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Paso Robles, California, United States
Novelist, poet, songwriter, and journalist, I bring over four decades of experience to the written page. I just finished Mental Hygiene, a coming of age novel set in Fort Jackson, SC circa 1967-68.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Deploying a Suicide

On November 15, 2010, Staff Sergeant David Senft died at Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan.  The Army's official cause of death was "injuries sustained in a non-combat incident".  Despite the fact that the Army's Criminal Investigative Division has reported to Senft's father that his son was found in an SUV with a gun in his hand and a hole in his head, and a cell phone on the car seat with a text message saying, "I don't know what to say, I'm sorry", the Army has refused to call Senft's death a suicide.

This is the same Army that declared that Senft was "fit for duty" after he had twice attempted suicide at Ft. Campbell, KY, and after he had been sent to a Mental Hospital near the base.  It's the same Army that took Senft's weapon away from him in Afghanistan for fear of his using it on himself, and then housed him with a fully armed roommate.

It's also the same Army that employs Col. Chris Philbrick, deputy director of the Army's Health Promotion and risk reduction task force, which handles suicide prevention programs.  Col. Philbrick is doing an "internal review" of the case and the investigation is "ongoing".  When asked by the New York Times why Senft was deployed to Afghanistan after being taken off a deployment to Iraq because of his mental health status at Ft. Campbell, Col. Philbrick could not answer.

Here's some possible answers that Col. Philbrick might use if he could:
1. Some well indoctrinated superior thought Senft was lying, but took his weapon because of SOP.
2. Senft wasn't entirely forthcoming about his mental state because of fear of retaliation.
3. Mental Hygiene unit was unavailable, uneducated, unsympathetic, or over their quota for the month.
4. Naming who is at fault at Ft. Campbell might embarrass the brass, thus an "internal review".

I would be the last one to tell the New York Times how to report the news; however, it seems to me that the Times along with lots of other news organizations are missing the real story.  Who specifically did what to whom?  Somebody indirectly killed David Senft by deploying him to Afghanistan.  Somebody with a travel budget could find out who that was and put their name in the paper.  Col. Philbrick knows the person's name but he's busy with an "internal review". 

NY Times article:

1 comment:

  1. good research and interesting insight....I don't know how much national play this story got, but keep after it, and send to network-level investigative reporters for follow-up. They might well want to interview you about this. Donna Bown