Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
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This article, by Pauline Jelinek, was poublished by the Sacramento Bee, November 13, 2009
Morale has fallen among soldiers in Afghanistan, where troops are seeing record violence in the 8-year-old war, while those in Iraq show much improved mental health amid much lower violence, the Army said Friday.
Soldier suicides in Iraq did not increase for the first time since 2004, according to a new study.
Though findings of two new battlefield surveys are similar in several ways to the last ones taken in 2007, they come at a time of intense scrutiny on Afghanistan as President Barack Obama struggles to come up with a new war strategy and planned troop buildup. There is also perhaps equal new attention focused on the mental health of the force since a shooting rampage at Fort Hood last week in which an Army psychiatrist is charged.
Both surveys showed that soldiers on their third or fourth tours of duty had lower morale and more mental health problems than those with fewer deployments and an ever-increasing number of troops are having problems with their marriages.
The new survey on Afghanistan found instances of depression, anxiety and other psychological problems are about the same as they were in 2007. But it also said there is a shortage of mental health workers to help soldiers who need it, partly because of the buildup Obama already started this year with the dispatch of more than 20,000 extra troops.
Efforts already under way to get more health workers to the Afghan war could be hampered somewhat by last week's shooting. The psychiatrist charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder was slated to go to Afghanistan. Some of the dead and wounded also were to deploy there to bolster psychological services for soldiers.
The new Afghanistan survey found that individual soldier morale was about the same as previous studies, but that "unit morale rates ... were significantly lower than in 2005 or 2007," said an executive summary of the report that was to be explained in a news conference Friday. The units referred to were mostly platoons of roughly a couple dozen people each.
In Iraq, some 2,400 soldiers in randomly selected platoons filled out surveys from December 2008 through March 2009 and a mental health assessment team went to the warfront for a month starting in late February to analyze the results and hold interviews and focus groups.In Afghanistan, more than 1,500 troops in more than 50 platoons filled out the surveys from April to June, and the assessment team when through the same process from May through June.
Mental health providers also were interviewed in each country.
It's the sixth such survey, a program that was groundbreaking when started in 2003 in that it was the biggest effort ever made to measure the health of troops - and the services they receive - right at the warfront.
The survey was different from previous ones in that it sampled two types of platoons. Some were maneuver units that warfighting groups engaged in combat-related tasks and others were support units such as aviation, engineering and medical elements less likely to have as much direct exposure to violence.
Other findings of the Afghanistan survey included:
Junior enlisted soldiers reported significantly more marital problems than noncommissioned officers, stating they intended to get a divorce or that they suspected their spouses back home of infidelity.
Exposure to combat, long recognized as a strong factor in mental health problems, was significantly higher this year than rates in 2005 and similar to rates in 2007 for the combat units.
Combat units reported significantly lower unit morale in the last six months of their tours of duty, more evidence of the wearing affect of long deployments.
Troops in their third or fourth deployment reported significantly more acute stress and other psychological problems, and among those married, reported significantly more marital problems compared to soldiers on their first or second deployment.
Soldiers on their third or fourth deployment reported using medications for psychological or combat stress problems at a significantly higher rate than those on their first deployment.
It was significantly harder to get behavioral health care this year than in 2005, a finding that may be owing to the fact that troops are spread out at hundreds of posts around the rugged terrain of Afghanistan.
Troops who spent two to four hours daily playing video games or surfing the Internet as a way to cope helped lower their psychological problems, but spending time beyond that - three to four hours - had the opposite effect. Those who exercised or did other physical training decreased their mental problems, regardless of the time spent.
Troops reported more and better training in suicide prevention and other mental health programs the Army has been increasing over recent years in an unprecedented effort to focus on the force's mental health.
The mental health care system in Afghanistan is understaffed based on the Army doctrine of one mental health worker for every 700 troops.
This article, by Stacy Bannerman, was published by TruthOut, October 24, 2009
As the effects of eight years of war accumulate in Army families, a growing number of military spouses suffering stress, depression and thoughts of suicide can't get the care they need. There is "a severe shortage of mental-health-care facilities for families, both on post and off, especially as post-behavioral health centers are already filled to capacity with soldiers," according to Army psychiatrist Col. Kris Peterson. (Army News Service, October 13, 2009)
The Army has been closely tracking the uptick in mental health problems of soldiers, and is collaborating with the National Institute of Mental Health on "the largest study ever of suicide and mental health in the military." ("Study to Seek Clues to Soldier Suicides." The Washington Post, August 10, 2009) Military family members aren't included in the study, which was announced in July, the same month that two spouses of multiply-deployed husbands were reported dead of suspected self-inflicted injuries.
One of the women was a pregnant 40-year-old Army wife in Fayetteville, North Carolina, who called 911 threatening to harm herself. When the police arrived, she was dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. A few weeks earlier, Army officials began investigating "the recent suspected suicide of a 172nd spouse in Schweinfurt, according to Lt. Col. Eric Stetson, 172nd Infantry Brigade rear detachment commander." ("Some seek mental health checks for spouses of multiple-deployed soldiers." Stars and Stripes, July 5, 2009) Almost three years ago, another Fort Bragg wife committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning, locking herself and her young children in the family car parked in the garage with the engine running. "Her husband, a lieutenant colonel in the Army, had been deployed to Iraq just two months before, just after the birth of the couple's daughter." ("War's Silent Stress: The Family at Home," The Virginian Pilot, August 9, 2009)
In 2008, Cassy Walton, wife of Houston Army recruiter Nils Aron Andersson, an Iraq War veteran, killed herself a few days after her husband committed suicide.
During her husband's most recent deployment, Carissa Picard, founder of Military Spouses for Change, wrote:
Here at Fort Hood, Texas ... they cannot give me figures on spouse suicides but they ... see so many attempted suicides in the Emergency Room that the medical staff have become quite adept at handling them. My theory is that these spouses may have reached the point of needing emergency mental health care and this is the only way to receive it.
Another Army wife said that she was hospitalized upon learning of her husband's second deployment, due to concern that she might harm herself. Military spouse suicides typically aren't made public, so the extent of the problem isn't known.
The Army doesn't track suicides by military family members because most occur "off post or involve [family members of] reservists or guardsmen," said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver. (Stars and Stripes, July 5, 2009)
There is some evidence indicating that spouses of citizen soldiers struggle more during deployments. Guard troops have served the longest tours in Iraq, and a study assessing the effect of deployment on military spouses revealed "Increased spousal distress and poorer coping ... during deployment." The research also found that "Longer deployment was associated with greater adverse outcomes." (Centre for Military & Veterans' Health, 2007) Geographic and social isolation is a major challenge for the Guard spouses who live hundreds of miles from the nearest post, armory or another military family member with a loved one at war.
Unable to attend the monthly volunteer-driven Family Readiness Groups, the only formal or informal support they receive over the course of a year-long deployment may be a single phone call from the Family Readiness Coordinator. So it's not surprising that "68% of deployed reservists' spouses reported increased stress [as] spouses of Guard or Reserve members may be less prepared than other active duty spouses to cope with [it]." (2008 Health Care Survey of DOD Beneficiaries)
Among active-duty spouses, a 2008 survey by the American Psychiatric Association found that 40 percent believed their mental health was hurt by their husband's or wife's service overseas. Approximately 25 percent reported regular problems with sleeplessness, anxiety and depression.
Earlier studies conducted on wives of deployed troops discovered a spectrum of symptoms and diagnoses, such as: depression, anxiety, insomnia, adjustment disorder, nervousness, headaches, dysphoria and changes in eating habits. (Frankel, Snowden, & Nelson, 1992; Milgram & Bar, 1993; Wood & Scarville, 1995; et. al.) "There's a lot of research to show that partners and spouses and kids suffer from secondary PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder]," said Tom Berger, a senior analyst for veterans' benefits and mental health issues for the Vietnam Vets of America.
Investigations into the mental health of wives of retired veterans found that spouses of combat veterans had high levels of distress, poorer physical and psychological health over a lifetime, and greater social isolation than partners of non-combat veterans. A study on caregiver burden among partners of vets with PTSD stated that nearly half of the wives "felt as if they were on the verge of a nervous breakdown." (Beckham, Lytle, and Feldman, 1996) Research published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease stated that:
Partners [of combat veterans] endorsed high levels of psychological distress with elevations on clinical scales at or exceeding the 90th percentile. Severe levels of overall psychological distress, depression and suicidal ideation were prevalent among partners.... These findings are compelling since they demonstrate that partners of veterans with combat-related PTSD experience significant levels of emotional distress that warrant clinical attention. (Manguno-Mire, Ph.D., Sautter, Ph.D. et. al., February, 2007)
A growing number of today's military spouses are married to active-duty veterans, and it's likely that the psychological distress experienced by wives of combat veterans is compounded by bearing the burden of war at home during multiple deployments, but there are painfully few resources focused on serving this population. Soldiers receive training and courses to prepare them for multiple deployments, but spouses do not. Even when clinical care is available, 66 percent of the military spouses surveyed "worried that looking for assistance for their own issues would harm their loved ones' chances of promotion." (American Psychiatric Association, 2008)
The stigma that prevents troops from seeking mental health help also affects military spouses, some of whom believe that a wife who asks for help is weak, and "not cut out to be an Army wife." Hypervigilant of the fact that it's their soldier, not themselves, repeatedly putting their boots on the ground and their lives on the line, spouses learn to "suck it up," and suffer in silence.
In the past year, however, more military wives have begun speaking out, including Sheila Casey, wife of the Army's top soldier, Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in June, Mrs. Casey remarked, "Army families are the most brittle part of the force ... [They] are sacrificing too much, and we can no longer ask them to just make the best of it."
This article, by Leo Church, was published on his blog, August 2008.
For over eight months I waited in Ft. Hood, Texas for my lawyers to barter for my freedom and the prosecutors to decide what they found to be fair for my case. My problems started not long after I finished Basic and A.I.T. when I received a call from Angie, the mother of my children, Alyssa and Kaitlynn, saying that the three were homeless and living in a van in Arlington, Texas.
I asked my company for permission to leave to get them and was blatantly denied. Seeing that I had no other choice I left to pick up my children and then immediately returned to Ft. Hood, back to my company. When I returned I was charged for leaving without permission and given an Article 15, and my pay was cut in half.
Things only got worse from there. I had no one to watch my children. Even though I was not allowed to have my daughters living with me in my barracks room, when I asked for help from my captain I was told to just have them live with me and come to work with me. Unfortunately, the wait for BAH at the time was 6 months. Knowing that I was not allowed to have them in my room over night and it being inappropriate to take them to my company to work, I left to take my children to Amarillo, Texas so I could find them a safe place to live.
Having only my mother to turn to, but knowing that she could not keep them 24 hours a day for me to be able to return to Ft. Hood, I stayed and found myself a civilian job. I knew my obligation was to the Army and my company, but my children were my obligation long before I ever considered enlisting and they needed their father.
I was doing the best that I could for my daughters and when I was picked up for being A.W.O.L. in 2007, Angie came and picked up Alyssa and Kaitlynn, and informed me that I would not see them again, at least not until I was done with the Army. Flown back down to Ft. Hood and once more at my company, I was threatened with 15 to 20 years in prison for leaving my company, regardless if it was for my children or not. So, again I found myself leaving, this time not for my children, but for me.
I was scared and alone, and had no one to help me as it had been since the first day I arrived at Ft. Hood. Over the last year, away from the Army, I had finally started to build the foundation for my life. A beautiful home, an excellent job, a wonderful wife, Amanda, and my only son on the way, I could not have been happier. But, my desertion charge had been discovered and I was once more picked up and returned to Ft. Hood.
With everything that was going on, from me leaving, even though it was to care for my family, because I could find no support from the Army, Amanda and I had to place our son, Austin in a loving home thru adoption. We did not want him enduring the strife that we had endured and for him to end up being fatherless, because I would be living in prison. I have never known my father, never had the warm experience with my father like going out to throw a football, or go camping, or enjoy the guidance I needed to receive in my life. He just wasn’t there.
On Dec. 11th of this year, I stood before the judge at Ft. Hood in a General Court-Martial and pleaded my case, that had I received the help I needed I would have been able to stay at my company and serve by my fellow soldiers, but I found no mercy. The judge convicted and sentenced me to 15 months in prison with a Bad Conduct Discharge. The prosecutors had only asked for 14 months with no fines and no BCD. Thankfully my previous lawyers had arranged for me to have a pre-trial agreement that capped possible jail time at 8 months.
Still, 8 months is too much. I have lost so much because of the Army; I don’t have custody of my daughters and I had to give up my son for adoption, all because of the Army. My wife is struggling to make ends meet now without me. And I am stuck in this jail.
It is because of everything that has happened to me that I’ve decided to speak out.