May 13, 2009

Camp Liberty Shooting Spurs Army to Review Mental Health Services

Via the Washington Times: Killings spur Army review of mental care

BAQOUBA, Iraq The U.S. commander of the Multi-National Force -- Iraq on Tuesday ordered a top-to-bottom review of mental health services for U.S. troops in the country after the worst act of U.S. soldier-on-soldier violence in the Iraq war.

Army Lt. Col. Brian Tribus, media relations chief for Multi-National Force - Iraq, told The Washington Times that Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby ordered procedures "to look into [mental health] services available and delivery of those services."

Gen. Jacoby also requested that the Army inspector general review all mental health services available to troops in Iraq, Col. Tribus said.

Five U.S. service members - two doctors and three enlisted men - were killed Monday afternoon at Camp Liberty on the outskirts of Baghdad when a soldier from the 54th Engineer Battalion entered a combat stress center and opened fire.

Col. Tribus identified Monday's suspected shooter as Sgt. John M. Russell but did not disclose additional personal details. He said Sgt. Russell has been formally charged with five counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault and is being held at a detention facility near the shooting location.

No reason for the shooting has been determined, officials said, but soldiers in the field cautioned against jumping to a conclusion of "combat stress" until an investigation has been completed. [Emphasis mine]

As I noted earlier, we need to wait and see what caused Sgt Russell to do what he did.

Of course the media hasn't helped much in this matter. First they jumped the gun with their commentary that this was a fragging incident, in an effort to once again link Iraq with Vietnam. As soon as that meme died off they started pushing the stress issue. It is my belief that most of the news reports that this was all related to the stress of being in a war zone are premature.

Yes our soldiers are under a lot of stress, and yes mental health in the Military has been for a long time a NO GO area, but let's let the investigation proceed before we pronounce any judgements upon this Soldier and the US Military.

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