Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and ranking member Jim Inhofe (R-OK) of Senate Armed Forces Committee got into shouting match today over Army recruiting practices at today's committee hearing.
The background is that 25% of soldiers currently serving in the Army have mental illness.
Thee most common condition identified by the researchers was intermittent explosive disorder, characterized by bouts of rage. More than 8% of soldiers joined the Army with the disorder -- six times the rate among the civilian population. Other mental illnesses also outpaced the general population.
The verbal fight between Levin and Inhofe broke out when Dr. Ronald Kessler of Harvard, an author of one of the studies, testified before the hearing.
"The kinds of people who join the Army are not typical people. They have a lot more acting-out kind of mental disorders. They get into fights more. They're exceedingly aggressive compared to most Americans," said the Harvard researcher.
"So, what's the problem?" asked Inhofe. "Aren't these the kind of people we want?"
Levin said to Inhofe, "We don't want people with uncontrolled rage in the Army."
"The army can channel the rage," Inhofe shot back. The heated discussion between the two Senators continued but, after it cooled down, they questioned Dr. Kessler with Levin being friendly and Inhofe hostile to him.
Next to testify was William Hessell, Ph.D who works in psychiatric hospital as a psychologist.
"Last year I discovered recruiters trying to recruit two of our patients. They did not come directly to the hospital; but that didn't stop them from talking to them on the phone, encouraging them to come to the recruiting station after they were out of the hospital, to "pick up where we left off," he said.
They had already been recruiting them before their latest hospitalization, knowing full well, in both cases, that these persons were severely mentally ill but that didn't stop their efforts he said.
"You want to defend this." Levin angrily questioned Inhofe. "What about this?"
Senator Inhofe said that the Army had psychologists to treat them. Then he said that they would have the opportunity to become American Heroes and we could thank them for their service.
Levin then called Inhofe a "moron." Inhofe retorted that Levin was "unpatriotic." Then, red-faced, they screamed at one another about who was the most patriotic.