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All three suicides at Fort Bliss this year were officers

By Darren Hunt, DHuntabc7@yahoo.com
Published On: May 20 2013 07:23:09 PM CDT
Updated On: Jan 15 2014 07:55:27 PM CST

EL PASO, Texas -

The Pentagon says nearly 350 U.S. Military service members committed suicide last year.

Among those were five Army soldiers at Fort Bliss.

This year, three more suicides, all with something in common -- they were non-commissioned officers.

Sunday night on ABC-7 Xtra, Fort Bliss' outgoing commanding general confirmed the latest suicide happened just last week.

"Suicide is a complex issue," Fort Bliss Commanding Gen. Dana Pittard said, confirming that all three suicides at Fort Bliss this year have something in common."Three suicides in 2013 have all been officers. The previous 10 years we had two in 10 years, but we had three this year."

Fort Bliss, which has a new suicide prevention program, had the fewest suicides per capita last year with five. But this year, the suicide of three non-commissioned officers, including 28-year-old former Army football team co-captain Anthony Fusco last Monday at his Northeast El Paso home -- a day after buying a gun at the PX -- has Pittard talking about refocusing the program.

"We've redoubled our efforts to make sure that our leaders are getting help also and that battle buddies are looking after each other," Pittard said. "Whether you're a leader, whether you're a young soldier or whether you're an old general, everybody is susceptible to this and everybody can go to a dark place potentially."

Fusco's suicide, which is still under investigation, came just over two months after his buddy, fellow 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade Captain Ryan Cook, committed suicide at his off-post home also in El Paso. The 27-year-old Cook and Fusco had gone bowling together the day before cook committed suicide and Fusco was a first responder to Cook's home.

"Looking at the statistics at Fort Bliss, over 35 suicides in 10 years, only one was with a soldier who actually was seeing a behavioral health specialist," Pittard said.

Thus Pittard said the focus is on getting all soldiers to seek the help they need. Fort bliss's anti-suicide program is a two-day course that helps them understand the signs and symptoms. Each unit submits a monthly list of soldiers with known emotional, financial or drug problems.

Fort Bliss has also set up offices for mental health counselors near brigade headquarters.

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