Low Morale and Stress Get the Blame
by: Pat Hernandez, February 20, 2009 10:02:23 pm
The Army's investigation into the string of suicides among Houston-based recruiters found that poor leadership, job-related stress, personal matters and medical problems all contributed to the deaths. The two and a half month probe cited relevant factors, including the command climate. Brigadier General Dell Turner led the Army's official investigation.
"There was no single cause for all these things, but all of them suffered from challenges in their personal lives, I would say. The command climate challenge was something that we saw over the course of time, over a period of years, but I wouldn't say the command climate was a relevant factor in all of the suicides."
Last week, a "stand-down" day was held for all units in the recruiting command. A training and education program was conducted to help recruiters learn how to deal with the stresses of the job. Sgt 1st Class Oscar Castro knew one of the recruiters. It was reported that Sgt. Larry Flores was berated for failing to meet a quota.
"On a business end of things I talked to him, talked about recruiting, but I identified myself with him, being married, having kids, having the pressures at home. They have issues to deal with and of course, it affects us all."
Sgt. Castro says it's not easy being a recruiter.
"A lot of fear of going to combat, a lot of fear of the unknown, because the Army is of course, intangible."
Hernandez: "So, you can't sugar-coat the fact that anything is possible when you tell somebody maybe you ought to consider a career in the military?"
Castro: "That's right, because we need to toughen them up, if in fact they're going to join the Army. We're the first people they meet, the first people that they see. The way we conduct ourselves is what their impression of what the Army's gonna be."
General Turner said he met with the families of the four recruiters before addressing the media.
"All of them were very appreciative they got the phone call before hand, but more so, they all expressed a desire that some good come out of these four tragic events. I am convinced that good is coming out of this."
Texas Senator John Cornyn had initially asked for an independent investigation.
"I'm satisfied with the report, but I think it's important from the perspective of a country that depends on an all-volunteer military for the Armed Services Committee to have a hearing, to ask some more questions, and perhaps explore the results of this investigation a little bit more."
Cornyn says he plans to attend a hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee on the mental health of troops and on suicide prevention efforts.
Pat Hernandez, KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.