The Nidal Hasan and Bradley Manning Debacles: Who's Got Your Spouses' Six?


There's something comforting about being in control of a situation. Whether it's true or not, we often think when we're in control we can do the best job, mitigate some danger, expertly navigate a potential pitfall or best protect those we love. One of the most frustrating things for military spouses is how little control we have. We can't control when we'll move, where we'll be stationed, when or if our spouses will deploy and when they will come home. These items are a pretty big deal as they have a trickle-down effect which bleeds into virtually every aspect of our lives. Time and time again, I've heard "seasoned" military spouses offer this piece of advice to new military spouses, "Accept that you have no control over anything."

When our spouses are involved in training exercises or are deployed, we rely on the knowledge that he or she has battle buddies who have their backs. We can't be with them, but knowing that their band of brothers are highly-trained, capable and that they look out for each other gives us some measure of comfort. Truthfully, at times it's all we have. Recent stories about traitors within the ranks and the failure of agencies to react soonest to their troubling behavior are disturbing and have robbed us of a bit of that comfort.

Today, a Senate report about the events which led to the tragic Ft. Hood massacre was released. The report points fingers at the FBI, the Department of Defense and the Army. The story could be summed up by saying that several agencies missed red flags and failed to act when it was appropriate to do so. Yes, it's true, hindsight is 20/20. But it's hard to believe that in the case of Nidal Hasan, somewhere along the way someone didn't find something very, very wrong and move on that information.

One key finding identified early was that a joint terrorism task force overseen by the FBI learned late in 2009 of Hasan's repeated contact with U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who encouraged Muslims to kill U.S. troops in Iraq.

The FBI has said the task force did not refer early information about Hasan to superiors because it concluded he wasn't linked to terrorism.

Another story speaks to the Army's failure to act:
It [the report] charges that evidence of Hasan's radicalization was "on full display" to his superiors, and that an instructor and colleague "each referred to Hasan as a 'ticking time bomb,"' but no action was taken to discharge him and his evaluations were sanitized.
The carnage at Ft. Hood was immense. Thirteen people are dead. Thirty were wounded. I didn't personally know anyone who was injured or killed at Ft. Hood. Even so, those affected are my military family and it makes me angry that Nidal Hasan was allowed to slip through the cracks. Or, it might be more appropriate to say that he was pushed through the cracks.

We're also dealing with the fallout from the case of Private Bradley Manning, the soldier who "allegedly" took it upon himself to release highly-classified information which all the world can now see. Many experts have stated that Manning's actions endangered the lives of allied forces, interpreters and our troops. It appears Manning, too was pushed through the cracks.

Investigators have concluded that Army commanders ignored advice not to send to Iraq an Army private who is now accused of downloading hundreds of thousands of sensitive reports and diplomatic cables that ended up on the WikiLeaks website in the largest single security breach in American history, McClatchy Newspapers has learned.

Pfc. Bradley Manning's direct supervisor warned that Manning had thrown chairs at colleagues and shouted at higher-ranking Soldiers in the year he was stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y., and advised that Manning shouldn't be sent to Iraq, where his job would entail accessing classified documents through the Defense Department's computer system.

Hard to believe, but Manning has his share of supporters.

I love the military lifestyle. Wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. And I know that these two bad apples don't spoil the whole bunch. But look at the irreversible damage a few bad apples can create. And this isn't even about Hasan and Manning, it's about ignoring warning signs and red flags. I'm sure that whomever (or many whomevers) dropped the ball(s) with respect to the alarming behavior of these two soldiers would give anything to turn back time and be proactive, but the damage can't be undone. I expected more from all agencies involved than was demonstrated here. Training accidents happen, sometimes people snap and nobody can predict each and every threat that our spouse may encounter. But military families have enough to worry about. Preventable harm from within shouldn't be one of them.

To all agencies under the DoD umbrella: Many of us are control freaks but we've ceded much ground to you, including the safety and well-being of our spouse. When our spouses go off to work, we trust the military has their six.

Be sure that you do.

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