Thursday September 23, 2021

Pentagon chief ‘deeply concerned’ by sharp rise in suicides among US troops

July 28, 2021

ALASKA: In 2020, 385 active-duty soldiers died by suicide, marking a steep increase from the 326 cases reported by the Pentagon in 2018.

“I’m deeply concerned about the suicide rates, not only here but across the force,” Austin said over the weekend on a visit to the Eielson air base in Alaska. Since 30 December, at least six soldiers have died by probable suicide in Alaska, reported international media. “One loss by suicide is too many. While we’re working hard on this problem, we have a lot more to do,” he added.

According to the defense department, stress factors for troops include the unpredictability of life in the military. Speaking on condition of anonymity to USA Today, an official also cited commanders’ increasingly aggressive demands for more forces, largely due to the rise of Chinese influence.

Troops stationed in Alaska encounter harsh weather conditions, geographic and social isolation, as well as frequent training and deployment. Soldiers, along with the rest of the state’s civilian population, also face high costs of living, prevalent alcohol abuse and sleep disorders.

In a visit earlier this year to Alaska’s Fort Wainwright army base, army officials promised to make significant changes aimed at improving soldiers’ quality of life. Leaders including the army secretary, Ryan McCarthy, and Sgt Maj Michael Grinston pledged to improve barracks, dining and gym facilities, as well as to make “longer-term investments”.

According to the US Army Alaska commander, Maj Gen Peter Andrysiak, the army has already begun implementing changes. These include a new transportation system to transport soldiers more easily during the winter months, extending gym hours to 24 hours a day, upgrading dining facilities with wireless internet and increasing basic daily food allowance funding by 10% to provide better-quality options for soldiers.