Nutty colonel at JBLM

| March 13, 2012 | 33 Comments

Katie sends us an article about another story involving PTSD and Joint Base Lewis-McChord. A lieutenant colonel was apparently upset about the way his divorce was going and threatened to blow up the Washington State Capitol, hire someone to kill his wife and to kill a fellow officer. So naturally, the story gives the impression that the Army’s medical services have failed again. Well, until you read down the last few paragraphs;

Underwood recently underwent a psychological evaluation, according to court documents, and was cleared of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, when he was a child he witnessed his mother kill his two siblings before she shot him several times and left him for dead.

So, even though an Army evaluation cleared him for duty, there was this tragic thing in his past. I guess the Army evaluation only detects recent incidents which might affect his psyche, and not events that happened in his childhood. What part of “cleared of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” don’t they understand?

Court documents also say a woman Underwood was involved with found a naked picture of his daughter on his laptop. The woman apparently also went to Underwood’s wife and told her he paid a hit man $150,000 to kill her and a fellow officer.

Well, then they have him dead to rights on using his military training because they teach all of those things in every one of the officer basic courses. It all must be a direct result of his time at JBLM.

Category: Military issues

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  1. Anonymous in Jax says:

    Where’s a link to the article?

    I understand that certain people and the media seem to overblow some of these stories. According to you, the article seems to imply PTSD made him do it, but a psychological exam found he did not have PTSD. But, this story aside, you have to admit that PTSD and/or prolonged exposure to war does have some impact on a large population of veterans. I’m not saying it turns them all into killers, but this is a sad and unfortunate side effect of war that I don’t think the people who start wars even think about. The cost of treating and taking care of these people continues long after the war is over.

  2. Jonn Lilyea says:

    Sorry, Jax, I got carried away and forgot the link.

    By the way, drop me a line, I lost your email address from last time and I’d like to talk to you for a bit.

  3. DaveO says:

    Still think there’s a connection between JBLM’s hospital commander being relieved for forcinng his psych docs to return diagnoses of anything other than PTSD and TBI, and the crap going on.

    McQ believes the commander’s relief to be irrelevant.

    But the stories grow.

  4. streetsweeper says:

    Uh oh, Lilyea’s gonna be taking Jax to the woodshed…

  5. streetsweeper says:

    Shit, I hit the submit button too soon. Anyhow, the LSM is certain they smell something on going with this JBLM connection. Like tell the lie often enough and it becomes true?

  6. Doc Bailey says:

    Seriously what are they putting in the water up at Lewis? First it was an underage teen that OD in the Barraks, then a whole shipment of NODs gets stolen, then the Matigan CO gets canned for under reporting PTSD then this jack wagon in A-stan.

    There must be some serious crazy pills being handed out there.

  7. Radar says:

    @5 “like tell a lie often enough and it becomes true”

    Hope no one finds a ‘study’ about excessive rain (at JBLM) being linked to a decline in mental health. Next the IVAW will buy-in…and CNN, MSNBC, NYT, and so on are sure to run with it. If something is included about global warming it’s sure to go viral.

  8. Marvin says:

    The Beltway sniper was from Ft Lewis, The shooter this past weekend in A-Stan is from Ft Lewis, an off-base murder involving meth – Ft Lewis, this Lt Col – Ft Lewis….

    Something is wrong at that base…granted a lot of soldiers have been/are stationed there, but there have been too many incidents with links to Ft Lewis.
    But, of course, to be fair, the investigation of the issues at Ft Lewis must start at the USCG Station at Key West.

  9. UpNorth says:

    Really? A soldier gets stabbed to death in his apartment, offbase, and that’s part of the problem at JBLM? The article about the murder in the Portland Press Herald begins with “An Army soldier found stabbed to death in his Washington apartment”. And neither of the suspects has been identified as a soldier.
    And, I do believe the two asshats who killed the soldier were the only ones identified as being involved with meth.

  10. Cavfso says:

    Every army ROTC cadet goes through Ft. Lewis, we should start blaming the stupidity of butter bars on the place.

  11. To be fair, this guy sounds pretty coo-coo-ca-chew. You telling me no one at Madigan was able to notice this? Sketchy.

  12. Hondo says:

    Sounds more to me like he was a evil, cold, calculating SOB who didn’t want to get his own hands dirty, Army Sergeant.

    Evil does not equate to mental illness.

  13. Anonymous in Jax says:

    Well AS, think back to the MAJ Hassan fiasco. There were warning signs, but nobody wanted to potentially ruin an officer’s career or face possible complaints of discrimination. It’s unfortunate, but officers definitely seem to get special treatment. While I worked Combat Stress Control, I saw some NCO’s try to bring soldiers in for evaluation because they were “acting weird”, but I don’t recall seeing any officers brought in for evaluation because a superior felt they were acting weird. The only officers I recall seeing at the CSC clinic were there voluntarily.

  14. Anonymous in Jax says:

    There is also the attitude of “if this person can make it all the way to the rank of LTC, surely he has to be stable….so maybe he is just a weird guy.” And out of all the weird soldiers out there, how many actually do something like this you know??

  15. Hondo says:

    Anon in Jax: not sure the military or military-related stress had a damn thing to do with this incident.

    He’s been recently examined for PTSD and found not to suffer from same. Therefore, any connection of this incident to the military is coincidental vice causal. The military didn’t cause this – period. Although people do manifest stress differently, it’s pretty damn difficult to hide the fact that you’re under so much stress you’re literally considering killing someone.

    Unless, of course, you’re either a psychopath or just an innately evil bastard to begin with..

    If he’s a borderline or latent psychopath who was pushed “over the line” by a messy divorce, the lack of a priori symptoms is believeable. Psychopaths tend to be adept at lying and manipulating others. They also have little empathy and are likely to hurt others without remorse. And the military connection here is irrelevant; a psychopath is a psychopath, and ugly divorces happen in all segments of our society with depressing regularity.

    If he’s simply an evil bastard who chose the kill by proxy way out of a sticky situation, that also has nothing to do with the military. And yes, it is possible for duplicitous, uncaring bastards to rise to that level – both in civilian life and the military. We’ve all seen it. So if this is the case, military connection is likewise irrelevant. He’s simply a cold-blooded killer who didn’t want to get his own hands dirty.

    I have no doubt that he’ll play the “combat PTSD” card to try and save his own sorry ass. I just hope the courts don’t let him get away with it. And if he’s tried under the UCMJ, I seriously doubt he will.

  16. Anonymous in Jax says:

    Ummm in my original post, I acknowledge that the story says he was evaluated for PTSD and found not to have it. And in my most recent post, I addressed AS’s comment that she finds it difficult to believe there were no warning signs. All I said is there probably had to be some sort of warning signs, but that they were probably ignored or brushed off, much like they were with the MAJ Hassan incident.

  17. Beretverde says:

    In 1973 the NYT (et al) had a field day at Ft. Benning. They blamed the CG for the recent on/off post suicides, and made the journalistic leap that his mandatory PT was the cause. I think it was Gen. Talbot. Anyway Ft. Benning was the hot spot… today’s JBLM “news” eerily reminds me of Benning back in the day.

  18. Hondo says:

    Anon in Jax: and my point is that there might well not have been any significant warning signs whatsoever that would have been apparent to his colleagues – whether they were military or civilian. Psychopaths and/or innately evil individuals often are adept at hiding all outward signs of an impending strike.

    And your comment 13 clearly implied that one of his military colleagues or superiors should have noticed these signs referred him to military medical authorities. That clearly implies that the military “failed” somehow.

    Sometimes bad things happen that are not reasonably foreseeable or avoidable. This may well be such a case. We won’t know until the investigation is completed and the results made public.

  19. Anonymous in Jax says:

    I never said the military failed. All I am saying is that IF there were warning signs of any sort, they were probably ignored. It happens all the time, both civilian and military. People see signs, but choose to ignore them because even if we see an angry or “weird” person, we don’t want to believe that they could actually do something terrible.

    And if you feel I implied the military failed or what not, I feel I should point out that you seem to be implying that this guy is or could be a serial killer. Although I do agree with you that sociopaths are good liars. However, even with sociopaths, there tends to be signs, they are just very subtle and easy to miss. Look up the triad of psychopathy if you have never heard of it.

  20. Hondo says:

    Anon in Jax: By comparing this incident to the case of MAJ Hasan, you are implicitly condemning the military. In Hasan’s case, there were clear indications and warnings. Numerous colleagues complained about Hasan’s behavior. I agree that in Hasan’s case, his superiors showed lack of moral fiber in not following-up, likely for the reason you cite (fear of being accused of discrimination). However, in this JBLM case, we don’t yet know what warning signs existed, whether they were too subtle for a non mental-health professional to notice, or indeed if any a priori indications were even present.

    And I don’t believe I suggested the individual was an actual or potential serial killer – although the allegation is that he contracted for the killing of two individuals, so that would at least make him guilty of soliciting multiple murders if proven.

    If you’re talking about the MacDonald triad (bedwetting, animal cruelty, firestarting), I believe that’s now considered by many in the field to have been discredited by more current research. In particular, I understand that the link to bedwetting has been shown to be insiginficant.

  21. Anonymous in Jax says:

    By many in the field? I don’t know if I agree with that statement. There’s numerous research that points in both directions….some find the link to be significant, with other research finding it to be insignificant. Any time you’re talking about a causal link, you can almost bet you’ll find research to support both sides of the fence.

  22. Beretverde says:

    I agree with the McDonald triad has been proven a bust. As for Dr. Jeffery McDonald killing his pregenant wife and two little girls on post at Bragg… that is another story. No PTSD there. A soldier once told me- “Do away with the “PTSD pay,” and the PTSD claims will drop by 95%. Food for thought.

  23. Hondo says:

    Anon in Jax: By definition, a theory with both supporting and contrary evidence is unproven – and is regarded by many with deep suspicion unless and until the contrary evidence can be adequately explained.

    I’ve also read that MacDonald himself reportedly later questioned the link between bedwetting and psychopathy. So I’d think it’s safe to say that many in the field – including its originator – harbor doubts about the MacDonald triad.

  24. Anonymous in Jax says:

    So I’ll start out my response with a story… when I was in Iraq, we had a soldier write a very graphic history of his life, which included killing neighborhood cats and setting fires. Our psychiatrists seemed pretty concerned about it because of the fact that he had a weapon and ammo at his disposal. I’m just saying, perhaps the “triad” isn’t perfect, but these previous behaviors can be pretty big “warning signs” of future behavior. It is thought that children who exhibit these behaviors have a higher likelihood of being exposed to violence or some form of abuse. If you look at a few of the sketchy details that have come out so far, this LTC’s mother shot and killed the LTC’s siblings and left him for dead. From the sounds of it, he was definitely exposed to violence as a child.

  25. Anonymous in Jax says:

    I’m sorry if any of that post seems incoherent….I was interrupted by a crying child about half way through writing it :/

  26. Anonymous in Jax says:

    And in response to #23, I will admit that the bedwetting has been questioned as to whether its link is significant, but I know that many regard the link with violence and abuse towards animals to still be a very strong and significant link.

  27. Hondo says:

    Anon in Jax: I don’t argue against the links between animal cruelty and (to perhaps a lesser extent) fire setting and future psychopathic behavior. Ditto a documented history of violence. But the triad per se seems discredited to me, as it was specifically defined by MacDonald as a childhood history of “bedwetting/animal cruelty/fire starting”. The link with bedwetting appears to be marginal at best if not disproven outright.

  28. Hondo says:

    Addendum: I also find it plausible that his witnessing the deaths of two siblings at the hands of his own mother, plus being shot himself by her, could well have caused him to lack empathy with, and trust in, others later in life. As well as possibly stunted the development of any conscience on his part.

  29. DaveO says:

    #22 Beretverde,

    Good point. All sorts of things come to light once a spotlight is trained on it.

    Were I a defense attorney, and I’m not a lawyer, the legal theory I’d use to secure reasonable doubt is mental-emotional incompetence due to Command-enforced misdiagnosis at Madigan; and, just like at Fort Hood, the sergeant’s Chain of Command had its hands tied by a number of laws, regulations and rules.

    Of course, I’d also claim the sergeant was a gay, genderally-confused Progressive who served as a bundler for Obama and Clinton, and thought all his victims were TEA Partiers. That’d be enough to take the death penalty off the table immediately.

  30. Hondo says:

    DaveO: now I’m confused. Sergeant?

  31. Sig says:

    If it’s any consolation, I had a really great dental clinic experience at Fort Lewis. Last week, I had a consult on a molar that was going bad (the result of an iffy root canal years ago). They got me in for a cleaning the next day, scheduled surgery for today, and I was home on quarters by 1030 today. My pharmacy stop lasted less than 5 minutes from door to door (and the contents therein may explain why this comment seemed like a good idea).

    Yeah, sorry, best I can do. JBLM is a strange place.

  32. David says:

    If they had taught those things at the Officer Basic Course, we would have been able to cull several O4-O10’s from our ranks BEFORE they had a chance to screw everyone else around them.

  33. Beretverde says:

    In 1973 it was Gen. Latham , not Talbot who ordered the PT. Some chaplains complained after some suicides and the press ran with it. It was the beginning of VOLAR.

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