Friday, June 19, 2009

Russian Ministry Reports 158 Noncombat Deaths

June 17, 2009

MOSCOW -- The Russian Defense Ministry has announced that there were 27 noncombat deaths of Russian soldiers in May, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The ministry says more than half of those soldiers committed suicide.

The rest of the deaths were a result of accidents, fights, and hazing incidents.

There have been 158 noncombat deaths of Russian soldiers this year -- 21 more than the number of coalition troops that have been killed in Afghanistan this year.

Last weekend, an army conscript committed suicide in a military hospital in the city of Vyborg, near St. Petersburg.

The soldier was part of a group of newly drafted recruits who had deserted their military unit last week.

Bullying and the humiliation of conscripts by older soldiers in the Russian Army often leads to young soldiers committing suicide or deserting.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Army Releases May Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data for the month of May today, reporting one confirmed suicide and 16 potential suicides among active duty soldiers.

In the April report, the Army reported seven active duty potential suicides. Since that time an additional suicide was reported, for a total of eight April potential suicides, three of which have been confirmed and five remain under investigation. There have been 82 reported active duty suicides in the Army during calendar year 2009. Of these, 45 have been confirmed as suicides, and 37 are pending final determination of manner death. For the same period in 2008, there were 51 suicides among active duty soldiers.

During May 2009, among reserve component soldiers who are not on active duty, there was one confirmed suicide and seven potential suicides; to date in 2009, among that same group, there have been 16 confirmed suicides, and 21 potential suicides are currently under investigation. For the same period in 2008, there were 23 suicides among reserve soldiers who were not on active duty.

In January, the Army implemented an Army-wide effort to combat the rise of suicide in its ranks. The Army mandated a suicide prevention stand-down that involved all 1.1 million soldiers; established a Suicide Prevention Task Force; has made dozens of improvements to Army policies, procedures and resources; and recruited additional psychological and behavioral health counselors.

"We have got to do better," said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, "It's clear we have not found full solutions to this yet. But we are trying every remedy and seeking help from outside agencies that are experts in suicide prevention. There isn't a reasonable suicide prevention tool out there the Army won't potentially employ."

The Army's Suicide Prevention Task Force is focused on rapid improvements across the spectrum of health promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention to ensure the Army's programs in these areas are coordinated, fully-resourced, and effective.

"As hard as this problem truly is, in some ways it is also very basic, because it requires caring for soldiers, and that's something we already know how to do," said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. "We must simultaneously get back to basics and optimize current programs to set conditions for future programs to tackle this problem."

The Army has identified additional crisis intervention resources available to the Army community. Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance are strongly encouraged to contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center (DCoE). Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental United States is 1-800-342-9647, the Military One Source Web site can be found at Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.

The DCoE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, or at

The Army's most current suicide prevention information is located at

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Link to Interview

Murder in Baker Company
with author, Cilla McCain speaking with Jim Fetzer

Click here to go to the site; scroll down to the title and click on it to listen.

Monday, June 01, 2009

It's Getting Harder For Americans To Die In Combat

May 31, 2009:

U.S. military deaths in Iraq have spiked in May, reaching 22. This is the highest number of deaths there since last September, when there were 25. But five of those May deaths were the result of an American soldier going berserk in a medical clinic, and killing five other U.S. troops. Such incidents are rare, but not unknown, even in peacetime. Most of the May deaths were not combat related.

So far this year, there have been 83 deaths in Iraq, compared to 314 in 2008 and 904 in 2007 (the peak year for these deaths). In the last eight months, U.S. troops in Iraq have had more to fear from accidents, disease and stress, than enemy action. In those eight months, 130 troops died, but less than half as a result of combat. This is a trend that has been growing for over a year.

Through the end of last year, 4,300 U.S. troops have died in Iraq, and 19 percent of those fatalities were from non-combat causes. Most of the non-combat deaths were from accidents and disease. One of the major categories of non-combat death is vehicle accidents. In 2007, 20 percent of the non-combat deaths were from vehicle accidents. But in 2008, overall deaths declined by two thirds (from 904 in 2007, to 312 in 2008), but vehicle accident deaths went from 37 to 19.

The U.S. Army expected vehicle accidents to decline even more in 2008, because the number of terrorist incidents went down by 80 percent. Many vehicle accidents were the result of the fast driving tactics troops were encouraged to use to get away from roadside bombs and ambushes.

Ask the NCOs, and they will often complain that the sharp reduction in combat has removed the incentive to stay sharp and pay attention. Not a unique situation in a combat zone, and despite the energetic exhortations of the NCOs, too many troops do not stay alert enough to avoid accidents. Ask the troops, and they complain about the heavier traffic. With peace breaking out all over central Iraq, and the economy continuing to boom, more Iraqis have cars. Iraqis drive like they're from Boston, with abandon and indifference.

Meanwhile, military experts around the world are still trying to make sense of how the United States has kept its casualties so low in Iraq and Afghanistan. To put it in simple terms, you were three times more likely to be killed or wounded in Vietnam (or World War II), compared to Iraq.

And then there is the mystery of higher non-combat deaths in Afghanistan. In Vietnam, and Iraq, 19 percent of the deaths were from non-combat causes (accidents, disease, for the most part.) During World War II, 25 percent of the dead were non-combat. In Afghanistan, 29 percent of the deaths were non-combat, and that is rapidly increasing as combat deaths plummet. But even before the current decline in combat casualties, Iraq had a greater variety of diseases, and nasty terrain (including the atrocious roads).

What the U.S. did was put in well trained, led, armed and motivated troops and then supported them lavishly. Civilians were hired to do a lot of the menial jobs. Much effort was put into getting to know the local culture, and avoiding civilian casualties. That eventually won over enough Iraqis to undercut support for Islamic radicals (mostly Sunni Arabs angry at no longer being in charge, and minority Shia groups keen on setting up a Shia religious dictatorship).

But while the diseases and safety situation in Iraq is improving, there's still a way to go in Afghanistan. The many diseases, bad roads, hills and mountains will remain for some time to come. Afghanistan will remain a dangerous place, even if no one is shooting at you.

--submitted by Patti Woodard