Laurie, I can only pray that the WTU at Ft Carson is doing a better job than it was when I was there. I was hospitalized once while I was still in the WTU, and twice since I retired because I'm still dealing with PTSD and suicidal thoughts. I've been told that it can't be cured, only managed, and after two years of struggling with it I can't help but believe that. I'm glad that I finally got retired out after spending a year in the MEB process, because I've gotten better care from the VA in Kansas than I did from the Army in the end. And once you get out, it's up to you to reach out for help, but there are many excellent programs as well as great mental health professionals that want to give you that help. At least that has been my experience in Topeka. For any vets that happen to read this and want help, check out the SDTP (Stress Disorder Treatment Program) at the Topeka VA and I promise that if you are willing to work on your problems, the staff in the program are as wonderful and compassionate as anyone could ask for.
I'm going to jump in and tell the truth that I experienced when I was in the FT Carson WTU, and because I'm no longer in I couldn't care less about retaliation. I also will not be hiding behind any sort of smoke screen, so if you feel the need to call me out go right ahead. I will answer any questions or accusations honestly.
I've been medically retired close to a year now, and there was a combination of good leadership and bad leadership in the company I was in. I think the Army's best bet is to find the NCO's that are known for their compassion and have them be the cadre at the WTU. I had a great platoon sergeant, but it was tough dealing with some of the squad leaders. I still remember a suicide prevention 'class' where one of the cadre commented that he wouldn't care if his own grandmother killed herself, and from that point on I could not trust the man. If he didn't care about his own family, how was I supposed to put my own life in his hands?? I had been going through my own cycles where I was feeling suicidal, and because of the general stigma that I felt at the WTU my leadership didn't even know about it. Listening to that 'NCO' proved that I was correct in my belief. In fact, if I hadn't lost my temper in that room, they would never have known about it because I was quietly seeking help elsewhere from counseling off post as well as civilian social workers within the WTU. Thankfully, my platoon sergeant actually cared enough to get me help without making me feel worse and more likely to kill myself.
The impression I got about how several people in leadership positions felt about suicidal Soldiers is that they are pathetic because they can't handle a couple of nightmares and we 'might as well give them the loaded gun and be over with it.' That comment may or may not have been meant as a joke, but it can have a devastating impact on someone dealing with suicidal thoughts. The other answer was to force the Soldier to basically live at the Charge of Quarters desk so that they could keep a microscopic eye on them. Of course I mean that whoever was pulling CQ would watch them, so that what that person's opinion on the subject was usually forced on the Soldier. Tell me how that is supposed to make them less suicidal?
Now understand that when I said I experienced a mixture of good and instead of bad I'll just say indifferent leadership. I had an excellent Platoon Sergeant, 1SG and Commander, and I trusted a few of the other Squad Leaders. And if they dealt with the day to day details, it wouldn't have been so bad. But the Army wasn't designed to work that way. There were still 'indifferent' squad leaders that we had to work with, as well as some of the Platoon Sergeants. If we end up having issues at that level, it's very hard to fix them because anyone who has worn the uniform knows that the Commanders Open Door Policy is not always truly available, regardless of what Policy says. And retaliation is a fact of life. Just another form of 'suck it up and drive on', only we are wounded by our experiences and it's much more difficult to do.
I have heard from a friend that has a son currently in the WTU at FT Carson that they are genuinely trying to make the WTU a better place. I pray for the sake of the Soldiers that are there that this is so.
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