How Military Could Change After Fort Hood Shootings

Some of the worst-ever violence on a U.S. base may force the military to action

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The catastrophic shooting at Fort Hood, one of the word's largest military bases with a population of tens of thousands, could have implications for a military that is struggling to care for soldiers under incredible stress and endless tours of duty. The military has had significant trouble with post-traumatic stress disorder (which the Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, did not suffer from), family strain, and, increasingly, suicide. The Fort Hood base was especially afflicted with such problems, which Hasan himself, as a military psychiatrist, was tasked with treating. Yesterday's shooting may bring the military to question its mental health treatment, among other problems.

  • Are Bases Getting More Dangerous?  Slate's Daniel Engber says military bases haven't traditionally been places of violence. "How often do soldiers commit crimes on their bases? Not very." He says of bases abroad, "While it's reasonable to expect that a population of young men trained in warfare would commit crimes at higher rates, a recent study found that the troops in Okinawa were less than half as likely to break the law as those in the general population. In Korea, too, U.S. servicemen seem to be arrested for serious crimes far less often than the locals. That said, major crimes have been in on the rise across all bases since 2003, according to a report (PDF) released in July. Rates of arrests for murder, rape, assault, and arson saw an especially large bump between 2007 and 2008." Engberg writes, "Soldiers with more combat experience—and whose units had suffered more casualties—were at greater risk than other soldiers of developing mental illness, conduct problems, and criminal behavior."
  • Failed Test for Military Mental Health Program  The Daily Beast's Gail Sheehy surveys the program, just launched at the base. "Fort Hood this fall had just launched a new 'Resiliency Campus.' It is the Army’s first such facility, designed to help soldiers and their families become 'inoculated' against the sense of emotional helplessness, as they are routed through multiple redeployments," she writes. "Until the shooting Thursday, which left 13 dead, 30 wounded, and the gunman injured but alive, the Fort Hood Resiliency Campus was a proud experiment as part of a massive turnaround in Army training, ordered by Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff, in an attempt to reverse the dramatic spike in suicides, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and family breakup that is sapping so many returning combat veterans."
  • More Women in Combat  Gawker's Azaria Jagger makes "the case for letting women risk life and limb more often," based on Hasan's shooter, a woman. "If a woman can storm into that place and save all those people, shouldn't she be allowed serve alongside them in a war zone, too? Yeah, sexual tension has a tendency to spook the Army (which is why there are no gays in the military, not even one!) and, oh, it'd be such a drag to deal with girl toilets and tampons in the barracks. But, guys, a chick just saved all your asses. Figure it out, already."
  • Will Military Carry Violence Stigma?  Rachel Maddow worries that this could inflame stigmas surrounding soldiers, especially those suffering from combat-related PTSD (which Hasan was not). "Today's shooting is the worst soldier-on-soldier violence in our country's history, but it is far from the only incident," she said last night. "Army suicides being on the rise, this year already soaring past last year's pace. Military suicides now even outpacing the civilian rate. Is there a double-sided coin here in reporting on mental health issues on our soldiers? That we need them to be taken care of, we need the seriousness of military mental health issues to be appreciated. And we need to make sure veterans and soldiers aren't stereotyped as crazy and as untrustworthy," she said. "There's no reason to believe at this point--we don't have evidence yet that this is a PTSD situation. But there is concern that by raising awareness about PTSD, you also make people afraid of soldiers who are suffering from it, right?"
  • Need Mental Health Care For Soldiers  Rolling Stone's Lee Christopher Smith argues that military mental health treatment, which Hasan both administered and was under, remains insufficient.
You saw Evans Hospital at Ft. Carson was understaffed tremendously. They had only about 65 percent of their positions filled in the Behavioral Health Unit. They were dispensing care to soldiers, that the soldiers themselves called cookie-cutter treatment where everyone would be given a 20-minute briefing and sent off with a prescription for the anti-depressant Zoloft. And you saw them not being able to really find or identify soldiers that you might call at risk. In one of the more notable cases [in Colorado's Fort Carson], a soldier had come back from a tour in Iraq and had spoken with a mental health care provider, with a post-deployment assessment. And this soldier was known to believe that he was an alien-like creature known as the black - half-dinosaur, half-alien - known as the black raptor, and clearly, according to people in his unit, had serious behavioral health problems. And yet, the Ft. Carson official declared this soldier fit for duty. And sometime soon after that, he allegedly raped and killed a teenage girl. So what you saw going on was just a base that was not able to adequately respond to soldiers experiencing intense combat.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.