What is really going on at Ft. Carson (formerly Camp Carson), or what is really happening in their PTSD treatment program for returning vets? Recent history of returning vets from the terror war is a reoccurring story of out-of-control, brutal soldiers, who are ticking time-bombs, with very little regard for human life. Two of those stories are included below–the first story is of a Ft. Carson soldier who allegedly executed a Taliban leader in his custody in Afghanistan; the second story concerns 17 soldiers from Ft. Carson, who had been charged with murder or attempted murder. Why is this problem so prevalent at this one base? Could it have anything to do with the base mental health program for soldiers suspected of having post-traumatic stress disorder?
The base houses a “Warrior Transition Battalion,” intended to treat soldiers, primarily by removing the “stigma” of “combat fatigue,” as it used to be called, in the politically incorrect days of WWII and Korea. The so-called “stigma” is the shame of “unmanliness” in the face of battle.
Provide command and control, primary care and case management for Warriors in Transition to establish conditions for healing and promote the timely return to the force or transition to civilian life.
WARRIOR IN TRANSITION MISSION:
I am a Warrior in Transition. My job is to heal as I transition back to duty or continue serving the nation as a Veteran in my community. This is not a status, but a mission. I will succeed in this mission because.
Pfc. David Lawrence takes a break from an Article 32 hearing at Fort Carson in November. Lawrence, who was serving with the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division is accused of killing a Taliban commander while he was detained in a cell at an outpost north of Kandahar in Afghanistan. Lawrence was on guard duty at the time of the shooting.
WASHINGTON — An Army private accused of killing a Taliban prisoner last year in Afghanistan has agreed to plead guilty, according to his attorney, even though several military psychiatrists concluded he was suffering severe mental illness at the time.
Pfc. David W. Lawrence is expected to receive a “substantially” reduced sentence for the killing of Mullah Mohebullah, a senior Taliban commander who was shot in the face last October while being guarded by Lawrence at a U.S. detention facility in Kandahar province, said James Culp, the defendant’s lawyer.
Lawrence had been charged with premeditated murder in military court. The plea deal will spare Lawrence from a possible life sentence without parole, the minimum punishment he faced if convicted on the charge under military law.
It will also shield the Army from the controversy over locking up a 20-year-old soldier for the rest of his life after its own doctors diagnosed him with schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress syndrome.
The killing sparked tensions between the U.S. and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who described it as an example of coalition forces’ frequent use of excessive force. Karzai threatened his own investigation. But the case also raised questions about whether the Army is being vigilant enough in screening troops for mental illness, especially in combat units.
The plea deal is expected to be accepted when court-martial proceedings convene at Fort Carson on Wednesday, the lawyer said. Lawrence is likely to serve his sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Culp would not disclose the reduced sentence agreed to with Army authorities, saying it would be revealed in court. An Army spokesman declined to comment.
Culp said that his client’s mental condition deteriorated last summer within weeks of his arrival in Afghanistan after the chaplain and seven soldiers from his unit were killed in a bomb attack. Lawrence had formed a close bond with Chaplain Dale Goetz, the first Army chaplain killed in combat since Vietnam, he said,
Ten days after Goetz’s death, Lawrence requested to see a mental health therapist, complaining of depression and sleeplessness. He was pulled out of his unit in the Arghandab Valley and sent to a combat stress clinic at Kandahar air base, Culp said.
Mohebullah was killed a few weeks after Lawrence returned to his unit, the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division.
In February, a board of Army psychiatrists concluded that Lawrence was “unable to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of his conduct” at the time of the killing. Even so, the board concluded Lawrence was capable of understanding why he was being prosecuted and was therefore fit to stand trial.
Culp planned to argue that Lawrence was not guilty by reason of insanity. But there was also evidence that Lawrence carefully planned the killing and weighed the risks.
By Dan Edge This World
Seventeen US soldiers from a Colorado military base who mostly served in Iraq have been linked to violent killings and attempted killings since their return to US soil. Three of them came from one platoon – highlighting how a generation of American soldiers are struggling to cope with life after military service.
“I was having a total mental breakdown. Every day we were getting in battles, and never having a break, it seemed like, it was just crazy.
“I just got to where I couldn’t take it. I tried to go to mental health, and they put me on all kinds of meds, too. And I was still going out on missions… they tried different medications, different doses, and nothing worked.”
Kenny Eastridge was a decorated gunner, but is now serving 10 years in prison for his role in the murder of fellow soldier Kevin Shields in Colorado Springs.
In November 2007, Eastridge along with two other soldiers, Louis Bressler and Bruce Bastien, were out drinking in a nightclub with Mr Shields after returning from a rough combat tour in Baghdad.
Drunk and stoned, they drove off to find more alcohol. Minutes later, Specialist Kevin Shields lay dead, gunned down in a drunken argument, and left in a pool of blood by the side of the road.
Bressler and Bastien were sentenced to 60 years in prison for the murder and a string of other crimes in Colorado Springs.
Kevin Shields’ murder was not a unique case. At Fort Carson military base, 17 soldiers have been charged or convicted of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter in the past four years.
The majority of Third Platoon served multiple combat tours with distinction and managed to adjust to life after Iraq. But a significant minority have not.
Four of the platoon have ended up in prison. Two are dead – one died from an overdose, another was killed by a suicide bomb.
In all, 15 out of 42 soldiers from Third Platoon left the army after a single Iraq tour. Four were kicked out for failing drug tests, and one was sent to prison for driving while drunk and fleeing the scene of an accident. Five were medically discharged. Only five left the army because their service had ended.
More than half of the platoon said they suffered from psychological problems after Iraq.
The platoon’s youngest member, Jose Barco, is serving 52 years in jail for shooting and wounding a pregnant woman when he opened fire at a party in Colorado Springs. He was convicted on two counts of attempted murder.
Barco said he became desensitised to death and killing during the vicious combat of the “surge” in 2007, when his battalion were tasked with driving al-Qaeda out of Baghdad.
Fort Carson soldiers’ killing spree after Iraq
Jose Barco became desensitised to death and killing during the vicious combat of the Baghdad “surge”
It was Third Platoon’s job to move mutilated bodies every morning.
“It got to the point where it was like seeing a dead dog or a dead cat. If you’re not numb in those moments, you’re going to go crazy. I guess it just follows me,” he said from his prison cell.
As Third Platoon’s tour wore on, discipline deteriorated. Jose Barco said that for some soldiers, casual brutality became the norm, and that he routinely shot unarmed Iraqis.
“We were trigger happy. We’d open up on anything. They even didn’t have to be armed. We were keeping scores,” he said.
The US army investigated, but no soldier from Third Platoon has been charged with killing civilians in Iraq.
While in Iraq, Eastridge had exhibited signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was taking anti-depressants and sleeping pills, but was also taking valium, smoking pot and drinking whisky.
He had a history of aggression, and been charged with assault before he went on his second tour, but he was still deployed.
He said Iraqi civilian deaths did not bother him at all: “You disassociate. To you they’re not even people, you know. Like, they’re not humans.”
• September 2006 – December 2007. Stationed near Al Dora, an al-Qaeda “hub” that became the site of al-Qaeda’s last stand in Baghdad. Main task was to try to secure neighbourhoods street by street, which were subject to widespread sectarian killings
The platoon’s first battalion commander Colonel David Clark, accepted that the price of “success” on the battlefield could take a psychological toll.
“It’s got to have an impact,” he said.
“Is that a reason not to do the surge? No. The surge worked. We needed to do the surge. War is a dangerous thing,” he added.
The number of Fort Carson soldiers failing drug tests rose by 3000% in the first three years of the Iraq war.
Ryan Krebbs, the platoon medic, admitted abusing medication in Iraq, stockpiling sleeping pills to calm himself down after missions.
He never forgave himself for the death of one of his sergeants, and eventually tried to kill himself with an overdose of prescription anti-psychotic drugs when he returned home.
“In the first six months you’re just happy to be home. And then after that… problems started.
“The black box warning for these anti-depressants say that they can make people suicidal”
Dr Joseph Glenmullen Psychiatrist, Harvard Medical School
“Depression, anxiety, paranoia, getting the feeling that you’re in Iraq all over again.
“I just couldn’t take it anymore,” he said.
Before the Iraq war, American soldiers on psychiatric medications were not allowed to deploy to a combat zone.
But by the time of the surge, more than 20,000 US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq were taking anti-depressants and sleeping pills to cope with the stresses of combat.
The military has come under fire for medicating troubled soldiers rather than taking them away from the front line.
Dr Joseph Glenmullen warned that such medication could be dangerous in war.
“All of these anti-depressants now carry in recent years a black box warning.
“The black box warning for these anti-depressants say that they can make people suicidal and a variety of other side effects that include insomnia, anxiety, agitation, irritability, hostility, impulsivity and aggression, all of which obviously could become critical in a combat situation,” he said.
The vice-chief of the US army, General Peter Chiarelli defended the policy, but said that the army needed every soldier it could get.
“It’s a supply and demand problem,” he said.
“I cannot do anything about the demand, I only have a finite supply, and when the demand goes up, and orders are given, we provide the soldiers.”
Spurred by the public outrage, the army’s medical command last year conducted an investigation in to the violence.
It found that most of the soldiers had experienced unusually intense combat in Iraq, six of them had criminal records before they joined the military, 11 had a history of substance abuse and nine were taking psychiatric medications.
It concluded that the intensity of battle and shortcomings in mental health treatment may have converged with “negative outcomes” such as alcohol and drug abuse.
Last week the final American combat brigade pulled out of Iraq after more than seven years of war.
But for many soldiers, the end of combat operations is just the beginning of a different kind of struggle back home.