Long Knife Soldiers help researchers study PTSD
May 20, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas -Physical wounds caused by war are obvious treat but what about the emotional wound'
The 1st Cavalry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team is working with the University of Texas at Austin's Imaging Research Center to battle Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptom by evaluating volunteer Long Knife Soldiers before they depart for their scheduled deployment in early June.
"We are initiating a beginning," said Brian Baldwin, a retired aviation colonel who is the PTSD research project manager. "There is no previous database like what we're starting here. I equate this to heart disease 20 years ago. The research that was done enables us to mitigate those risk factors. PTSD is a wound of war that we need to protect our Soldiers from."
The Long Knife Brigade's volunteers run through a battery of stress-related tests to create a baseline for each individual. The results of the tests will be compared against the same tests after returning home from the unit's approximate 15-month deployment in Iraq.
The tests involve Magnetic Resonance Imaging and functional-MRI scans, genetic screening and psychological assessments. The Soldiers also have a monthly online survey of questions examining their experiences in the combat zone.
Due to the amount of time required for each MRI scanning session, only a handful of troops can conduct the tests. However, many of the brigade's Soldiers jumped at the opportunity to be part of learning about the landmark PTSD study.
Pfc. J.B. Lyons, an infantryman from Davilla, Texas, assigned to Company B, 2nd Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment, volunteered for the study before Baldwin's initial briefing at Fort Hood was complete.
"I hope that whatever they find, if they find anything different, that they can do something effective with the information," Lyons said about his hopes for the study. "We're helping to see how the brain reacts to PTSD. The chances are that at least one of us here today will get PTSD during this combat tour."
One of Lyons' family members deployed to Iraq as a civilian contractor and returned home with a form of PTSD, which led to the infantryman's strong willingness to help in the research.
A former infantry Soldier who served in the Vietnam War has a hand in the study's MRI scanning process.
"I would like to see the results of this study, because I had a lot of friends who had PTSD," said Ronnie Hunter, the chief technician of the research center's General Electric 3-Tesla Signa Excite Scanner and a 1968-1970 Vietnam combat veteran. "My first day in Vietnam was the start of the Tet Offensive."
While military medicine techniques have advanced since then, but the knowledge of how the effects of combat on the mind can be battled is still improving.
"We can do a better job with our treatments," said Dr. Deborah Stote, a clinical psychologist working on the research team. "We're trying to see what changes in the brain occur from PTSD."
The research team is also working with the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood and with the University of Pittsburg Medical Center on the project.
"The Army is doing this because the Army cares about Soldiers and Families," Baldwin said. "The Army is investing resources in addressing the PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
"We have the right researchers, the right graduate students and the best the players - the Soldiers," Baldwin added.