Wednesday, February 1, 2012

the Ticking Time Bomb.

Stop me if you've heard this one.  A guy goes to Iraq, and comes back after much horror, to be just a little. . . off.  Time passes and eventually he "snaps" causing a moderate amount of damage before being himself (and notice its always a Male in this narrative) killed.  Chances are he was a Sniper a Ranger (though Qualified and this Tabbed or part of the actual Regiment is never clarified) or Special Forces.  Somewhere along the way the Military turned him into a stone cold killer.  

Raise your hand if you've heard that one.  Go ahead.  Chances are if you have heard it, you probably believe it to some degree.  I mean they see some awful stuff overseas, why wouldn't they have PTSD?  It only makes sense right?  Except it really doesn't.  First off you need to remember this ration 10:1.  What does that mean?  well for every shooter, in this case we'll call him an 11 Bang Bang (US Army Infantry) there are roughly 10 support pukes in theater supporting him.  Beans and Bullets don't magically appear.  Think about all the Intel, Commo, Medical, Quartermasters, and Ordinance guys it takes to support an Infantry Platoon.  

So lets start with ordinance, Each rifleman carries 210 rounds basic load out, SAW and 240 Gunners significantly more.  You know how fast you can go through 210 rounds?  Less than a minuet.  In past wars it usually took about 1500+ fired rounds for one Enemy KIA.  If they're driving Humvees that's 6 trucks to a platoon, and they break down all the time.  No mom and pop shop will do for these pieces of crap, so you have to have full mechanic shops able to do just about everything.  Commo: each truck has a radio, that needs to be mantained, and have proper crypto key loaded each week at a specific time.  If you have every team leader with a radio. . . and mind you we're just talking about support for an Infantry platoon, I haven't even touched Battalion, Brigade and Division staffs, Air Assets, and finance clerks.  10:1 is an easy ratio to remember, but in reality it's probably higher.  

Well what does this mean for they Myth, well for one the number of people who have actually fired a shot fired in anger are going to be far far lower than you'd expect.  True it's scary to be on a FOB, that gets hit daily, and you might get killed just walking to the chow hall, but for the most part if you were a FOBbit, you did light duty.   Now outside the wire again, not everyone saw combat.  Would you believe on my first deployment I never fired my weapon?  I was a Medic, and my job wasn't to fight it was to save lives.  I did patrols with dismounted Artillerymen, but NEVER fired my weapon (unless you count zeroing and qual ranges which I don't)  That should tell you that not all sectors are created equal, but it should also tell you that despite the number of troops that deployed to Iraq (over 1 million) very few of them actually saw combat.  

And what of this "ticking time bomb" after all Snipers loved killing guys, it's not too much of a stretch to believe they would clime to a clock tower and light some dudes up.  One problem.  Snipers never work alone.  At the very least they always have a spotter with them.  I don't care what you've seen in movies, a sniper without a spotter sucks.   Infantryman, or the Special Forces super secret squirrel, doesn't operate totally alone.  There are folks that can, but such are very very rare.    So the "Lone Wolf" goes right out the window as well. 

All of this sadly forgets one pivotal part of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Its a trauma!  Suggesting that someone suffering from severe PTSD wants to just cut lose and go on a killing spree is kind of like suggesting that a woman who was a rape victim, likes going into dark alleys in the hope she gets raped again.  The main component of PTSD that is so terrible is that you are forced to relive, even subconsciously, the trauma that got you that way again and again and again.  This can be incredibly painful.  Believe me when I say I know.  Most of the time you'd do anything to make the pain stop.  Which is why you see a lot self medicate with alcohol or pills.  But they want the pain to stop.  Will they lash out?  yes, sadly.  When you're in pain don't you?  If you have a wild dog that breaks its leg won't it snap at you when you try to examine it?  

I can not stress enough.  You can not buy into this myth.  Yes if a soldier was an infantryman, he might have killed someone, but it is far more likely that if a soldier went to Iraq they were support.  Allowing this old and outdated sterotype to fester will only further isolate the US population from its military.  All throughout history, when the People of a nation divest from their Military, that nation is not long in falling. 


Frank said...

I can't support you enough in this. This is a blood libel that has been hung on the services for far too long.

One request. Could you lighten the color of your font just a touch? the lack of contrast is killing my eyes.

Argent said...

The violent military PTSD stereotype is part of wider mental illness stereotypes crossed with military stereotypes. It also fits in with the pity system.

PTSD is real though even if the presumptions about it are not.

"All throughout history, when the People of a nation divest from their Military, that nation is not long in falling." Do you have something to back that up? Australia has an enormous gulf of separation between military and civilian and it's been around for a fair while now.

The Mad Medic said...

Argent, to cite examples the first and most painfully obvious would be Rome, and by extension the Byzantine Empire. Both of their falls were preceded both by drastic military reductions, but also in people no longer seeing the point (or honor) of being soldiers. When Rome fell there were only 100 Centurions. I will not explain what a Centurion is, because it would take too long, but that there should tell you all you need to know.

If you need More examples then how about Persia, Babylon, Judea/Israel/Palestine, Egypt (pre/post Ptolemaic) Athens, and just for shits and giggles the Assyrians.

Now if you want more recent examples, we don't really have "falls" as you saw in the Ancient world, but how about Portugal, Spain (the Iberian Peninsula was once very powerful) Imperial France, then the Revolutionary France, then (the Napoleonic France might be the sole exception but Ironically enough he wasn't French) The French Republic (Franco-Prussian war) then WWII, Indochina. Really France has a long history of sucking wind.

Even out close Ally and military buddy England, is suffering the same decline. Time and again when a country reaches the height of its cultural importance a malise sets in and they divest from their military, depending on Inertia to see them through, until reality is painfully forced upon them. That America has survived and reacted to such cycles without losing influence on the world stage is nothing short of remarkable, but as the military population becomes more and more isolated from the civilian, the likelihood of these "bounce-backs" becomes less and less, and the periods where we are are ramping up to respond grow longer and longer.

As I said there hasn't been a "Fall" as we saw in the ancient world, but it wouldn't be unprecedented if it did happen.

Argent said...

I often thought of those declines as a multi-pronged problem and I still do but you clarify that most of them lost militarily as part of that. I do think the US is in a similar decline there's even some good evidence of that.

England is depressing even with rose coloured glasses on. In a military sense they are considering closing the last shipbuilding capacity of the nation. I find that kinda staggering. They also have a similar mil-civilian disconnect as here which is perhaps not as severely separated but is more hostile.

Darkwater said...

The ratio that you’re looking for is actually closer to 20:1. And point well taken: I’ve known more than a few of the professional victims, who I happen to know were pretty screwed up before they enlisted. The military gives them what society considers to be a justifiable excuse. It’s a variation on the Stolen Valour façade – these days it can be more important to be a victim living off the pity of others than to be a faux hero.

Yes, there is legitimate PTSD, but we’ve had a knee-jerk response to this ‘crisis’ (if you want anything done, it now has to be a crisis). Several years ago, we had a ridiculous number of therapists in Iraq looking for PTSD, trying to convince soldiers that they had it (if you deny having it, that’s supposed to be a sure sign that you’re in denial). This ignored the common fact that PTSD typically doesn’t set in until after about six months, most importantly when you rotate home and confront the change in your environment. But it’s more important to be seen to be doing something, even if it’s ineffective.

The image of the vet who wants to frag civilians is the successor to the Viet Nam vet. The Sophisticati need to have their myths too, so that they can feel superior & elite. It’s typical that the Left, who decry class warfare, are the ones who keep it most alive.