Monday, October 19, 2009

Inquiry into stress clinic shooting in Iraq

Despite years of emphasis on mental health issues, commanders in Iraq lack the necessary tools, training and guidance to deal with at-risk soldiers, according to an Army investigation into mental health services.
The report, released late Friday, was prompted by a shooting at a Baghdad combat stress clinic last May that left four soldiers and a sailor dead. After repeatedly reaching out for help, Sgt. John Russell allegedly stole a gun, walked into the clinic where he had been treated that day and opened fire.
The Army interviewed Russell's peers, commanders and doctors to trace the events leading to the incident, and the resulting report details widespread failures to implement Multi-National Force-Iraq mental health policy. Leaders from noncommissioned officers to commanders aren't provided direction to carry out preventive mental health measures, according to the report.

The above is from Megan McCloskey's "Inquiry into Iraq stress clinic shooting reveals institutional failures" (Stars and Stripes). The incident above took place May 11th at 2:00 pm (Iraq time) on Camp Liberty base, five US service members were shot dead. John Russell is the accused. Nishant Dahiya (NPR -- text only) adds:

The U.S military has now released the details of its investigation into some of the circumstances surrounding the incident. The report, which is posted online here, is incredibly detailed. It's 325 pages long and hard to read both for the nature of the subject being discussed and because the military uses acronyms to identify some persons; other names are blanked out completely. Entire sections are missing in some cases.
With evidence based on considerable testimony, the report illustrates the stress and pressure that multiple combat tours in Iraq (and Afghanistan) are putting on military personnel, and how that is also straining the staff of the Army's Combat Stress Clinics.
The findings of the report (pg. 302 onwards) are critical of the operational tools and training aimed at preventing such tragedies as occurred at Camp Liberty. The findings show that policies were unclear; those that existed are improperly implemented; and soldiers were unsure of how to deal with fellow soldiers who have behavioral health problems. The findings highlight lapses in dealing with the situation, on or before the day of the incident, right from the soldier's unit, to the Combat Stress Clinic, to the Military Police.

Hard to read is putting it mildly. If you're unable to open the PDF format report in Mozilla/Firefox, switch to Explorer which doesn't appear to have the problems with it Mozilla/Firefox does. Accessing it online is the least of the problems.

-133: b(3), b(6) calls the CSC at Camp Liberty while b(3), b(6) is on the phone with b(3), b(6)
b(3), b(6)

-1340: b(3), b(6) hears a "Pop"

-1342: b(3), b(6) exits the "restoration" area via a window. b(3), b(6) and a patient exit the CSC via a window and observes b(3), b(6) running away from the CSC.

From some of the conclusions (I'm on page 303):

After abruptly leaving his session with (b)(3)(b)(6) and asking the MPs to take him in, (b)(3)(b)(60 tossed a knife to the ground. The 54th EN BN has no template for setting a unit watch, and neither did any of the unit leaders we interviewed in the course of this investigation. There is no standard for escorts, how many, how senior, and what type of escort should be assigned to a troubled Soldier, a suicidal Soldier or a homicidal Soldier. Additionally, at the unit level, there is no real conception of when to Command refer Soldiers for assistance. (b)(3)(b)(6) unit encouraged him to self-refer for 3 appointments within 3 days. Access to care is not an issue. On the fourth day, the Behavioral Health clinic asked the 54th, to make it a "Command referral." Granted our Commands want to reduce the stigma associated with ill health, but there is a lack of emphasis upon Command involvement and responsibility for behavioral problems. There is no message, SITREP, or verbal notification required for Soldiers with suicidal ideations. The Commander, 54th EN BN, was never notified that his subordinates had removed (b)(3)(b)(6) bolt from his weapon. Correspondingly, when his bolt was removed, (b)(3)(b)(6) was not put on buddy or unit watch. Unit Commanding Officers at the 03-05 level need more than awareness training, they require precise instruction in effective suicide and behavioral problem remediation measures to effectively support our Behavioral Health professionals.

Meanwhile William R. Levesque's "Florida Guard readies for biggest overseas deployment since WWII" (St. Petersburg Times):

The Florida National Guard opened training this month for the 2,500 troops in a Pinellas County-based unit that will be sent to Iraq and Kuwait in January in the largest overseas deployment for the Florida Guard since World War II.
[. . .]
The Florida Guard said 1,000 of the 53rd's troops will be assigned to Iraq guarding the border with Kuwait. Another 300 will be based in Kuwait. The remaining 1,200 will divide their time between both countries guarding convoys.

Bonnie reminds Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "White House On Attack" went up last night.


Since taking office, President Obama has sanctioned at least 41 Central Intelligence Agency(C.I.A.) drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed between 326 and 538 people, many of them, critics say, "innocent bystanders, including children," according to reliable reports. The drone is a remotely controlled, unmanned aircraft.
"Even if a precise account is elusive," writes Jane Mayer in the October 26th The New Yorker, "the outlines are clear: the C.I.A. has joined the Pakistani intelligence service in an aggressive campaign to eradicate local and foreign militants, who have taken refuge in some of the most inaccessible parts of the country."
Based on a study just completed by the non-profit, New America Foundation of Washington, D.C., "the number of drone strikes has risen dramatically since Obama became President," Mayer reports.
In fact, the first two strikes took place on Jan. 23, the President's third day in office and the second of these hit the wrong house, that of a pro-government tribal leader that killed his entire family, including three children, one just five years of age.
At any time, the C.I.A. apparently has "multiple drones flying over Pakistan, scouting for targets," the magazine reports. So many Predators and its more heavily armed companion, the Reaper, are being purchased that defense manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, of Poway, Calif., can hardly make them fast enough. The Air Force is said to possess 200.
Mayer writes, "the embrace of the Predator program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion, given that it represents a radically new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force." Today, Mayer writes, "there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing has become official U.S. policy." And according to Gary Solis, who teaches at Georgetown University's Law Center, nobody in the government calls it assassination. "Not only would we have expressed abhorrence of such a policy a few years ago; we did," Solis is quoted as saying.

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