The high incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) within the U.S. Army is an issue that must be properly addressed, according to Vice Chief of the Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli.
“This is the kind of thing we really got to get a handle on,” Chiarelli said. “There is still a lot more work to do.”
Chiarelli outlined his concerns with PTSD and TBI—along with problems he believed were related to these conditions such as substance abuse and suicide—during his speech at Sergeant Major of the Army’s Best Warrior Competition Awards Luncheon at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition 2011.
“I’m kind of a Debbie Downer guy,” Chiarelli said, explaining why he was covering the subject at the luncheon. “I can’t stand being in a room full of this much leadership and not try to give you something to take back home something that will hopefully make you a better leader.”
The general began his talk by showing three images—one of a female soldier with a prosthetic leg, one of a male soldier with extensive burns, and one of another male soldier who, for all physical parameters, appeared to have no wounds.
“You may look at this guy and say ‘he’s lucky,’” Chiarelli said. But, he explained this individual represented those in the army who suffer from PTSD and TBI, who account for 66 percent of the seriously wounded.
Chiarelli—describing PTSD and TBI as a maze that can lead down a path of treatment or a path of destruction—stated that he believes the rise of substance abuse and suicide among soldiers was directly related to PTSD and TBI.
“I think it’s all connected,” he said. “The interrelation of these two things is something I’m very, very concerned about.”
Chiarelli also said these conditions were not new. Even World War II hero Audie Murphy suffered from PTSD, he said.
The vice chief concluded by encouraging soldiers to be on the lookout for signs of PTSD, TBI, substance abuse and suicidal behavior, and to suggest soldiers possibly suffering from these conditions to the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE). NICoE, located in Bethesda, Md., is a privately-funded treatment center for those suffering from PTSD, TBI and psychological health issues.
“This is the place that gives me the most reason for hope,” he said.
Chiarelli concluded by saying “We will define our readiness in the army by how we handle soldiers who are having these kinds of problems…We must insure that we take care of our people and that we take care of one another. And I charge all of you with doing that.”