Last week, Senator John Cornyn called for an independent probe into recent Houston-area suicides of Army recruiters. According to the Houston Chronicle, "The Houston battalion has lost five recruiters to suicide since 2001, including two in the past two months."
Senator Cornyn is a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. He sent a letter last week to Pete Geren, Secretary of the Army.
Allegations have surfaced claiming the chain of command interfered with official investigations as a cover up of a "toxic leadership climate and low morale." In his letter to Pete Geren, Cornyn wrote of claims of numerous Army recruiters and their families claiming to have "direct knowledge of serious problems within the Houston battalion."
"These allegations, if true, point to criminal misconduct punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice," Cornyn wrote. "In addition, such actions would absolutely undermine and call into question the findings and conclusions of these investigations. Should these claims be substantiated, the relevant individuals must be held fully accountable for their misconduct and the resultant problems with the Houston Recruiting Battalion."
Most disturbing to Senator Cornyn are the work schedules of the recruiters. Reports are of long hours and seven-day work weeks which have diminished family time and strained marriages. Plus, Cornyn cites a "cultural disconnect" between the two types of recruiters. Detailed recruiters are assigned to recruiting duty, and permanent recruiters are choosing recruiting as their military career speciality. Cornyn points to the fact that permanent recruiters are non-deployable so perhaps they are unable to relate to detailed recruiters under their command. Many of the detailed recruiters have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cornyn suggests "the Army reconsider its policy of granting permanent recruiters non-deployable status.
The last three suicides of this battalion have occurred within the past year and a half.
From the Houston Chronicle: "For the first time since the Vietnam War, the Army's suicide rate is on track to exceed that of the general U.S. population, Army officials say." "Amid intensive efforts to reduce overall suicides, however, little attention has so far been paid to the unique pressures facing returning veterans assigned to high-stress noncombat jobs like recruiting."
Senator Cornyn asked Pete Geren to appoint "an outside investigator to review the allegations and requested a copy of the report."