Army: Stress Led to Slayings
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
November 8, 2002
Fort Bragg, N.C. - Five killings this summer involving couples at Fort Bragg were probably attributable to existing marital problems and the stress of separation while soldiers are away on duty, Army investigators said yesterday.
But the investigators also said military culture discourages soldiers and their families from seeking help when domestic problems can potentially be resolved.
Col. Dave Orman, a psychiatrist who led the 19- member team of investigators, said earlier intervention could prevent future tragedies. To do that, Orman said, mental health specialists must be in combat battalions, as chaplains are now.
"We're not doing what we need to be doing yet," he said. "There was a prevalent attitude that seeking behavioral health care was not career safe."
The team, including mental and physical health workers and military clergy, visited the base in August and September.
The report also said the anti-malaria drug Lariam, given to troops sent overseas, was unlikely to have been at fault. Side effects of the drug, also known as mefloquine, have been known to include psychotic episodes.
Authorities say four Fort Bragg soldiers killed their wives in June and July. Two are charged with murder; the other two committed suicide. Three of those cases involved Special Operations soldiers who had served in Afghanistan.
United Press International has reported that friends say the three men exhibited unusual anger and incoherence after returning from Afghanistan, where all had been given Lariam. There was no indication that the fourth soldier had been deployed to areas where Lariam would have been dispensed.
In a fifth case, a woman is charged with killing her husband, a Special Forces major. The report found family support groups were inconsistent in the help they provided and the Army's program for soldiers returning from deployment also varied from unit to unit.
After the slayings, the military announced that soldiers will be screened for psychological problems before they leave Afghanistan. Commanders will be ordered to watch out for symptoms of depression and anxiety among their troops.
Officials also are developing an intervention policy to protect spouses from domestic violence.