Saturday, September 20, 2008

Kill Switch Engaged

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.


Human said...

Such an educating article, I'll post about it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,
Yes it is a rather interesting article, But can we dig a little deeper? You see the Kill-Switch has been around for many wars but, what is disturbing is the high amount of casualties from the Gulf War, Afghanistan and the current Iraq war.

What could be the common denominator that might contribute to such an alarming and staggering number of these unfortunate deaths?
Might it be having to re-deploy so quickly? That's a possibility for some but not all since other wars had people serving multiple tours Viet Nam being just one.

You see with each new war comes new technology and sometimes that technology is rather old, it's just implemented in different ways,
The first one being vaccinations, after all our troops are going off to a strange land with other diseases and we must protect them right? Well sometimes these vaccinations can do more harm than good and that point is well documented.

In Nam they used Dioxin or agent orange if your more familiar with that term as part of a defoliant program to deny cover for the VC, The Government said it would be fine to use and no harm would come to anyone even though early documentation proved otherwise, (another words they lied) So what did this chemical do to all the people that were exposed might it have helped flick on that kill switch? You Betcha!

So let's come back to the current time and look at another possible common denominator, that being DU or Depleted uranium, these are old numbers but in Afghanistan more than 500 tons have been dispensed,Professor Yagasaki calculated that 800 tons of DU is the atomicity equivalent to 83,000 Nagasaki bombs in a paper presented at the World Uranium Weapons Conference in Hamburg in October 2003. The amount of DU used in Iraq in 2003 is equivalent to nearly 250,000 Nagasaki bombs ( Busby and Leuren Moret have calculated that 1900 tons of DU is equivalent to 60 TBq of Alfa and Beta particulate activity).

I will let you do your own research on DU but with that in mind is it possible that this could be a larger part of the kill-switch of this age?