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40% of Foreign Service Officers Serving in Dangerous Posts Suffer Symptoms of PTSD

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Emit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-27-07 03:25 PM
Original message
40% of Foreign Service Officers Serving in Dangerous Posts Suffer Symptoms of PTSD
Edited on Wed Jun-27-07 03:25 PM by Emit

Testimony of Steven Kashkett
Vice President, American Foreign Service Association
House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia

Chairman Gary L. Ackerman (D-NY)

Hearing on:

Working in a War Zone: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Civilians Returning from Iraq

June 19, 2007

Mr. Chairman, the American Foreign Service Association welcomes the opportunity to speak before this subcommittee on the subject of the challenges and problems facing U.S. diplomatic personnel assigned to war zones, specifically with regards to post-traumatic stress disorder.


As you know, AFSA represents the members of the U.S. Foreign Service both as their official labor union and as their professional association. As AFSAs elected Vice President for the State Department, my constituency includes more than 11,000 State Foreign Service employees assigned both domestically and overseas at more than 250 embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic outposts all over the world, including some 200-300 members currently serving in Iraq. All are volunteers. We estimate the number of our members who have volunteered to serve in Iraq since 2003 at close to 2,000.

Iraq and Afghanistan are unique cases where we are sending unarmed civilian employees of the U.S. government into active combat zones. Foreign Service members, while accustomed to serving their country overseas under extremely difficult conditions, are not soldiers and are not trained for combat. Yet in Iraq, they are often directly exposed to conditions of war which they may not always be well-adapted to cope.

Foreign Service members assigned to our embassy in Baghdad experience frequent incoming fire in the Green Zone and sleep in vulnerable aluminum trailers. Foreign Service members assigned to regional embassy offices and Provincial Reconstruction Teams in other parts of Iraq often live on U.S. military Forward Operating Bases in combat areas and work entirely in a red zone environment. Those who will be assigned to several newly created EPRTs will be literally embedded with mobile combat units of the U.S. military in hostile areas. All of our members assigned to Iraq are exposed to attack, including from the dreaded improvised explosive devices that have killed so many U.S. soldiers, when they make any move outside of their compounds. Many have lost Iraqi and American colleagues. Most have witnessed violence beyond the normal experience of civilians.

Not surprisingly, some of our members who have returned from these postings have complained of symptoms that are clearly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. We cannot know the precise number, although preliminary results from the State Department survey suggest that it may affect some 40% or more, similar to what has been reported for the U.S. military. We at AFSA have been in contact with and are today speaking on behalf of many of our members who are struggling to readjust to civilian life. The symptoms they have described to us have included difficulty in sleeping, nightmares, lack of concentration, feelings of depression, thoughts of suicide and bodily harm, and inability to cope with work in their onward assignment after Iraq.


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Kagemusha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-27-07 03:31 PM
Response to Original message
1. I get the point but, it's written oddly in one part...
I don't think the problem is that we're sending diplomats unarmed and without combat training. I don't think that is the point, and making them NRA mascots would not be a solution. Just oddly written IMHO. I get it. PSTD is not fun.
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Emit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-27-07 04:10 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. I do not think that the speaker was advocating the arming of diplomats
Perhaps he uses the adjectives "unarmed" to point out their vulnerability to the combat zone -- he never mentioned providing them "combat training" nor does he suggest arming them, for example. His emphasis is clearly in the area of counseling, both in preparation for their roles and upon return of their duties.
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porphyrian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-27-07 04:12 PM
Response to Original message
3. Ooo, that's a safe working environment for those under them...
...not to mention totally unacceptable to do to anyone in the first place. Why do republicants hate America?
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