Johnson reports that the US government is funding an unusual national training program to help police deal with the increasing number of volatile confrontations involving highly trained and often heavily armed combat veterans. (www.smh.com.au)
There appears to be an urgent need to defuse crises in which police faced tactical disadvantages against mentally ill suspects who were trained in modern warfare as even SWAT teams are finding themselves without the experience to tackle such ex-military personnel.
There also appears to be no data that specifically tracks police confrontations with suspects now or formerly associated with the military. But an army report issued this year found that violent offences in the service were up 1 per cent while non-violent offences increased 11 per cent between 2010 and last year.
Another recent Sydney Morning Herald article provides explicit examples of where such highly trained former military people have created havoc titled: Trauma of Tours may link US tragedies. (www.smh.com.au)
What is in evidence is that the volume of violent incidents involving military personnel off base that has ratcheted up to a level never seen before.
Not only a US or UK issue
Clearly there is an issue and it not applies to the USA, rather it applies to everyone nation where war veterans return home and are somehow expected to settle back into routine civilian life although programs to de-program these military people have been put in place.
These programs are based on the latest psychological analysis and the work “Invisible Wounds of War” - Psychological and Cognitive, their consequences, and services to assist recovery' and the 2011 HSR Impact Awardee, details a 2007-08 study of returned war veterans. The recommendation was that PTSD or major depression care would pay for itself within two years, or even save money, by improving productivity and reducing medical and mortality costs. (www.rand.org)
Australian issue as well
Well-Being Australia chairman Mark Tronson says that this has been an Australian issue since the return of the ANZACS after WWI and it has been well documented. Perhaps the best known portrayal in popular culture was the mini-series titled “1915” was where Scott Burgess who played the fictional character of Billy Mackenzie who returned to Australia a seriously scarred man. (www.imdb.com)
The US Hollywood Blockbuster series on the fictional character of Rambo shows another side, a more militant aspect of those invisible wounds. Here acts of violence are the order of the day in drawing attention to an inability to fit back into a civilian role with “jackass” police stereotypes creating difficulties. (en.wikipedia.org)
Mark Tronson believes that it is in these popular films that he sees a way forward where those who remain troubled and finding it extremely difficult to return to civilian life might be assisted.
The one thing that the military has in spades, is that of entrenched discipline and in kind, respect for the Commission (in the British Army, The King's Commission, the Badge of Rank). There is a unique loyalty associated with one's immediate commander, someone to whom a solider respects and feels an uncommon accountability. When in trouble this person went in to bat for them and it illustrated a special bond between commander and the man on the front line
This is sometimes evidenced elsewhere too, such as in a work place where a particular shop steward (Union representative) who over many years looked after his colleagues in the work place and often protected them, visited them, when in hospital. Likewise the sporting field. It is said that former Australian cricket captain Ian Chappell evidenced this kind of respect and loyalty to those who played with him.
Unseen or illusive role
It is in this unseen and illusive context, something that cannot be quantified or empirically measured, that Mark Tronson feels might demonstrate a way forward. It starts however, not when a war veteran is de-mobbed (returns to civvie street) but as soon as they get off the plane or ship back home.
The person who filled that role “unseen or illusive” role, be it the commanding officer or that special someone in their platoon, needs to be “at the ready and contracted well, to be so available” whenever required to receive phone calls, meet with his or her people and become the de-construct agent “before a situation gets beyond the order of normality”.
It may be that a troubled war veteran needs only to be given a directive by that special someone each new week to “go to work, do your job, come home after each day” and together “we'll work this through”.
Moreover, many a war veterans wife or partner has been beside herself in worry and or fear for themselves and the children, and that ”someone” receive those disparate phone calls and become the authoritative calming figure.
Mark Tronson says that it is to this “personal” area that requires further attention rather hands-off clinical work in a fancy office where appointments is the body language of “distancing by the professional”. He says that this is precisely one of the issues that needs attention, that the war veteran feels he/she is not forgotten but an integral part of what was and had been.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html