Magazine article Newsweek

Combat's Inner Cost

Magazine article Newsweek

Combat's Inner Cost

Article excerpt

Byline: Gretel C. Kovach

The Army has no other facility like it anywhere on earth. The Restoration and Resilience Center, opened in July at Fort Bliss, Texas, is the laboratory for WARP -- the Army's experimental Warrior Resilience Program. "This is not your grandma's loony bin," says Col. John Powell, the project's overseer as commander of Fort Bliss's Beaumont Army Medical Center. The 27 participants, all volunteers, were diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. The aim is to help them get fit to return to combat. "I call this a PTSD boot camp," says Dr. John Fortunato, the Vietnam vet (now a civilian) in charge. "They have to be willing to tolerate a lot of pain before they can get better."

Don't mistake this place for a standard-issue R&R facility. Stressed-out GIs in Iraq unwind at one of four in-country centers, and about 95 percent return to their units after two or three days of movies, videogames and talk, says reservist psychiatrist Col. Emile Risby. Many of those soldiers believe that the best place to recover is at the front with their buddies, who know what they've been through. But others, hard hit emotionally but driven by false shame and guilt at their supposed "weakness," go back on patrol despite not being ready for duty. Fortunato says about one soldier in six shows signs of PTSD on leaving Iraq or Afghanistan. A recent Army study found that roughly 25 percent of troops on their second deployment had signs of mental illness. …

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