Army Suicides This Year Exceed 2012 Combat Deaths in Afghanistan

Patrick Burke | October 23, 2012 | 5:26pm EDT
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This photo taken Oct. 10, 2012 shows U.S. Brig. Gen. John Charlton, left, talking to U.S. Lt. Col. Kevin Lambert at the U.S base in An Band district, Ghazni province, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Robert Burns)

( - The number of suicides among U.S. Army active duty and reserve personnel in 2012 is higher than the total combined military fatalities from Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan over the same timeframe.

Even without Army data for October, the number of deaths believed to be suicides among U.S. Army personnel from January through September still surpass the combined military combat deaths in Afghanistan from January up to October 22.

In 2012, there have been a total of 247 suspected suicides among Army active and reserve duty personnel. Of those, 158 have been confirmed as suicides and 89 remain under investigation.

According to the Afghanistan Index database maintained by the Brookings Institution, there have been 222 combined military deaths in 2012 among active and reserve components from “hostile causes,” as of Sept. 28. (p. 11 Figure 1.17)

An additional 40 military fatalities were the result of “non-hostile causes,” which means they were fatalities not caused by the Taliban, insurgency forces or Afghan forces – so-called “green-on-blue” attacks.

A sad but familiar scene at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on Monday, Aug. 13, 2012 as the remains of a fallen American come home. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

Brookings compiles Operation Enduring Freedom-related statistics based on its monitoring of the Department of Defense.

Although not all combat-related deaths in Operation Enduring Freedom happened in Afghanistan, the vast majority have taken place there, especially in recent years.

According to data released last Friday by the U.S. Army for the month of September, there were 15 potential suicides among active duty soldiers, which is the same number of potential suicides which occurred in August. Initially, that number was 16, but one case has since been removed from the list.

“Every suicide in our ranks is a tragic loss for the Army family, adversely affecting the readiness of our Army,” Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg, deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel, said in a Department of Defense release.

“I am asking soldiers, family members, Department of the Army civilians, neighbors, and friends to look out for each other and reach out and embrace those who may be struggling,” he said.

“Recognize the warning signs such as substance abuse, relationship problems, and withdrawal from friends and activities and use available resources to help yourself or others,” Bromberg said. “ Our actions can save lives.”

The problem is not confined to the U.S. Army. Speaking at the National Press Club on Aug. 28, Marine Corps Commandant James Amos said that 2012 will be a “tough year” for all of the armed services, when it comes to military suicides.

“Even with the attention of the leadership, I think all the services this year are feeling it,” Amos told reporters. “I guess what I would tell everybody here is there is, through no shortage of great effort and leadership on the part of all the services to try to abate this, but this year, I think, is going to be a tough year for all the services.”

The U.S. Army makes available suicide prevention resources for troops and their families, including hotlines and links to suicide outreach organizations geared towards military personnel.

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