Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pentagon Discusses, Identifies Victims of Camp Liberty Shooting

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, May 13, 2009 -- Defense Department officials today released the names of four soldiers killed in a shooting at a combat stress clinic at Camp Liberty, Iraq on May 11.

The name of a fifth victim, Navy Cmdr. Charles K. Springle, 52, of Wilmington, N.C., was released yesterday.

Dead are:
  • Army Maj. Matthew P. Houseal, 54, of Amarillo, Texas, assigned to the 55th Medical Company in Indianapolis;

  • Army Sgt. Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, 25, of Paterson, N.J., assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, Grafenwoehr, Germany;

  • Army Spc. Jacob D. Barton, 20, of Lenox, Mo., assigned to the 277th Engineer Company, 420th Engineer Brigade, Waco, Texas; and

  • Army Pfc. Michael E. Yates Jr., 19, of Federalsburg, Md., assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, Grafenwoehr, Germany.

Army Sgt. John M. Russell, 44, of Sherman, Texas, is in military police custody at Victory Base Complex in Baghdad, charged with five specifications of murder and one of aggravated assault, military officials confirmed yesterday.

Russell is assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 54th Engineer Battalion, based in Bamberg, Germany.

In a briefing in Iraq yesterday, Army Maj. Gen. David Perkins, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, told reporters that the two officers killed were staff members at the Combat Stress Control Center at Camp Liberty, where Russell was being treated. The three enlisted soldiers were at the clinic at the time of the shooting. Russell was apprehended by military police outside the clinic just after the shooting, Perkins said.

Russell was referred to the clinic for counseling about a week before the shooting. Russell’s commander had taken away his personal weapon, and how and where Russell was able to get another weapon is part of the investigation that’s under way, Perkins said.

All soldiers in Iraq typically carry a weapon and ammunition, even while on a base.

Russell’s unit was based at Camp Victory, and was preparing to leave Iraq. He had been deployed to Iraq at least two other times, Perkins said. Camp Victory is part of the Victory Base Complex, and it houses the headquarters for Multinational Corps Iraq. Camp Liberty also is on the complex. The clinic is located near the headquarters of Multinational Division Baghdad.

Army Maj. Gen. Daniel Bolger, commander of Multinational Division Baghdad said that if there’s one thing leaders have learned from the war, it’s that not all injuries are physical. “So you’ve got to have that door open for the guys,” he added.

In Iraq, soldiers can be referred for treatment at the clinic by unit doctors, or they can self-refer. But, despite senior leaders’ best efforts, Bolger said, some servicemembers still perceive a stigma attached to seeking mental-health treatment. It is especially difficult, he noted, for those in leadership positions to seek the help they need.

“[Russell is] in a leadership capacity, and to make that trip down there is a tough decision for either him or his chain of command to make,” Bolger said. “But … we have those facilities and care available.”

Alongside the criminal investigation, Army officials are formally investigating the policies and availability of behavioral health services in Iraq, officials said.

“One of the goals on mental health on the battlefield, just like with a bullet wound, [is that] you always want to treat it as far forward as possible,” Bolger said. “So we try really hard to get those folks … to meet with folks to see this early.”

(Report by Fred W. Baker III, American Forces Press Service.)

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