Saturday, March 13, 2010

On Nidal Hasan

In the military you are taught to tackle issues head-on. But sometimes it appears the military doesn’t follow its own teachings. Some issues are swept under the rug, only to be addressed when the proverbial “shit hits the fan”. It ignores and sometimes tries to suppress certain things in hopes that it will go away, only to scramble furiously to see what went wrong when the problem comes to a head. One of these examples is the case of Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Ft. Hood shooter. In this interview, retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (USA) sums it up quite well.

Any action of this magnitude, within the ranks as well as base- or post-wide, profoundly disrupts the safety, security, and morale of service members and family members alike. A military installation is a microcosm, a secure insulated world closed off from the outside. Standards and rules are traditionally higher and a strict code of conduct is implied. Everyone lives in such close proximity to each other, seemingly closer than in a regular residential neighborhood. It is because of this closeness that there are little to no secrets about anything. It is for this reason that it would almost impossible to believe that there was no widespread talk of Nidal Hasan’s anti-American, anti-military, and anti-Christian sentiment. It still boggles the mind that the Army allowed this soldier to administer psychiatric treatment to vulnerable service members, and that they had allowed him to continue practicing despite frequent complaints of his performance and concerns documented by his supervisors. The fact that he was repeatedly promoted and allowed to perform the job to which he was assigned speaks volumes about a lack of care and judgment.

I, quite frankly, am very disheartened by the Army’s lack of action. I am even more disheartened of the fact that at the risk of seeming politically incorrect or discriminatory, the Army has refused to call this what it is. The LAST thing the Army needs to be thinking about is being politically incorrect or insensitive. What is insensitive is not taking a firm stance and making decisive statements on this matter. What is insensitive is not looking at the faces of the survivors and the families of the deceased and saying that everything possible will be done to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

While I understand that retention and making sure that service members don’t try to leave the military prior to the end of their obligation are big issues. I am also fully aware that the military desires to see a return on its investment when considering all the time and money that was used to train a service member. However, it is incumbent upon the military to weed out those who are clearly unfit to wear the uniform. Sometimes it is simply not sufficient to continuously admonish or relocate a person in hopes that the problem will remedy itself. I think that is the least that is owed to our service members. To be able to serve beside people they can trust.

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