Saturday, January 31, 2009

Army orders ‘stand-down’ in wake of suicide spike

By Jeff Schogol
Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, January 31, 2009

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army has ordered a servicewide “stand-down” for two to four hours of suicide prevention training, Army vice chief of staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli announced Thursday.

Commanders will be given latitude to hold the training any time between Feb. 15 and March 15.

The decision came in the wake of Thursday’s announcement that soldier suicides are at a 30-year high.

Traditionally, the Army’s suicide rate has been below that of the general public, but now they are roughly equal, Army officials said Thursday.

Between 2007 and 2008, the number of soldiers who took their lives increased from 115 to 128, and 15 more deaths in 2008 are being investigated as potential suicides.

Afterwards, all soldiers will also get a “chain-teach” on suicide prevention, in which leaders teach their subordinates all the way down the chain of command, Army officials said.

“We believe that behavior is something that we must get at: The behavior of the soldier that may be thinking about this but not willing to talk about it because of potential stigmas,” said Reserve Maj. Gen. John Hawkins, deputy chief of Army G-1.

The training soldiers will receive includes group training in two scenarios: One about a soldier is contemplating suicide, and the other about a soldier who sees warning signs in his battle buddy, said Col. Thomas Languirand, of the Army’s Suicide Prevention Program.

“It’s a learning tool: You can make the wrong decisions and it will bring you to an outcome that is not desirable, but it has tips along the ways and it can bring the group back to the right decision-making tree that we’re looking for,” Languirand said.

Later, soldiers will see a video with vignettes about soldiers who have been brought back from the brink of suicide, and those who have attempted suicide, said Hank Minitrez, a spokesman for the Army G-1’s Human Resources Directorate.

The vignettes also include stories from senior leaders about how suicides have affected them, Minitrez said.

All soldiers, including those downrange, will be required to go through the suicide prevention training, he said.

Army Recruiting Command already ordered a one-day stand-down in February following a spate of suicides in a Houston-based recruiting battalion, according to Army Times.

And the United States Military Academy has ramped up its suicide prevention efforts after two cadets committed suicide since December, said academy spokesman Col. Bryan Hilferty.

The Washington Post first reported on Monday that the academy had asked for a team from the Army surgeon general’s office to investigate the recent suicides and two other suicide attempts.

The academy’s superintendent also ordered everyone on post to take suicide prevention classes by the end of January, and the commandant spoke to every cadet personally, Hilferty said.

Both cadets and civilians have been issued suicide prevention cards, and hundreds of suicide prevention posters have been displayed around campus, he said.

Army officials attribute multiple causes to why soldiers commit suicide, but they are at a loss to explain why the suicide rate is going up.

“Part of the reality that we all know is we have been working hard as an Army for a very long time,” said Col. Elspeth Ritchie, of the Army surgeon general’s office. “We’ve heard Gen. [George] Casey and others talk about being out of balance. We know we’re working very hard, very fast. What we don’t know — none of us has a silver bullet, none of us have the answers. If we did, we would have solved it a while ago.”

-- submitted by Patti Woodard

Friday, January 23, 2009

Newspaper Releases Military Report on US Doctor in Iraq Driven to Suicide

Newspaper Releases Military Report on U.S. Doctor in Iraq Driven to Suicide

By Greg Mitchell
Published: January 22, 2009 1:35 PM ET

NEW YORK Of the thousands of "noncombat" American deaths in Iraq -- and I have covered many of them for almost six years, here and elsewhere -- one of the most haunting involved Army Capt. Roselle M. Hoffmaster. Now the Army's investigation into her death on Sept. 20, 2007, has finally been released.

Link to article


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Army: Negliegence Caused Soldier's Electrocution

Army: Negligence caused soldier's electrocution
By Kimberly Hefling, Associated Press Writer, 01/22/2009

WASHINGTON - An Army investigation calls the electrocution death of a U.S. soldier in Iraq "negligent homicide" caused by military contractor KBR Inc. and two of its supervisors.

In a document obtained by The Associated Press, an Army criminal investigator says the manner of death for Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, has been changed from accidental to negligent homicide because the contractor failed to ensure that "qualified electricians and plumbers" worked on the barracks where Maseth died.

The Green Beret from Pittsburgh died of cardiac arrest on Jan. 2, 2008. He was electrocuted while taking a shower in his barracks in Baghdad.

A spokesman for Houston-based KBR was not immediately available for comment.

CNN Update on the story

Article in Digital Journal

Relatives of dead Russian soldier to sue Defense Ministry

21/ 01/ 2009

YEKATERINBURG, January 21 (RIA Novosti) - The relatives of a Russian soldier who died of pneumonia earlier this month in the Urals after being made to stand in freezing temperatures said on Wednesday they would sue the Defense Ministry.

Anton Yumatov, 24, died on January 16 in a military hospital. Another 94 service personnel at the Yelan training center in Yekaterinburg were also diagnosed with pneumonia.

His relatives claim that Anton and other soldiers were forced to stand outside their barracks at night in minus 20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures by a "drunken" superior.

"We intend to sue the Russian Defense Ministry to prove that we are right. We will go all the way," the dead soldier's brother said, adding that Anton had not even been supplied with water while in hospital.

"Not long before his death, he wrote a note - 'Mum, buy me two bottles of mineral water," said Grigory Yumatov.

A total of 45 soldiers from the training center are currently in hospital. A criminal case has been launched and a number of military officials have been suspended from duty.

Some 100 military personnel were also hospitalized with the disease in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea. Sanitary checks are due to be carried out at all military units of Russia's Armed Forces to prevent further outbreaks of the disease.

The Russian Army is notorious for its poor living standards and cruel hazing practices. Hazing, a tradition stretching back to the Soviet era, is just one of the problems faced by the average conscript in the Russian Army. Russia's defence ministry confirmed recently a report that there were 471 service personnel deaths due to non-combat causes in 2008. Over half of these, 231, were suicides.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Family of Iraq vet gets settlement after his suicide

U.S. loses wrongful death suit

By Jeff Schogol, Stars and StripesMideast edition, Friday, January 16, 2009

ARLINGTON, Va. — Marine Reserve Cpl. Jeffrey Lucey hanged himself on June 22, 2004, about three weeks after being released as an inpatient from the Northampton Veterans Medical Center in Leeds, Mass.

His parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. government, claiming the VA initially refused to treat him for post-traumatic stress disorder because they required him to be sober first.

Now they will receive $350,000 under a settlement with the U.S. government that was announced Thursday by Military Families Speak Out, an anti-war group to which they both belong.

Read the rest of the story here.

There is also an article in the Boston Globe.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Friendly Fire Inquiry

Friendly-fire inquiry after marines from Scots base die in Afghanistan 17 Jan 2009 An investigation was under way last night into whether two British servicemen based in Scotland died in Afghanistan as a result of "friendly fire", the Ministry of Defence said.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Army Suicides Rise as Time Spent in Combat Increases

Army suicides rise as time spent in combat increases 13 Jan 2009 The Marine Corps reported 41 actual or suspected suicides in 2008, a 20% increase over 33 in 2007. In 2007, the Army counted 115 suicides, the most since tracking began in 1980. By October 2008, that record had been surpassed with 117 soldier suicides. Final numbers for 2008 have not been released.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Family of Dead Marine Wants Full Investigation, New Autopsy Details

Corporal Johnathon T. Burnette, 24, was stabbed several times all over his body and eyes and found in a pool of blood on Jan. 7, 2009 at Camp LeJeune, N.C. Initial cause of death, according to the military autopsy was suicide.

This article includes numerous comments. It is interesting to read the various "takes" on the idea that a soldier may have been murdered on base.

Thanks to Lois Vanderbur for alerting me to this non-combat death. I've noticed that the Department of Defense is not consistently announcing non-combat deaths in the US and does not always include cause of death in their official announcements.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Interesting Take on Non-combat Deaths

Here's an article which takes an interesting take on vehicular accidents in combat zones. There is no question about the effect of stress or PTSD, avoiding dangerous situations, the effect of drinking or drugs, or the possibility of staged accidents.

Even the comment on the article seems to be loaded with revisionist thinking about the history of the war in Iraq.

The fact is that there have been a statistically large number of vehicle accidents which have caused non-combat deaths. There must be a rational explanation.

In my humble opinion, this article does not honestly address the problem.