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Fort Hood shooting took a toll on suspect's peers in psychiatric counseling

Three of the soldiers slain were members of the Wisconsin-based 467th Medical Detachment, to which suspect Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was not assigned.

November 12, 2009|Nicholas Riccardi

FT. HOOD, TEXAS — When an Army psychiatrist allegedly fired upon soldiers preparing to deploy to war, the highest victim toll was exacted from his peers in the counseling realm -- members of the Wisconsin-based 467th Medical Detachment.

Three members of the 43-soldier unit were killed and several more injured before the suspected gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, was brought down by two civilian police officers.

A week later, the 467th embodies Ft Hood's struggle to return to normalcy. Its members are wrestling with the grief and trauma of the attack even as they prepare to leave for Afghanistan, where they will counsel soldiers struggling to deal with the stresses of the battlefield.

"Yes, things have been difficult, will continue to be difficult," Spc. Garry Cole said Wednesday. But, he added, "we're here to do our jobs."

Though "our mission at Ft. Hood continues," said Col. John Rossi, a base spokesman, it was unclear whether some deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan may have to be delayed because of the shooting, in which 12 soldiers and one civilian died and dozens were injured. Fifteen people remained hospitalized Wednesday.

The 467th still is expected to deploy by year's end, but probably will need to be augmented to replace the soldiers it lost, officials said.

The small Army Reserve unit is one of a handful that counsels soldiers struggling to deal with stress and trauma. It includes psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health counselors.

Hasan was not assigned to the 467th, and its members said they did not know him.

Along with dozens of other unarmed soldiers, they were inside the base's Soldier Readiness Processing Center filling out paperwork for pending deployments. Hasan, assigned to a hospital on base but also scheduled to deploy, walked in, muttered an apparent prayer and began shooting, witnesses said.

Members of the 467th killed in the attack were Maj. Libardo Eduardo Caraveo, 52, a psychologist who had immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico as a teenager; Capt. Russell Seager, 51, a nurse who focused on psychiatric cases and who recently joined the military after working with veterans; and Sgt. Amy Krueger, 29, who signed up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

After Hasan was shot outside the building, the members of the 467th began tending to the wounded. "Everyone went . . . to do their job immediately," 1st Sgt. James McLeod said. "Soldiers were taking care of soldiers."

McLeod said the unit had been inundated with condolences via e-mail. Members of the group met with the families of their slain comrades Tuesday after a memorial service attended by President Obama.

Well-wishers treated the 467th to a Texas barbecue that night.

"Having the enormous support . . . has made it easier to get back up," Cole said.

Cole and McLeod, who spoke to reporters at the base's visitor's center Wednesday, tried hard to find a silver lining.

"This truly has brought us together," McLeod said. "Everybody still wants to push forward."

But McLeod bristled when asked for his reaction to a fellow soldier allegedly causing so much death.

"I can't really say this was done by one of our own," McLeod said.

"Soldiers do not do this to each other."

--

nicholas.riccardi@latimes.com

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