a cause (by suggestion) for an actual condition or a feigned or imagined one. Given the significant subjective aspects of these psychological and emotional issues, it is hard to be certain as to which of these (or others) are "true" in a given case. There is also the other side of the issue that must be kept in mind and that is how many who may truly have a problem needing attention stay quiet in the face of "'tough' 'unsympathetic' attitude among peers" etc.
 
#9
This phenomenon to which you allude has also been discussed and on occasion studied in many contexts whereby the more "understanding," "accepting," etc. attitude is said to be (depending on one's view) either a catalyst to prompt someone who might not otherwise report it to do so or a cause (by suggestion) for an actual condition or a feigned or imagined one. Given the significant subjective aspects of these psychological and emotional issues, it is hard to be certain as to which of these (or others) are "true" in a given case. There is also the other side of the issue that must be kept in mind and that is how many who may truly have a problem needing attention stay quiet in the face of "'tough' 'unsympathetic' attitude among peers" etc.
Now I've got my books and authors sorted, my intention to (someday soon) read Shepard's work - which gets universally good reviews from his peers, I might add, is renewed.

This is a subject area of personal interest to me - in part 'cos I had a soldier 'lose it' on a quiet patrol in 1976 (earlier tours taking their toll), leading to shots fired and dam' lucky nobody hurt. Looking back with many years more reading under my belt, I always feel that I and my unit handled him pretty badly.

On the other hand, part of Shephard's thesis chimes with your inquiry:

The author makes a powerful argument that many military psychological phenomena are culture-bound. The assumption that there is a single post-traumatic stress disorder, he shows, is not merely poor science but hubris.
It has always struck me as odd that the physical symptoms displayed by "shell shock" cases in early WW1 B/W mediacl film footage, are so very different to to what are portrayed today. That alone is enough to to make me curious.

This guy sounds like a must-read
 
#10
I strayed from my initial intent in that last post. I think the point the guy was making was about some kind of "tough love" - not the kind of ignorant machismo against which you warn, JJ.

I note that one reviewer I skimmed just now has this to say:

The last part of the book deals with the Vietnam War until the present and it may be prove the most controversial section because since many readers will have personal experience. For example, at one point, Shephard states: "No purpose is served by taking up the cudgels in this debate and trying to blame either side" (page 395). It is a laudable sentiment that he does not seem to follow, as he later describes US Marine Corps training as "one that produced a degraded masculinity."

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/408200
I imagine that to be a summary of just the kind of behaviour you meant.
 
#12
The programme stated that 300,000 US army Iraq veterans have PTSD!
 
#13
And one annoying thing is that although it's about an army unit most of the archive footage is of the USMC.
 
#14
I strayed from my initial intent in that last post. I think the point the guy was making was about some kind of "tough love" - not the kind of ignorant machismo against which you warn, JJ.

I note that one reviewer I skimmed just now has this to say:


I imagine that to be a summary of just the kind of behaviour you meant.
Ah yes, that evil, character-killing and some would even say homoerotic USMC and its mean, dehumaniz(s)ing training.; -),
 
#15
Ah yes, that evil, character-killing and some would even say homoerotic USMC and its mean, dehumaniz(s)ing training.; -),
I'd simply say "read the book" - feels to me like that p'tic'lar [civilian] reviewer was irritated by the fact the book was writ by a Brit, and might be looking to take offence where offence-taking is just silly.

I'm in no position to comment on USMC attitudes 40 yrs ago. I am intimately acquainted with those of my own Army for the last quarter of the 20th C. . . . if we knew then what we 'know' now . . .

I am curious to see just how far the reviewer has taken that one phrase out of its orginal context.
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#17
I got the impression they were badly let down by their officers
The C.O. stated that he didn't feel they were his officers resposibility when they were off duty
The Coy Comander alowing one soldier to go on tour despite pending charges for holding a gun to his girlfriends head (guy had already been allowed to join up despite criminal record)

Even the General whose attitude seemed to be "it's supply and demand - they demand I supply"
What he was supplying didn't seem to be of concern to him
Withouu trawling back over old history they seemed to steps away from another Mi Lai in fact I think they did admit to a few infractions and the video of the wasy they acted around the Iraqi women "can I get a hug" lying on the bed etc wouldn't have endeared them to the locals I imagine
Looks like hey had a violent tour and just carried on when they got back

How does a soldier who has been dishounerably discharged for being a druggie get access to weapons AK 47 amongst them?

And what was the multiple cocking with the mag on for?
 
#18
....the video of the wasy they acted around the Iraqi women "can I get a hug" lying on the bed etc wouldn't have endeared them to the locals I imagine
?

Commenting as someone who has never “been there, done that”, I’ve got to say, that was the clip that stuck in my mind the most.
 
#20
During the programme it was mentioned that the normal rotation pattern shuold be 1 year on , two years off, but this unit was back I think within 1 year. But as the_boy_syrup points out the general was more concerned with the demand than the fitness of the supply.
 
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