MALE DISPOSABILITY – SPC Ivan Lopez – pay me now or pay me later

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Late in the day yesterday I started getting texts from my brother. My nephew was locked down in his barracks at Ft. Hood. By now we all know the rest of the story, of how a soldier named Specialist Ivan Lopez, who had been exhibiting problematic behavior, certainly symptomatic, probably that community especially should have picked up on….went off.

No one in his chain of command picked up on this enough to do anything in time – and by the way, the way the Army works is quite different from civilian employers and this is one example; intervening and dealing with this kind of thing is very much a leader responsibility. It was his leaders’ job all up the line to make sure this problem got identified and resolved, and unfortunately his leaders’ failure to do that is not anomalous.

We can either identify these guys, and take the trouble and shoulder the expense to help these people when it would make a difference, or we can bumble on and then get blindsided when the bill comes due, like we have this time. Pay me now or pay me later. Just remember, if you pay later, you may not like how the interest has piled up.

The inital speculation was that there was some kind of jihadi connection, because there had been warnings and indicators leading up to it. But it is probably going to turn out that this was unconnected, that it was something much more mundane and familiar, soemthing we have seen over and over. In fact this incident follows the “suicide by cop” pattern we are seeing in these shootings.

And here we should mention the professionalism and strength that cop showed in stopping SPC Lopez. He shot himself in the head right in front of her when she confronted him. To quote the post commander:

“It was clearly heroic what she did in that moment in time,” said Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the post’s commander. “She did her job, and she did exactly what we’d expect of a United States Army military police.”

This is the kind of thing that makes me get impatient with most of the discussion around women in the military, so much of it from people whose understanding of war and what is involved in building and maintaining a military effort seems to come only from television or gaming. This soldier did the job assigned to her and her womanhood got in the way not at all. In war and in garrison that is all that matters. Now she can deal with the nightmares and hyper-vigilance she is likely to experience, like everyone else.

SPC Lopez seemed mellow and friendly to everyone, it looked like everything was fine. But it wasn’t. The issue now is why he was able to hide all this so well, and more than that, why he hid it at all. Why did he think he had to? I think we all know the answer to that, and it is the Army’s challenge to undo all the conditioning and enculturation that fed this.

We go along deploying people multiple times, on basically pointless, vague, high-sounding missions, a small, disposable segment of our society; and then when they crack the answer seems to be to reach for some way to blame them or “military culture” instead of the impossible situations the people we elect put them into and then wash their hands of.

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Jim Doyle

<span class="dsq-postid" data-dsqidentifier="4199 http://www.genderratic.com/?p=4199">5 comments</span>

  • Strange that we’re supposed to see the female MP as “clearly heroic” when an active shooter was able to go from a hands-up position to drawing a gun from under his clothes without her firing a single round. Dr. Hasan also refrained from executing an ineffective female MP, who at least managed to operate her weapon

  • “Strange that we’re supposed to see the female MP as “clearly heroic” when an active shooter was able to go from a hands-up position to drawing a gun from under his clothes without her firing a single round.”

    1. He could easily move that fast. I probably could.

    2. The genereal is talking about heroism – risking her life for her fellow soldiers, you are talking about speed of reflexes. They are not the same thing

  • I’d much rather have a cop who makes sure they have reason to be shooting over the types that shoot when someone makes an innocent movement.

  • “The issue now is why he was able to hide all this so well, and more than that, why he hid it at all. Why did he think he had to?”

    Why did he think he had to hide his problems? Because, despite the reason for any mental (combat, multiple deployments, family issues, ect), any indication of mental illness is often a career ending event in the military.

    The how is hard. Looking back, I’m sure, there will be a lot of signs that were only obvious in hind sight.

  • Welcome, Rich,

    That’s exactly what I was getting at. Those questions were rhetorical.

    “The how is hard.”

    The Army culture has some advantages in this regard. First is the notion of command responsibility and control over the soldiers’ health. The chain of command has a vested interest in keeping soldiers healthy and available and mental health is a part of that. “Morale” is the old-fashioned term and it can be expanded to mental health in general. And it is goiong to have to expand that far, because keeping soldiers alive is part of that same responsibility.

    There is precedent for this, going back to Napoleon. In his day was building a supply system and inventing canned food to feed soldiers instead of expecting them to forage. Then it was various hygeine measures -short hair and shaving most obviously – since diseaes was such a threat to armies. Now it’s sleep discipline in these days of 24-hur ops. So there’s precedent.

    Second is the precedent of preventive maintenance when it comes ot troops and equipment. Making the operator of a vehicle repsonsible for basic maintenace and responsible for identifying bigger maintenance probelms, checking troops socks for holes that can cause blisters, checking the color of the snow around the piss tree to see when your guys are geting dehydrated – this is all old tradtional stuff. Checking your guys for signs of TBD or other mentala probelms is the same kind of thing. It’s not as if there are any privacy concerns in the Army.

    And that’s the final aspect of the culture that may turn this around – a soldier’s body and mind are assets belonging to his commander because they are essential to the mission, so he does not have the option of being sick or crazy and just staying that way because it’s somehow his prerogative and his choice. It’s not. The command has broad latitude in getting right into people’s most personal business.

    But it all depends on resolving to be realistic about health issues instead of living in a fantasy bubble of macho posturing people learn from sports and other appoximations of masculinity.

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