ORIGINAL REPORT — [Editor’s note: The original report includes brief descriptions of several suicides.] NPR’s “Morning Edition” today added an in-depth report to the coverage of a series of suicides that are being investigated in a U.S. Army recruitment battalion in Houston, Texas (see http://tinyurl.com/RecruiterSuicides).
NPR reporter John McChesney interviews several survivors, including the father of Aron Andersson, who died by suicide in March 2007. Bob Andersson had told his son’s chain of command about his suicidal thinking five months before Aron Andersson killed himself.
“I don’t know if that was the right thing to do, but I called a major and told him [Aron’s] girlfriend had said he threatened to commit suicide, and she told me he was going through night terrors and a bunch of other things.”
Andersson says his son had trouble delivering the required two recruits a month, especially after his experience in Iraq.
“How could you be over there and see some of the things he saw and dealt with, and try to hire people to go over there and do that?” he says.
The report highlights the pressures under which Army recruiters work:
“I believe that short of being shot at — you know, risking your life — that recruiting is the toughest job in the Army,” says James Larsen, a retired senior policy analyst for the Army Recruiting Command.
Whether or not recruiters have the highest stress level, there’s little doubt they are under extraordinary pressure to sell the Army to a small number of reluctant consumers. Add to that the marital stress brought on by 12- to 14-hour workdays, the isolation of being stationed in small towns far from a base — and in the Houston battalion’s case, alleged abusive treatment of those who didn’t produce their quota — and you have a potentially toxic cocktail.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn called for the investigation that is under way into the deaths, and he has indicated that his concerns go beyond the particulars of the suicides in question.
“I hope we’ll hold [Senate] hearings.”
One of the questions the senator wants answered is whether it is wise to order combat veterans to take recruiting jobs. Most of them don’t volunteer …
[And] Cornyn is concerned about another matter.
“Part of this that was troubling was the suggestion that there was pressure being put down the chain of command to keep this quiet,” he says.
The “Morning Edition” report provides links to the Houston Chronicle’s coverage of the issue, including
- May 18, 2008: “A Soldier’s Tragic Tale”
- Sept. 26, 2008: “Houston Soldiers’ Suicides Prompt Scrutiny”
- Oct. 4, 2008: “Widow Pleads For Recruiting Overhaul”
- Oct. 10, 2008: “Cornyn Seeking Probe Into Army Recruiter Suicides”
[The abridged URL for this post is http://tinyurl.com/RecruiterStess .]
[Related SPNAC post: “Single Battalion’s 4 Recruiter Suicides Result in Army Probe” ]