Army’s Rx for PTSD? More Trauma!

I suppose I should not be surprised. But I am.

It seems the U.S. Military has dreamed up a new strategy to treat soldiers for PTSD. Keep them in in the combat zone. Hey, nothing like a win-win, right?

And the Army even has a poster boy for their new cause, albeit a reluctant one.

His name is Sgt. Thomas Riordan, of Colorado, and his story was not so uncommon before the military’s quest to stay on the cutting edge of psychological treatment for soldiers with shattered minds.

Riordan was recently home on leave from Afghanistan, fresh from a battle in which eight of his fellow soldiers were killed. When he got there, his wife, who apparently is to “in sickness and in health,” what the Army is to “Be all you can be,” announced she was leaving him. Riordan was so distraught at the news, and possibly the timing, that he contemplated killing himself that night.

He went to see an Army psychiatrist who asked him what he wanted to do. He wanted to stay Colorado for some reason, but apparently the question was rhetorical. The Army shipped him back to his base in the Afghan mountains -a place where mortar explosions and sniper fire are a regular occurrence- for treatment.

That’s right, get back up on that horse and ride, son. You’ll thank us later.


Apparently, the Army’s reasoning, if I can use those two words together, is that Riordan and soldiers like him will be better off surrounded by people they know rather than being dropped off at some stateside treatment program with no familiar faces.

And, uh, no screams of dying men, trails of carnage or friends bleeding to death as they look at you desperately for help. You know, all the modern therapeutic modalities.

It seems to be a pretty good solution for the Army. Riordan will be right there in the base camp on stand-by, ready to pick up his M-16 and go as soon as the doc scribbles his say so. That is, if a sniper doesn’t take him out while he is in therapy.

Oh, but one little bit that the Army left out of the Riordan story. He has no friends where they have him. So now he is surrounded by strangers and gunfire.

Like everything else the military is doing these days, it is rooted in the thoughtful consideration of experts.

Says Terri Tanielian, a military health policy researcher with the RAND Corp., “There’s not been a lot of studies on those types of interventions.”

You don‘t say? Does that mean there have been some studies on having traumatic stress units in combat zones? The article on this didn’t point to any, but hey, this is the Army we are talking about. Anything is possible.

Perhaps this will lead to setting up chemical dependency programs in crack houses.

Tanielian should be sent to the front line for a couple of months for even calling this an intervention. But as egregious as that is, it is nothing compared to Riordan’s commanders, who say they are doing their best for him by keeping him in Afghanistan.

I am sure Sgt. Riordan’s best is all they have in mind. That and the fact that their all volunteer outfit is stretched a bit thin these days.

Here’s a pic, by the way, of Sgt. Riordan taken in May.

Looks O.K. to me. Maybe he’s faking and the wife is in on it.

Perhaps the Army should commission someone to do treatment Patton style. He simply slapped soldiers and threatened to kill them if they, for whatever reason, didn’t find the bloodbaths agreeable.

There is no great closing to be had for this one. I can’t think of any clever way to sum up this kind of disgrace; no words of wisdom; no tacit connection to some feminist evil.

But one thing is patently clear. None of this is about helping Sgt. Riordan or any other soldier. It’s about keeping fresh meat on the front line. We are at the point that we are killing and destroying men faster than we can get them to enlist. And stop-loss measures, which is where the military extends your agreed term of service without permission, aren’t quite getting it done either. It’s what you do with your “all volunteer” Army when you don’t have a draft.

What’s next from the administration of our “anti-war” president? Prosthetics with bayonet attachments?

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