Thursday, September 11, 2003

Banton is not much different. A tall, relaxed man, he has the air of a guy just hanging out. But he is a man with a mission.

His job is to help soldiers who have just lost a comrade in arms to recover from the hard times and make sure they are in shape to continue their mission. When he was at MEK in late August, the 3rd ACR had just had a suicide on top of the two soldiers killed, he said.

“If I do my job here, I won’t be seeing them five years from now in my office,” said Banton, a reservist with a private practice in St. Louis.

Banton believes it is best to keep soldiers with their units, and to get them back to their jobs as soon as possible. That’s best for the soldier and unit manning, in his opinion.

It is also a departure from how the Army used to do things.

During World War II, when the Army lost one out of four soldiers to what was called “battle fatigue,” soldiers were evacuated to the rear, Banton said. But taking soldiers from their units decreases chances of recovery, he added.

Now, stress teams go to soldiers for “critical-event debriefings” from between 24 hours and 72 hours after an incident. Had this method been in place during World War II, Banton believes the military could have returned 80 percent of battle stress victims to duty — as it does now.

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