Violence Abroad, Horror at Home: Recipe for PTSD?

Psychologists say troops on scene of shooting need counseling.

ByABC News
November 5, 2009, 5:22 PM

Nov. 7, 2009 — -- Army Specialist Jonathan Pacheco, who returned from Iraq in May, described Fort Hood as a haven of sorts for soldiers who had been on the battlefront.

But after Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly opened fire on soldiers and others at the base, the troops at Fort Hood were forced to face the reality that even the home front can be violent.

"Everybody is on edge," Pacheco said. "Nobody was expecting it. Everybody thought they were safe."

Feelings of safety may indeed be a precious commodity at the base, located near Killeen, Tex. According to the website, Fort Hood has suffered more in this decade than any other United States home base – 483 deaths in Iraq and more than 20 in Afghanistan.

Pacheco said everyone on the base is acutely aware of the losses overseas. But few of the troops likely expected this type of violence at home.

And experts in post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, said that before any of the troops close to this incident are redeployed, they should undergo extensive counseling.

"Anybody who's been through this event today would need to be assessed in terms of evidence of any traumatic symptoms, there needs to be a follow up in some days to look at a bigger clinical picture," said Dr. James Griffith, professor of psychiatry and neurology at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

"If someone is showing symptoms [of PTSD], then I would advise against them against going into combat."

A senior military official confirmed to ABC News on Thursday that the unit that was at the readiness center at the time of the shootings was getting ready to deploy to Iraq. Col. Benton Danner, a media spokesman for Fort Hood, could not immediately tell ABC News what, if any additional counseling will now be provided to soldiers who were preparing to deploy and witnessed this event.