The famous TV program, MASH, depicted a nice psychologist who would run up to the unit on a moment’s notice if called, but those days are over as far as the war in Iraq is concerned. Last May, the Army had funds to hire 200 additional counselors, but as of today, there were only able to find 158 willing to serve in a situation requiring constant deployments and a shattered personal life. A recent study revealed only about one-third of soldiers in Iraq are able to access a counselor within a reasonable time period. Most mental health personnel hve to travel in an armed convoy that might take up to 40 hours to finally reach those in combat zones. As Colonel Sharon McBride notes, “they can’t be in every place at the same time.”
Mental health personnel are required to sign up for an eight year hitch which hampers recruitment, particularly since the armed forces are competing against the private sector. Perhaps, it is time to shorten the sign up period and face the reality of a war being fought in which society has other concerns at the moment.