August 19, 2013

Soldiers with post-traumatic stress being redeployed to Afghanistan

The Army is trying to answer a new question: Who is resilient enough to return to Afghanistan, in spite of the demons they are still fighting?

By Kevin Sieff / The Washington Post

(Continued from page 2)

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In Afghanistan, the most experienced soldiers, redeployed to do the job of wrapping up the U.S. mission, also are coping with high levels of post-traumatic stress. Capt. Stacey Krauss, a U.S. Army psychologist, speaks with a soldier this month at Forward Operating Base Arian, Afghanistan.

Washington Post by Kevin Sieff

Critics say that too much emphasis is put on what the Army considers "risk-taking behaviors," such as owning a motorcycle or guns, or having hobbies such as bungee jumping or skydiving.

"When I get calls on a Friday night — about guys getting into fights, getting DUIs or possible suicide risks — they're never the ones that were assessed as being high-risk," said Morgan, the battalion commander.

Morgan decided that his unit would create its own assessment, which asks detailed questions about how soldiers are coping. It has been about 60 percent more accurate than the Army's measurement, he said.

When the soldiers of FOB Arian gather for cigars in the evening, the subject of previous tours almost always comes up. There is little effort to hide behind tough facades. Instead, the conversation shifts to what works and what does not, how to deal with the issues many here are feeling their way through.

In all likelihood, this will be their last deployment in Afghanistan. The United States is planning to withdraw the majority of its troops by the end of 2014, possibly keeping about 8,000 troops, mostly advisers, on the ground.

Most of the soldiers are not authorized to talk publicly about the likelihood of future deployments. But in a unit that has been deployed so often over the past decade, many are still unconvinced that they will be leaving Afghanistan for the last time.

"It just seems inevitable that we'll be sent somewhere again," one soldier said. "That's the one thing we've learned from experience."

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