Edmonds Military Wire: Time to get out of Afghanistan? Suicides continue to rise

By Michael Schindler

In the wake of the lone Staff Sergeant going on an alleged killing spree, it is reported that more than 50 percent of Americans want our troops out of Afghanistan. It is also worth noting that some of our troops embedded in Afghanistan think the mission is no longer effective.

As some of you know, the Afghanistan environment that began as a U.S.-led coalition has evolved from a NATO-led Coalition force to an operation led by the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF).  Simply put, U.S. Forces are no longer “calling the shots.”  While it is true that our U.S. leaders remain in advisory roles, the final decision-making is left almost entirely to the ANSF.

This transition period leads to increased frustration and our troops sleeping with “one eye open,” as it is common for the ANSF to be infiltrated with al-Qaeda operatives; since January, some report that 54 of our NATO troops were killed by ANSF in the last six months of 2011 and now 24 more have already been killed in January and February of this year.

There is trouble on the Front…and trouble at home.

Once home, our troops are often faced with unmet expectations, unresolved issues and too many “unknowns” that lead to an increase in suicide.

The Army released suicide data for the month of January and found that among active-duty soldiers, there were 16 potential suicides where five have been confirmed as suicide and 11 still remain under investigation.

Among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were six potential suicides, five Army National Guard and one Army Reserve, but none have been confirmed as suicide and continue to remain under investigation.

With our Army in significant transition, the leadership at all levels is actively coordinating their efforts to improve the health and discipline of the force and the well-being of our Army families.

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained consultants are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and can be contacted by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by visiting their website at SuicidePreventionLifeline. In Washington state, they can contact the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs.

Bottom line: Time to move on to the next mission of taking care of our service members and their families back at home.

Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include  “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.”  He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

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