In coming years and decades, hundreds of thousands of vets might start showing the long-delayed symptoms of extreme psychological trauma resulting from bombings, kidnapping threats and that constant low-grade fear you feel at all times in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. We must be prepared to treat and compensate our former soldiers with the compassion and efficiency they deserve.
For years the Army’s approach to treating combat stress was piecemeal. In early 2005 in Baqubah, I met an itinerant Army psychologist named Kai Chitaphong whose job it was to bounce between bases, meeting with soldiers to try and identify stress cases. It was a makeshit strategy, despite his best efforts. Chitaphong is featured in my graphic novel WAR FIX, seen at right, as he diagnoses a war correspondent with “war addiction.”
Starting last week, the service finally began widespread training for soldiers to identify combat stress in their buddies, the Associated Press reports: “The training program, called ‘chain-teaching,’ was implemented last week at the Pentagon and is intended to reach all active-duty soldiers and reservists within 90 days. … Capt. Scot Tebo, surgeon for the 4th Infantry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, said the goal is to identify soldiers with problems as soon as possible so treatment can begin.”
The prognosis isn’t good, the AP continues:
“At no time in our military history have soldiers or Marines been required to serve on the front line in any war for a period of 6-7 months, let alone a year, without a significant break in order to recover from the physical, psychological, and emotional demands that ensue from combat,” a military report released in May said.
Previously, the draft had guaranteed commanders had replacements for those who had spent considerable time in combat.