Franklin James Cook

All Recruiters To “Stand Down” One Day in Wake of Investigation

In Policy, Stigma on January 22, 2009 at 5:53 pm


Army recruiter Nils “Aron” Andersson--who served two combat tours in Iraq--died by suicide in 2007.

ORIGINAL REPORT — A report yesterday by Catherine Abbott of the Army’s Office of Public Affairs details the conclusions from “a two and a half month investigation into the suicides of four Soldiers assigned to the Houston Recruiting Battalion … between January 2005 and September 2008.”

The investigation concluded that there was no single cause for these deaths. Relevant factors included the command climate, stress, personal matters, and medical problems …

As a result of the findings, Secretary of the Army directed a USAREC command-wide “stand down” day focused on leadership training, suicide prevention [and] resiliency training and recruiter wellness … The Army is also reviewing recruiter screening and selection processes, the provisions of care for Soldiers who need mental health care, Army-wide suicide prevention training, and access to care and peer support networks for geographically dispersed Soldiers.

In an article in the Houston Chronicle yesterday, the Associated Press reports that

Brig. Gen. Dell Turner, who conducted the investigation, … said the one-day stand-down is a significant action. “It’s rarely implemented, and typically only after some significant event. It’s a day for the unit to stop what it’s doing on the mission side and review policies and practices.”

In a separate AP story late today in the Chronicle, it is being reported that U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who was instrumental in initiating the original investigation “on Thursday called for a congressional hearing on suicides among Army recruiters, saying a recent group of deaths in an East Texas battalion show the strain on an all-volunteer force fighting two wars.”

“As you might imagine, corners might have been cut — and they were — given the exigency of recruiting for war,” Cornyn said in a conference call with reporters. “The concern is that this is not isolated to a single battalion.”

For the Cornyn story, AP reporter Michelle Roberts also spoke to “Charlotte Porter, the mother of recruiter Sgt. Nils “Aron” Andersson”:

“There’s so much pain still,” she said. “It’s not only the Army that’s going to have to take a stand. Other people are going to have to take a stand. These young men fought for our rights to speak out. When they come home, we have to find a way to listen.”

For more in-depth coverage of yesterday’s breaking news, see the article by Chronicle staff writer Lisa Wise.

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