An Old Soldier Looks at The Fort Hood Killings

by DR. JAMES “JIM” BLAIR, COL RET, ARMY AMEDD November 16, 2010
The old maxim “where you stand on issues is largely a function of where you sit” is borne out in spades as one views the “Fort Hood Army Internal Review Team: Final Report.” The full document can be read here (in pdf format, 10.2 mb in size), and a summary can be viewed here.
Press reviews have focused on the statement:
Army: No single action could have prevented Fort Hood killings.”
 I strongly disagree with that conclusion. In fact, acceptance of that statement is a denial of the true nature of the tragic event.
Perhaps the statement was, in part, an effort to give comfort to those who faced the horrible ordeal and had doubts about the quality of their response. However we are left with the impression that the system worked.
One single action along a time-line of almost ten years would have aborted those senseless deaths. The lack of personal and professional courage among those who prepared Major Hasan for his profession is inexplicable. His fellow physicians and mentors, specialist in the field of psychiatry, from all reports, either chose to stand silent or lacked the vigor to pursue the issue.
We have followed the obvious pain and suffering among the fellow soldiers and loved ones of the victims of that fateful day. Time heals all wounds and at some point in the future these emotions will turn to bitter sweet memories. Little has been said about the unknown tortured souls left in the wake of Major Hasan's counseling sessions. The extent of that damage may never be known.
Additional troublesome questions concern: How many of Major Hasan's patients complained about his counseling? Were they taken seriously or dismissed because of the nature of the complaints? How did this behavior escape the attention of external evaluators? And finally, how could a promotion board elevate Captain Hasan to a Field Grade Officer with Congressional review and approval?
The author is not a casual observer of the military medical landscape. A draftee, trained as a combat infantryman and combat medic he served in the Office of the Army Surgeon General as the Surgeon General's representative on the landmark reorganization of the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) in the Continental United States (CONMED) study. The reorganization was designed to bring medical support (access and quality) closer to the warfighter. Over the course of a military career senior officers and non-commissioned personnel are confronted with sensitive issues which demand action.
Religious zealotry is not new and comes from all quarters. Failure to deal with it in a timely manner is destructive to good order and discipline and in the Fort Hood event, tragic death. Contributor Dr. James Blair, DPA, MHA, FACHE, FABCHS, CAS, is president and CEO of the Center for HealthCare Emergency Readiness. He is the author of the book, Unready: To Err is Human: The Other Neglected Side of Hospital Safety and Security, which was published in June. He is also a career-retired army colonel with 28 years of active service. Among his private sector experiences, he served as VP of Hospital Corporation of America, Middle East Limited and as an independent consultant to Joint Commission International.

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