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2 of Iraq shooting victims counseled soldiers

Violence points to difficulty of work they did

Navy Commander Charles Keith Springle was one of five US military personnel killed in a shooting Monday in Iraq. Navy Commander Charles Keith Springle was one of five US military personnel killed in a shooting Monday in Iraq. (Marine Corps via Reuters)
By Kevin Maurer
Associated Press / May 14, 2009
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WILMINGTON, N.C. - Navy Commander Charles Springle made a career of treating soldiers for combat stress caused by frequent deployments to battle zones. He also tried to fight the stigma that can prevent those who need mental help from seeking it.

Springle, 52, was deployed at a US military clinic in Baghdad counseling service members when an Army sergeant finishing up his third tour of duty allegedly shot and killed him and four other comrades.

The war's deadliest case of soldier-on-soldier violence starkly shows the struggle Springle and his colleagues face dealing with the emotional problems suffered by some soldiers repeatedly deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

"He regarded it as very important work," said Bob Goodale, a friend of Springle's and director of behavioral mental health for the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based Citizen-Soldier Support Program. "We all who work in this know that it is difficult. This is an example of how difficult."

The military identified the victims in Monday's shooting as Springle and four soldiers from the Army: Private First Class Michael Edward Yates Jr., 19, of Federalsburg, Md.; Sergeant Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, 25, of Paterson, N.J.; Specialist Jacob D. Barton, 20, of Lenox, Mo.; and Major Matthew Houseal, 54, a psychiatrist from Amarillo, Texas.

A commander since 2002, Springle went by his middle name of "Keith" and had been in the Navy for 21 years. A Navy spokesman at the Pentagon said Springle leaves a wife and two children in Wilmington.

Goodale and Springle had worked together on a presentation that outlines potential traumas experienced by service members who have done multiple tours and the barriers that can keep them from being treated.

"We have to find better ways to reduce the stigma," Goodale said Tuesday. "To work on the acceptance of combat stress as a real thing. It has been for centuries, and we must persevere."

Houseal also treated people with psychological problems in his dozen years with the Texas Panhandle Mental Health and Mental Retardation clinic, said executive director Bud Schertler.

Houseal, who had six children, left the clinic in January to prepare for his deployment and was expected back on their staff next month. Schertler said Houseal had volunteered to go to Iraq and was called up.

"He was dedicated to his patients. He was a family man, very thorough diagnostician. We couldn't ask for a better psychiatrist," Schertler said.

Bueno-Galdos joined the Army right out of high school and was on his second tour in Iraq, his parents said. The youngest of four children, he had moved to New Jersey from Peru when he was 7. He was married but had no children.

"We want people to know we're proud of our son's Army, but if my son had died in war we would be able to handle that," his father, Carlos Bueno, said. "But not to die in this manner."

The clinic in Baghdad is operated by the 55th Medical Company, a Reserve unit headquartered in Indianapolis. Captain Adam Jackson, a spokesman for the unit, said Tuesday he could release no information on the clinic shooting or the people involved.