Aftershock: The Blast That Shook Psycho Platoon
Five soldiers injured in the same 2009 bomb blast are a case study in a new epidemic among America’s troops, who are grappling with a combination of concussion and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Updated March 13: ABC News and CNN have reported that the soldier who allegedly killed 16 Afghan civilians previously suffered a traumatic brain injury during one of his four deployments, citing unnamed Defense Department sources. As part of our extensive coverage of traumatic brain injury, ProPublica featured a unit of soldiers dubbed "Psycho Platoon" who sustained brain injuries in Iraq and had severe mental health challenges when they returned from their deployments. In another story, we also visited Fort Lewis, where the soldier accused of the killings was based. While there, we talked to soldiers about how they are assessed for brain injuries.
A version of this story was co-produced with NPR and aired on All Things Considered. (Listen here.) This story was also published as part of Amazon's Kindle Singles program, and is available for reading on that device.
MINOT, ND -- At 8:20 p.m. on Sept. 21, 2010, Iraq veteran Brock Savelkoul decided it was time to die. He lurched from his black Tacoma pickup truck, gripping a 9-mm pistol. In front of him, a half dozen law enforcement officers crouched behind patrol cars with their weapons drawn. They had surrounded him on a muddy red road after an hour-long chase that reached speeds of 105 miles p
The military has failed to diagnose brain injuries in thousands of soldiers returning from overseas.
The Story So Far
Traumatic brain injury is considered the “signature wound” of soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Official military statistics show that more than 115,000 soldiers have suffered mild traumatic brain injuries since the wars began. Shock waves from roadside bombs can ripple through soldiers’ brains, causing damage that sometimes leaves no visible scars but may cause lasting mental and physical harm.