The military can be a lot like a young, eager-beaver reporter. Sometimes, it feels a need to dump all its data from its notebook to show how hard it’s working, even if the data are worthless. The latest example is from the final report of the Department of Defense Task Force on Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces, which recently studied the spreading plague of troops killing themselves.
Pentagon analysts decided to see if suicides were more common among troops in some kinds of jobs than others. Bottom line: “There are insufficient data at this time to support identification of military occupations with a high incidence of suicide owing to occupation alone,” the report concludes. “Numerous efforts are underway to continue to understand the role an individual’s career field may have in relation to suicide and suicide prevention.”
The Pentagon task force “strongly cautions readers against drawing any conclusions from the data.” The overall low rates being measured makes comparisons across job fields “challenging” and “almost impossible.” A single suicide in a tiny career field sends the suicide rate for that occupation skyrocketing. Fair enough. They should have left it at that. But that would make too much sense. Instead, they then proceeded to run 21 pages of charts detailing which military job-holders killed themselves at the highest rate from 2001 to 2009.
According to the data, the most suicide-prone jobs among the 200 studied in the U.S. Army (from the 10th highest rate to the highest rate) are:
10. Air traffic control equipment repairer
9. U.S. Military Academy professor
8. Crane operator
6. Patriot missile repairer
5. Signal intelligence senior sergeant
4. Laundry and shower specialist
3. Information services chief
2. Interior electrician
1. French horn player
Worthless, to be sure. But fascinating nonetheless.
Peace to every soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who has found life too bleak to continue, and to the families each has left behind.