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Is There a Link Between Combat Experiences and Soldiers Who Murder?

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Since 2005, a handful of Fort Carson soldiers who have faced brutal combat in Iraq have returned home and been linked to a murder. A report released yesterday in Colorado Springs by Fort Carson’s commander, Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker, and the Army’s chief of personnel, Lt. Gen. Michael Rochelle starts to answer why. It shows that the soldiers’ lives were broken by combat stress, mental illness, and drug and alcohol abuse (via the Colorado Springs Gazette). From the study: “Survey data from this investigation suggest a possible association between increasing levels of combat exposure and risk for negative behavioral outcomes,” and “combat intensity/exposure…may have increased the risk for violent behaviors.” Many of the findings mirror those that I reported for Salon with national correspondent Mark Benjamin in the Coming Home series, which identified a pattern of preventable homicides and suicides at Fort Carson among soldiers who served in Iraq with combat stress and failed to receive proper medical treatment. Many of the 14 soldiers that the report says were allegedly involved in slayings witnessed incidents described in the report as War Crimes (via Salon). Five either heard of or witnessed the “murdering/killing” of non-combatants; three, “detainee abuse;” and, two, “fabricating evidence to justify attacks or criminal acts.” U.S. Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, issued a statement yesterday in response to the study (via The Associated Press): “This is a matter of life and death, for our service members and civilians. We must do everything in our power to ensure that the military is providing all necessary treatment and support to protect our service members, their families and our communities.”

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