"To enhance care for soldiers suffering from PTSD, Gates announced that a security clearance form used throughout the U.S. government would be changed to free troops from an obligation to acknowledge combat-related mental-health care.
That change follows numerous studies that found troops suffering from post-traumatic stress after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan believed their security clearances, critical to their jobs, would be at risk if they sought care.
Question 21, which Gates called "infamous," asks applicants whether they have consulted a mental health professional in the past seven years. If the answer is "Yes," they must list details.
"It now is clear to people who answer that question that they can answer ‘No’ if they have sought help to deal with their combat stress in general terms," Gates told a news conference.
The form, known as the Questionnaire for National Security Positions, is used throughout the U.S. government, but the change initially affects only troops and the Pentagon’s civilian workforce.
RAND Corp estimated that 300,000 troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from symptoms of PTSD or depression. Military studies have seen similar results. The Army in February said 17.9 percent of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan experienced acute stress, depression or anxiety in 2007." Reuters
I guess we should ask what "in general terms" means. Does that mean that if you felt like doing something specific about your inability to think or act like the civilians around you then you would have to report it? You know, something like fighting in bars, or driving fast enough to forget where you are, or are not. You know what I mean, something like that. Like most people who know the green machine well, I am suspicious of such benevolent attitudes. Why? It is because the combat forces of the military, especially the ground combat forces exist to kill people and destroy things. In the process of doing that the green machine uses soldiers up and makes them into "used people." We all know that, don’t we fellahs? Therefore this level of deep concern sounds strangely mommy-like. The machine does not really like its broken parts.
Is the policy announced a good one? Certainly. Let’s see how it works in practise. How many rising NCOs or officers headed upward on the fast track are going to risk what they have for Bob Gates’ opinion? He will be gone soon, but the green machine will still be there, grinding along relentlessly.
On the other hand, it will be a problem if career soldiers are taught by the doctors and civilians that they are necessarily victims of PTSD and impaired by their experience of combat. What will be the result of implying to professional sodiers that their metier automatically deforms them as human beings? What are we going to do, put everyone returning from combat into therapy?
A lot of the attiudes taking hold in the USA on this subject originated in the Israel Defense Force (IDF) where it is practically an article of faith that even short periods of combat cause trauma requiring therapy. I have discussed this with IDF veterans. They generally agree that the circumstances of historic combat in the IDF are very different from those of US forces. Most importantly, Israel has never fought a war in which sustained intensive combat over a long period of time has been the experience. The sole exception might be said to be their war of independence. They also do not fight far away from their homeland in expeditionary operations. Lastly, they are a militia army, made up in the main of reservists. These are civilians in uniform. The IDF is more like the US Army National Guard than they are like what the US Army now calls "the active force" (Regular Army)
Sometimes our wars have, of necessity, required (and will continue to require) men and now women to accept protracted experience so utterly different from that of most civilians that we should be careful about making facile comparisons between the psychology of soldiers and those whom they guard. pl