Stress, command flaws behind suicides: U.S. Army

Thu Jan 22, 2009 6:53pm EST
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By Chris Baltimore

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Army probe into suicides among Houston-based recruiters, all veterans of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, said medical problems factored in the deaths but none had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Four members of the Houston Recruiting Battalion, which covers hundreds of square miles (kms) from Houston to the Arkansas border, took their lives between January 2005 and September 2008, and U.S. lawmakers including Texas Sen. John Cornyn are pressing the military for answers.

In October last year, Cornyn told top Army officials he had seen evidence that senior battalion leaders interfered with official investigations and covered up serious problems like "a toxic command climate" and poor morale.

An Army statement on the investigation, released on Wednesday, made no mention of cover-ups.

"Relevant factors included the command climate, stress, personal matters, and medical problems," it said.

The Army said none of the dead recruiters was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which can stem from wartime trauma such as being wounded or seeing others killed.

Each had troubled relationships with wives and girlfriends, and many were subjected to "abusive and humiliating treatment" by their superiors for failing to meet quotas, Cornyn said.

The Army Recruiting Command will hold a rare "stand down" day on February 13 to train staff on suicide prevention, and the Army's inspector general will assess the "command climate" among all U.S. recruiters, the Army said.   Continued...