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Combat Fatigue posted by Reaper answered by me.

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Quote Originally Posted by reaper239 View Post
ret lt col dave grossman wrote the book on combat and there he deals with the problems that face soldiers in extended stays in a combat zone. well, all of america is a combat zone, so this begs the question: how do you stay fighting fit and mentaly stable (cou-skittles-gh) when everyday you face the threat of death and are in a perpetual state of preparedness to enter mortal combat to defend yourself. i just started reading the book, but he talks about a 60 day period (i think, i'll look back at it when i get home) after which you're pretty much comatose. of course he is dealing with fighting a human foe and our culture has established that zombies are not human, so i don't know how that would change things, but you can't stay in combat forever without a break. thoughts?
As I served in the U.S.N and never saw combat. I can't place my self in that mindset to understand how I would deal with a situation that I've got nothing really to compare it too. So to answer the question I'll work it from the angle of how I would have treated these solders during the conflicts and ways to prevent it by basing how I would have helped my brother if I'd been with him during his service.

My younger brother was in two branches of the service. He started his military career in the USMC and ended it in the US Army. He primary MOS wasn't combat solder it was mechanic but as those of us know every solder secondary MOS is combat regardless of what his primary job is. He did one tour in Bosnia and two in Iraq. (double checked this with our mother so I corrected the location)

For him, the combat fatigue didn't manifest itself to a point were you could tell something was wrong until after the last tour when he was sent out into the field with a squad to try and retrieve a downed vehicle. I suspect it was a tank he never did tell me what it was. But I knew he could work on any of them. He was targeted by a sniper and had to find a way to make himself a very small target. My brother is six foot four so there was was a lot of him to try and make small. He told me it took the squad forty minutes to figure out where the shots were coming from and call in a gun ship to deal with the problem. During this time the sniper put a round about six inches from my brother's head into the chassis of the vehicle as well as made very sure that vehicle would never move again.

Up until this time my brother had had a RPG go through his tent in Bosnia and take out his computer when he left to use the head. He'd had to pick up a teenager's body who'd been blown up by an anti personal mine and return it to his mother in a trash bag because he'd been denied the use of a body bag which he'd been told were "reserved" for American troops. I know there is most-likely more but he refuses to talk. He'd seen some horrific things but I think the deciding factor in his combat fatigue manifesting was the round next to his head and his fatigue wasn't comatose it was rage.

My brother isn't normally a violent person. I don't believe any solder is, they use violence as a tool like the weapon they carry. He's one of those guys that has the physical presence in a crowded room that says.. "I'll crush you like a bug if you step out of line" but I know him as the little brother that let my daughter at age four paint his toe nails pink cause she wanted to make him pretty and admired his nephew saying how my kids were like looking at me and him only smaller. He wasn't the same person when he got home. My funny, sweet peaceful teasing brother was dead. He'd been replaced with moody, quiet, short one word answers, hating, pick a fight with you over the toast guy. He wasn't sleeping I knew he was having night terrors. He drank to much, partied to much. He was like a kite with its string cut. He sort of drifted from one place and party to another. This lasted for 10 years since he got out until recently. The thing that brought him back nearly killed him but he's better now he survived.

I'm not overly impressed with the VA system to catch and treat signs and symptoms of combat fatigue or as its called now PTSD. Nor the military's to relieve it during combat. I feel our fighting forces would be more effective if this were addressed and we would have fewer tragedies such as what happened in Afghanistan with the solder who shot and killed 16 unarmed civilians or the increase in domestic violence when the solder returns home.

The solders in the article were a married couple. The part I think that bothers me the most was this..

"During an investigation, Army officers told the local police that they did not realize Erin Edwards had been afraid of her husband. And they acknowledged that despite his restrictions, William Edwards had not been escorted off base “on every occasion,” according to a police report."

Prior to the end result of her death and his, she'd sent her children out of harms way and filed a restraining order as well as pressed charges on him. As a nurse this says "I'm afraid of my husband". How could they miss that?

Ultimately to end combat fatigue, combat must end but that is an unrealistic expectation. Wars happen and solders are called to fight in these wars.

How I'd work on relieving combat fatigue in the troops is start in basic training. Talking openly about it as part of the potential hazards of the profession. Teaching each solder what the signs and symptoms look like and how to initiate a conversation with a superior for themselves and or with a battle buddy if they are concerned. There is no shame in this condition. Its not a sign of weakness its a sign of being human.
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Updated Apr 7th, 2012 at 09:00 AM by yarri

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  1. Bray's Avatar
    Really good post, personally have never come into contact with anything like that, apart from what you see in the media, so really good to have a persons real experience with it to read.
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  2. yarri's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Bray
    Really good post, personally have never come into contact with anything like that, apart from what you see in the media, so really good to have a persons real experience with it to read.

    Thank you, the men and women in uniform hold a very special place in my heart as I come from a military family.
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  3. reaper239's Avatar
    great post. when soldiers came home from WWII there wasn't a high occurance of PTSD. why? because soldiers spent months on a boat with other soldiers who had chewed the same dirt, knew the horrors, and could work through those problems with each other. it was a way for them to decompress in a confined environment, where there wasn't anything to do but deal with those issues. contrast that with vietnam where soldiers would be getting shot at from rice patties one day, and two days later be walking through LAX. it was following the vietnam war that we saw numerous cases of shell shock, now called PTSD. over the recent years the army has finally started to take notice (i can't speak to the other branches) and has began implimenting decompression periods. it starts with spending a month in kuwait doing menial tasks under observation to prepare them to return to the world. that month is followed by periodic "conferences" for lack of better word, where the combat vets can come and talk and relate to each other. i don't know if this has been implimented across the army yet or if it's still in a sort of beta phase, but it is a step in the right direction.
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