Morale: Sailors Serving as Soldiers Surmount Stress

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April 14,2008: Navy Provisional Detainee Battalion Two (NPDB2) was sent to Iraq, and the Camp Bucca prison, in May, 2006. Since then, the navy found that some of the sailors are suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The problem was made worse by the extra 90 days of the duty the battalion got, in March, 2007. This was a result of the surge offensive, and most everyone else was getting extended as well.

The 443 sailors in the battalion had received training from the army at Ft Bliss beforehand, and were initially to spend twelve months helping guard the 20,000 terrorists and terrorist suspects held at Camp Bucca. The navy contingent made up about ten percent of the security forces. Most were army personnel, and the camp was run by an army Military Police brigade. The U.S. Air Force has a small security battalion there as well. NPDB2 returned home in August 2007 (having been replaced by NPDB3). By then, navy medical personnel knew that something would have to be done about the PTSD.

Currently, for every soldier killed in combat in Iraq, at least one is sent back to the United States because of severe PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and several others are treated in the combat zone for less severe cases. During World War II, PTSD was a serious problem. In the European Theater, 25 percent of all casualties were serious PTSD cases. In the Pacific Theater, the rate varied widely, depending on the campaign. In some of the most intense fighting, like Okinawa in 1945, PTSD accounted for over a third of all wounded. In Iraq, less than ten percent of the wounded are PTSD, but the more troops serve in a combat zone, in combat jobs, the more likely they are to develop PTSD.

The sailors of NPDB2 didn't realize how stressful working with Islamic terrorist prisoners would be. At its worst, it turned out to be as bad as combat. Many of the detainees were hard core, and vicious. So now the navy has set up a counseling and monitoring program to deal with the PTSD. The sailors are worse off than their army counterparts, because the soldiers go over and return as a unit. Thus, soldiers with PTSD problems have people handy to talk to, people who have gone through what they went through. The sailors were all "individual augmentees", who came from one ship or base, and will return to another one once their stint helping out the army is finished. The navy now takes that into account, along with what kind of duty the sailor gets, and whether that warrants PTSD help.

 


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