State unit hit in Fort Hood shootings begins deployment
The Wisconsin-based 467th Combat Stress Control Detachment, hit hard in the Nov. 5 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, has begun its deployment to Afghanistan.
More than 40 members of the unit, nearly a quarter of whose members were killed or injured in that attack, departed by plane Friday.
Army officials said three new members of the unit, among nine added to replace those killed and injured in the attack, remain behind to train or keep track of the unit's equipment.
The unit will spend a few weeks staging in Qatar or Kuwait, where the other three members will join them before they all go on to Afghanistan, said an official.
Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is charged with opening fire Nov. 5 at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 12 soldiers and a civilian and injuring 29 people before being seriously injured himself in exchanges of gunfire with two police officers.
Three of those slain - Capt. Russell Seager of Mount Pleasant, Sgt. Amy Krueger of Kiel and Maj. Libardo Caraveo, a psychologist from Woodbridge, Va. - were attached to the Madison-based 467th. Four Wisconsin soldiers, three of them members of the unit, were injured. Hasan was slated to accompany that unit on its deployment to Afghanistan.
But the unit's commander said late Thursday that the shooting only made her soldiers more determined to go overseas.
"I think they decided that same day (of the shooting) that they were more dedicated than ever in honor of the soldiers that we lost and have stood firm in that commitment," said Maj. Laura Suttinger of Fort Atkinson. "They were all very dedicated, caring soldiers and they will not be forgotten, and we're carrying on in their honor."
In an interview earlier this week, Maj. Gen. L.P. Chang, who commands the 467th and many other Army Reserve medical units, praised the unit for how quickly it was able to return to full strength after the shootings.
In all, he said, six of the unit's soldiers were injured in the shootings in addition to the three killed. The Army said Hasan is not included in that figure. None of the Wisconsin injured had recovered enough to be deployed, Chang said.
He said that all the soldiers and civilians present at the shooting had been screened for possible stress or anxiety problems since the shooting. And he praised Suttinger and unit 1st Sgt. James McLeod for helping their soldiers regroup after the shootings.
"The people from Wisconsin do a fantastic job," he said. "They're very strong."
To help in the healing process, the 467th made black bracelets etched with the names of its three slain members, as well as the names of two soldiers killed that day from another combat stress control unit, the 1908th, which is deploying to Iraq. Everyone in the unit will wear the bracelets to symbolize that "we are carrying our fallen comrades into combat with us," said McLeod.
He said he feels that after going through the tragedy, the unit is better equipped to help soldiers struggling with what they've seen in combat or worried about their families or finances back home. The unit includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses and occupational therapists.
And with President Barack Obama's announcement that he will send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan by next fall, "We're needed there more than ever," Suttinger sa