Why do some soldiers commit violent crime? Army seeks answers.
A new study examined multiple deployments, enlistment policies, and exposure to intense combat as possible factors.
Washington — The Army released a study Wednesday that looks at how deployments, prior history, or other factors could cause soldiers to commit violent acts, including homicide.
Although "higher levels of combat intensity" among the units involved likely contributed in some way to some of the crimes, analysts could not pinpoint any one factor as a cause.
"Identifying at-risk soldiers is a complex issue," said Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, commanding general of Fort Carson, Colo., during a phone briefing with reporters. "How do we know which soldier may be the very one to take his own life or the life of someone else – this is a hard question to answer."
The study was prompted by 14 murders or attempted murders in or around Fort Carson between 2005 and 2008.
General Graham ordered a study to look at what factors drove the violent behavior. That led to a wider review that looked at several potential factors: the number of deployments, enlistment policies that allow individuals with criminal conduct or medical waivers to be admitted to the Army, or other problems with drugs and alcohol.
But few common threads emerged. Although the units in question had deployed to Iraq and had seen more than average violence, the analysts could not conclude that that led to the violent behavior. "Moral waivers" used to enlist an increasing number of individuals into the recruiting-pressed Army also seemed not to be a direct cause.
Of the 14 soldiers involved in the crimes there, two had deployed more than one time, 10 had deployed once, and two soldiers had never deployed. Five of the 14 soldiers had been admitted with a waiver, but only three for conduct – the rest were for medical reasons such as a hearing problem.
The Army has already struggled to get a handle on the rising number of suicides, some of which appear to stem from deployments. Meanwhile, the study on violent crime is leading the Army to look closer at the role models leaders and commanders at all levels provide to soldiers, as well as the environments in which soldiers work and live, to identify risky behaviors.
Some improvements in mental health screening have been made as the Army tries to tackle the broader problem of reducing the stigma of soldiers struggling with mental health issues.
"The Army's new message is that it is a sign of strength, not weakness, to reach out for help for yourself or to escort your battle buddy for care," Graham said.
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