Some call it PTSD I call it the kill switch and once it is engaged it's hard to flip off. It's becoming more apparent as we've had two cases of "fragging" in recent months in Iraq. One such case just took the lives of two NCOs in Iraq a few days ago. VETVOICE Has the Story and comments.
Some call it PTSD I call it the kill switch and once it is engaged it's hard to flip off.
It's becoming more apparent as we've had two cases of "fragging" in recent months in Iraq. One such case just took the lives of two NCOs in Iraq a few days ago.
I don't know if you've ever been in a situation where your life is in someway in danger. Such as being held up outside the grocery store, or even in a car accident, when your heart races, and your adrenaline is pumping. Now, imagine having that feeling day in and day out for 15 months with a 12 month, or less break, then back for 15 months more. It's an act of self-preservation where everything is suspect, and capable of taking your life. Is there a bomb in that trash pile? That kid could be carrying a grenade. That rooftop looks like a good spot for a sniper. When you are transported to a world where danger lurks in every corner, trash pile, and person you have to engage your senses to the point of hypersensitivity. You have to be ready to raise your weapon and kill at a moments notice. Your kill-switch must be engaged. You can operate with this hypersensitivity and lack of sensitivity to killing for a period of time and then come back. These timelines vary depending upon the person and the amount of combat they are engaged in.
In urban warefare this timeline shrinks due to the danger that is everywhere in everything. It's a multiplied hypersesitivity or hyperalertness that grows to a point where it can't be turned off. Then there is the desensitization that develops due to having to shoot or kill on a daily basis. That is why we practice firing with our rifles so much. It's not to make you a better marksman, it's to desensitize you to pulling the trigger. How many times do you have to shoot a person before you become completely desensitized to killing anyone, at all, that poses a threat to you? Anyone, such as your squad leader, who threatens your military career by correcting your performance. What's the number 2,3, 10 times? It's different for every person.
When these two forces of hyperalertness and desensitization merge I call it the "kill-switch." You are in a state of mind where killing is the reaction to anything seen as any sort of threat to you. Where your immediate reaction to anything is to literally raise your weapon and shoot. You can engage the kill-switch for short periods of time then disengage. But there is so much power surging to the switch that if you keep it engaged for too long it will short out and the switch will be left in the permanent on position with no way of turning it off.
This accounts for the increased suicides, and homicides we are seeing in the Army. Last week a soldier shot and killed his commanding officer at Fort Hood then shot himself. This week a soldier killed his squad leader and another soldier in Iraq. Everyday soldiers are committing suicide and homicide, and sometimes in public and disturbing ways.
Keeping the killswitch engaged for 15 months at a time with 10-12 months off between, another 15 months might be the magic number we were looking for. That killswitch engaged without enough time to come back to sense of normalcy compounds the problem. You may see soldiers out in public. They may look normal. But alot of them are thinking about how they are going to position themselves so that their back isn't exposed at the restaurant. What's in the trashcan they are crossing at the mall? Swerving to avoid the empty box on the side of the highway.
Unfortuantely, some of these soldiers may be lost to us forever, and the problem is only getting worse, not better.
UPDATE: The Army will assign an investigating officer to perform a thorough check of the situation leading up to the incident. It will probably be a few weeks before anything official is released.
CNN has the story with details and the families wait on the investigation.