The Wounded Platoon
Being currently in the military I have mixed reactions when viewing this video. I perform the same role as “Doc” Krebs did, but for the Air Force Reserve. There Is a lot to consider when discussing this documentary. It was well constructed In the sense that those interviewed held various positions representing nearly every step of the larger process that is the war. First I would like to discuss the issue of battle itself. Few of our nation’s military actually sees combat, it is largely support for those who do. Of those who are placed In a combat situation the number of those is sustained combat day after day Is even fewer.
Infantry during an offensive tactical plan are typically those who have suffered the worst. To make matters worse this particular war is extremely taxing of a person’s psyche. Unlike most wars of the past the enemy is not readily identifiable. They wear no uniforms they blend in with the population. Threatening the locals into keeping quiet about which buildings they are in is not uncommon. It is no wonder that returning soldiers are scanning rooftops or firing at the first male they see viewing the site of an explosion. Who Is to say they didn’t set It off?
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Often the explosion from an DIED Is the first wave of an oncoming attack and the gunfire is not far behind. It is easy to say that they should know better sitting on your couch watching this video. But nine months into a deployment especially one where you are on the offensive, not all people are strong enough to know the difference in that split second. The truth is we will never know. Many of the soldiers Interviewed trace the root of their problems back to the death of SST Huh. This was the first of many multiple traumas they encountered. They ere not yet numb to the effects of war.
Numbness In itself Is a survival mechanism; as mentioned by a troop in the video, that is necessary to perform at the level needed. In that instant it’s kill or be killed, nothing else matters. It also was especially tragic since the SST that was killed was so well respected and liked. Some of the members did seek help and this is where we get our first glimpse of the larger problem. The speech given by George Bush sending an additional ASK troops Into battle sets off a chain reaction. There are only 25% of young people In this nation that are insider “fit” to join the military.
This is due to a number of reasons such as weight, fitness level, health status, previous surgeries and intelligence level to name a few. It also takes a considerable amount of time from the start of a recruit signing the papers to get them to basic training, which can take months in itself. Then they must be able to complete that successfully and move on and successfully complete their lob specific training. There Is additional training specific to the region and special tactics that also must be completed before a member is even eligible to deploy.
That is even if they are infantry as previously mentioned, most of the military does not perform that role. So this brings us to the decisions made by the top level command. Does the military typically allow criminals? No. Do they allow those with pending charges to deploy? No. Do they allow those who are mentally unstable to deploy without first getting treatment? No. Until this war they didn’t allow All of these factors security threat overseas, and it worked. A multitude of factors that will forever remain unknown to everyone except the few who made the rules and we will fully know what he rational was.
With that being said when the president says you must send this many men, you do. In an ideal world there would be enough to go around. Sure they could have pulled from another base. But what the video doesn’t address is anyone else’s deployment cycle. This platoon was Just one of many in the same situation. Do you send someone over to Iraq for another year 2 months after they have been reunited with their family? The general population and the vast majority of the military itself do not know the manning of the force or who is actually eligible to deploy out of those who are in. It is certainly a tough call to make.
I’m certain that those who made it knew that there would be a downfall in some regard. In this case it is the medical system. The onset of this year we Just completed, has saw a tremendous surge in life- changing injuries and service connected disabilities. As mentioned in the video it is an abnormal situation to be placed in. Many of those who were shown in the video were deemed unfit for continued military service following their deployment, specifically for PETS. A diagnosis of PETS cannot be made initially after a traumatic vent, the symptoms must be present for several months and disrupt daily functioning.
Irritability, a sense of being on guard, short temper, easily startled and nightmares are some of a plethora of symptoms experienced. Access to care is another shortfall mentioned in this video. Some of the soldiers did not seek treatment due to stigma. Others such as Nash sought treatment too late after he had resorted to drugs and alcohol first. I will say that the military did fail them in the sense of the initial treatment. I wish I knew why this was the case. I can only speculate that it is due to not being fully aware of the tuition, money and a lack of available resources to treat these members.
This brings us to another failure not mentioned in the video. It is unclear what role the soldiers next in their chain of command (direct supervisor) played in this process. They could have advocated for the member, but more importantly they could have simply been there and stuck with them through every aspect of their treatment giving them support at every turn. It is impossible to tell from the video if an attempt was made and the supervisor was shut out, or if one of these men portrayed was the supervisor of the others. That is how the leadership system broke down.
There is absolutely no way that the commander is responsible directly. Commanders are only informed of a patient seeking mental health treatment and they follow the recommendations given by those who actually evaluated the patient. They are given zero information on the diagnosis. Secondly they would be completely unaware of their subordinates behavior off duty. The failure of the mental health system in the military is not surprising. The VA system is shambles and has been before the influx of patients since the onset of this ar.
Staffing and overcrowding is commonplace, at least it would appear the federal government cannot turn a blind eye anymore and is addressing this issue. The mental health system has strict rules about duty limitations and determines who is eligible for continued service based on condition but it is obvious in this case they if this process was started on these members as it can take months for a member to be considered at maximal medical improvement. It is only at this point after the government has done everything in their power to aid the member that they can aka the decision to retain or discharge the individual.
They simply may not have had the time, or the member may have forced leadership’s hand by committing other faults such as felonies as evidenced in the video. It is certainly disheartening to see our military portrayed in this fashion although for some it is a reality. Despite what is shown in this video I feel that our mental health in the US military is performing better than ever before and operates at a high level. Certainly they could use more resources and staff but that cost money that may not be slotted for this particular concern.
Budget drives every action in Washington and sometimes it takes a crisis before those who serve us will listen. It will take years to rectify the VA system, and there will also be problems and people lost in the system as they try to seek help as they are exiting the military by choice or otherwise. I am proud to serve in the military and help those who are wounded, physically or psychologically and will continue to do so. You must have faith that those above you are making the best and most informed decisions they can, even though you will never understand the factors that went into such a decision.