Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

PTSD blues: I’ll see you that drunk base commander and raise you one

Marine Col. Robert Petit, commander of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was busted over the weekend on charges of stealing printer ink and STP fuel cleaner from a WalMart, according to Marine Corps Times. He recently commanded the 2nd Battalion of the 8th Marines. Not long ago, of course, the commander at the Marine air ...

Lance Cheung/Flickr
Lance Cheung/Flickr
Lance Cheung/Flickr

Marine Col. Robert Petit, commander of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was busted over the weekend on charges of stealing printer ink and STP fuel cleaner from a WalMart, according to Marine Corps Times. He recently commanded the 2nd Battalion of the 8th Marines. Not long ago, of course, the commander at the Marine air base at Cherry Point had a DUI problem. Rather than make a stupid joke about the high price of cartridges for printers, I want to make the serious point that there is a whole lot of PTSD, fatigue, and depression out there, and it manifests itself in different ways.

And if you are flying out of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, don't bother taking your troubles to the chaplain -- he's busy facing "a general court martial on 18 counts, including assault, fraternization, threats, and extortion."

I am guessing the disturbances run even deeper in Guard and Reserve units coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq. That thought is provoked by an aside I read in a December 1972 article by Dr. Douglas Bey Jr. in the American Journal of Psychiatry that states that "older, less experienced and less educated soldiers were are high risk for the development of psychiatric symptoms." (P. 699)  

Marine Col. Robert Petit, commander of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was busted over the weekend on charges of stealing printer ink and STP fuel cleaner from a WalMart, according to Marine Corps Times. He recently commanded the 2nd Battalion of the 8th Marines. Not long ago, of course, the commander at the Marine air base at Cherry Point had a DUI problem. Rather than make a stupid joke about the high price of cartridges for printers, I want to make the serious point that there is a whole lot of PTSD, fatigue, and depression out there, and it manifests itself in different ways.

And if you are flying out of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, don’t bother taking your troubles to the chaplain — he’s busy facing "a general court martial on 18 counts, including assault, fraternization, threats, and extortion."

I am guessing the disturbances run even deeper in Guard and Reserve units coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq. That thought is provoked by an aside I read in a December 1972 article by Dr. Douglas Bey Jr. in the American Journal of Psychiatry that states that "older, less experienced and less educated soldiers were are high risk for the development of psychiatric symptoms." (P. 699)  

A quick check of the web indicates that the answer is yes, the Guard and Reserve are having a harder time of it than active duty. We recently had news that suicide rates for Guard and Reserve nearly doubled last year, while declining among active duty soldiers.

Here’s a bunch of depressing Stars & Stripes links on the subject. And here’s an article about a father and son, both Marines, who both suffered brain injuries in Iraq.

Here, from Jamie Reno in San Diego, is a very good summary of links to help with PTSD.

I worry that we are going to be dealing with this for decades to come. The Iraq war: a gift that keeps giving. Reminds me of the other day a prediction I heard from an informed foreign policy expert that the first-ever nuclear exchange in history will result from a Sunni-Shia confrontation over which side is ascendant in Islam. Yow. Time to go hide in the basement.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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