coping with death in war, should ROTC teach something about this?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by VMINROTChopeful, Mar 28, 2008.

  1. VMINROTChopeful

    VMINROTChopeful Member

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    this is related to another thread but slightly different.

    because of the other thread titled "Dealing with that fact that you may kill someone while in the Military", I went to my copy of the 2007-2008 VMI catalog to see what courses are taught in ROTC (army, navy, or airforce) on this topic.

    i was shocked to see that there are apparently ZERO courses on this subject. for NROTC, the closest seems to be:

    NS 206. Evolution of Warfare I
    NS 403. Evolution of Warfare II
    and maybe NS 402. Leadership and Ethics (although the course description definitely says nothing about dealing with death)

    i then checked the AROTC classes and found this:

    MS 409. Leadership and Management
    which has the phrase "Cadets will gain specific knowledge and skills that they will need as professional officers, including training and maintenance management, subordinate counseling and development, Army staff operations and Military Justice." well that might involve handling death

    and looking at the AFROTC classes, there seems to be nothing at all, unless:

    AS 403 and AD 404. National Security Affairs and Preparation for Active Duty
    contains a bit on it.

    So my question to all the officers and former officers is this- when and where did you first start to cope with this topic?

    if ROTC is training you to be an officer to lead soldiers, where in the ROTC curriculum is this important topic taught? and if it isn't taught, shouldn't it be?
     
  2. Zaphod

    Zaphod Founding Member

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    It shouldn't surprise you, simply because it must be next to impossible to teach in any effective way how to deal with combat stresses while sitting in a classroom.

    It won't.

    I remember having thoughts on the subject as far back as my senior year in High School, when I knew I was going to NAPS and thereafter to USNA and the USN. I didn't agonize over it (after all, when you're 18 you're invincible, right?), but I did ponder it a few times during my tenure as a Mid. Never, however, were we ever taught on the subject.

    My first inclination is to say "yes", but that immediately generates the question, "how?". I don't have an answer to that.
     
  3. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    "MS 409. Leadership and Management
    which has the phrase "Cadets will gain specific knowledge and skills that they will need as professional officers, including training and maintenance management, subordinate counseling and development, Army staff operations and Military Justice." well that might involve handling death"


    That looks more like an admin class. When your PFC acts up how to counsel, document and eventually write up if need be. It's probably about UCMJ, NJP, and the likes...all that fun officer paper work.

    To answer the question...



    First, the possibility of my killing someone on a boarding, or actions involving other vessels, state-side is fairly low. Sure, drug runners don't like being caught, but rarely will they attempt to take on a cutter, that's suicide.

    What is a much bigger possibility here for me is pulling bodies from the water from sinking boats and plane crashes. I haven't pulled a body yet, but as I've been told from many people, including someone involved in the Alaska Airlines recovery from awhile ago, it is not tough pulling body parts, the sight, alarming at first, will become familiar. What hits people hard is pulling a childs backpack from the wreckage, or a little teddy bear. It's especially hard on the parents. But before I go on...

    A better question I would think is SHOULD the every day officer be the one to counsel his troops.

    The Coast Guard has WorkLife, a contracted group of professional counselors who work with members regarding anything, but especially hard times like recovering bodies. Chaplains are also an invaluable source for members. The Coast Guard uses Navy chaplains.

    Why have someone who is not a professional, and is not fully trained to do some of this counseling, do it? I realize that at the deck plate they need to respond first, and identify who may need help from their unit. But in the end, for the good of that member, let a professional handle it.
     
  4. Just_A_Mom

    Just_A_Mom Member

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    Most Army ROTC instructors have served one or more tours in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.
    They are talking about this.
    My daughter is taking AROTC - her instructor last semester was sent to her school because he had already served 2 tours and was volunteering to go back and he needed a break.
    From what she has told me they did have extensive conversations in class about combat including the possibility of killing and being killed.

    This is a very good question to ask the cadre at the ROTC unit where you are going to attend school.
     
  5. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I would think the senior members who have seen it, especially multiple times, do a lot of good just talking, even informally, about how they cope, or what kinds of "things" they will go through.
     
  6. RetNavyHM

    RetNavyHM USN (RET)

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    Lets hope you never have to pull a body. It never gets easy, and if it gets familiar you are in bigger trouble than you think. When dealing with a mass casualty you can turn your brain off, but it will turn back on and when it does you had better hope you have someone with you who will listen, or that you realize that you need someone to listen to you.

    The ones you don't know are difficult. The ones you do know will rip you apart, maybe not at that point in time, and maybe not for months or years. But it will get you when you least expect it.

    If someone passes from natural causes, its sad and upsetting, and if you did not have a relationship with them, friend, family or acquaintance, you'll remember it, but its natural and it wont wake you in the middle of the night. If its the buddy that you were talking and joking with 20 minutes before preflight, and 3 hours later you are in a swamp trying to get all of him into a body bag, you'll remember that for the rest of your life, and it will wake you in the middle of the night. You will also remember the ones who have died in combat. Maybe not everyone, but there will be the ones who will pop into your head.

    LITS, I'm not flaming you or trying to spark an argument, just giving my personal experience. Granted its what I signed up for when I enlisted 22 years ago, but it doesn't get easier no matter how many you have to deal with.
     
  7. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Well you certainly picked a topic that takes more than a short paragraph to answer and I won't do it justice in this post. Certainly you do talk about the morality of warfare in a military ethics class which we had to take as cadets. In basic tactical training nobody was under any misunderstanding as to what you were learning ("the mission of the Infantry is to close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver". In a Leadership class as well you will read different perspectives on military leadership and conflict- what they read in ROTC or in your officer's basic courses changes over time- but if you want some suggestions of books that I have read at various points in this context, I would suggest that you read St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas on "Just War Theory" as well as personal memoirs- ( a classic here would be: E.B. Sledge - "With the Old Breed") and a couple of novels that include my favorite novel- Anton Myrer's "Once an Eagle" and CS Forester's "The Good Shepherd". Fundamentally - the military takes the premise that the killing of enemy combatants within the confines of the laws of warfare is permissable and moral- but I think that you have a responsiblity to reconcile that with your own beliefs. It is a deep subject and one in which you must come to your own conclusions -but recognize that an inability to reconcile yourself to the possiblity of killing others directly or because of things that you set in motion makes you incapable of being a military officer. Perhaps more difficult actually though is being able to deal with the times when you may be forced to make decisions that send your own soldiers into situations where there is a high probability of them being wounded or killed. There is a book solution " mission accomplishment " but how you reconcile yourself to those choices- you need to think about that in the contexxt of professional reading and study and have a grasp of your own core beliefs.Finally, at this point you won't have too many instructors who have not faced this dilemma themselves in OIF or OEF or both and I am certain that they will talk to you about how they coped with these problems themselves
     
  8. The Commissioner

    The Commissioner Retired Staff Member Founding Member

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    When my son and I visited USMAPS prior to his decision to attend I asked the NCO who took me on the tour about how much they discuss the war with the cadet candidates. I was really surprised when he answered that they don't talk about it much. I got the impression that they didn't want to get into those 'heavy' discussions with students who are invitational reservists and can drop out of the school at any time.

    On the other hand, there are a fair number of prior enlisted students at the prep school who have experienced combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. They do talk about it with their fellow CC's but I imagine that most 18-19 year olds hear only what they want to hear.
     
  9. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Doc,


    This isn't a "I see worse stuff" kind of thing for me. I hope I don't come off as an easily "lightable" person. I completely agree with you. While I hope I don't have to pull a body, it is a very real possibility, especially in the North Atlantic with the very active, very daring fishing fleets.

    I do also agree that it must be MUCH harder when it's someone you know. A station in Maine had to go on a SAR case for a fellow Coastie who fell overboard in freezing water from a ferry. They had to bring his body back. I cannot image the pain it causes those guys, and members of any branch to have to carry your friends body.

    As for those who respond to difficult cases, like commercial airline crashes with high causalties, often times they aren't aware of how hard it hits them. Some guys even want to play mocho man, try to pretend that it hasn't affected them. It's important for those around them to look for behavior/attitude changes, and to give them a soldier to cry on when the work is down (guys can cry...it's ok).

    That's when you HMs and our HSs are really great (come on now, who doesn't love their Corpsman?)
     
  10. USNA69

    USNA69 Banned

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    Help me a little here. Are you using soldier as a generic term for service person? I think not. Don't forget the sailors, airmen, and Marines. They get cryed on also.
     
  11. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    AH HAH! Typo, I meant shoulder.
     
  12. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    And by down=done. Wow, that was riddled with errors.
     

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