November 5th, 2010
08:25 AM ET

From Fort Hood shooting to war zone and finally home

WASHINGTON (CNN) - When the members of the 467th Combat Stress Control Detachment from Madison, Wisconsin, left for Afghanistan about a year ago, the war had never been more violent. But the unit had already been through the hell of gunfire and killing.

The 467th was inside the building at Ft. Hood, Texas, on November 5, 2009, when a gunman opened fire, methodically killing 13 people and injuring dozens more. Soon after, they shipped to the warzone.

Three members of the 467th died in the Ft. Hood shooting: Maj. Libardo Caraveo, of Woodbridge, Virginia; Sgt. Amy Krueger, of Kiel, Wisconsin; and Capt. Russell Seager, of Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. Six other unit members were wounded.

Maj. Laura Suttinger, Staff Sgt. Dick Hurtig and Sgt. Karam Kortenkam of the 467th Combat Stress Control Detachment speak to reporters after their return from a nearly year-long tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The unit is made up of about 43 officers and enlisted soldiers, trained in psychiatry, psychology, social work and therapy. Their mission was to provide stress control treatment and preventive care to troops in Afghanistan.

The rest of the unit was offered the chance, in consideration of the horrors they'd witnessed at Ft. Hood, to skip their long-planned deployment. None of them did. Their mission seemed to become more important after Ft. Hood. Almost one year to the day since the shootings at Fort Hood, the unit has returned home.

"There was a certain energy thought that helped drive us forward through that awkwardness and helped us get over that hurdle," said Maj. Laura Suttinger, commander of the 467th.

Staff Sgt. Dick Hurtig said their mission - to help soldiers deal with combat stress in the war zone - helped them go from the worst mass killing ever on a military base to the front lines of the longest war in American history.

Maj. Laura Suttinger wore this bracelet with her killed colleagues' names during her time in Afghanistan.

"It was all the first time that those types of clinics had been set up in theater and in those locations. So, we were so focused on that, and everything was moving so fast, so I'm not sure if (the shootings) had a huge impact on the mission."

Relievers of stress, these soldiers went to war with their own stress of that terrible day.

Some of their "clients," as they referred to the soldier's they helped, knew what the unit had been through. "If a solider came in, and they knew what we had done or what we had been through, then I addressed that on an individual basis, but I made it a point to never bring it up in their counseling sessions and tell them my own struggles or my own problems," said Hurtig. "I felt like it would be unfair to them to steal the attention away from what they were doing, their mission, and the trouble they were going through, which is the reason they came in to see me to begin with."

That's not to say they didn't face their own agony as they were helping their clients.

"I was lucky, I had another member of my team who had been with the unit throughout the entire process who I knew well, and we leaned on each other and I guess I really depended on others in my unit, when I needed them," said Sgt. Kara Kortenkamp, a member of the 467th. "I knew what the resources were if I needed them."

Suttinger said some of her soldiers were mad, but that wasn't the primary reaction.

"I'm certain there's some anger there but I think that it goes back and forth and that's not the overwhelming reaction," Suttinger said. "If there is some anger there, it's more overcome with the other traditional grief reactions like the shock, like the denial and like the eventual overcoming."

Suttinger still wears a bracelet with the names of the colleagues she lost that day at Ft. Hood.

"There was a real sense of loss in that the people that we had trained with weren't going to be a part of the mission," Suttinger said. "It did feel a little fragmented even though we were all confident that we wanted to move forward."

The surviving members of the 467th have been invited to attend Friday's ceremony at Ft. Hood commemorating the 1-year anniversary of the massacre.

Hurtig has chosen to spend the anniversary in Wisconsin. "I've been away from my family for over a year now, I think it's best for me to be back with them, and I'll remember the event on my own but at least then, I'm spending the time with someone I've missed for a year."

Kortenkamp told CNN she intends to be there. "To honor the family that I lost. It's just the right thing for me to do to memorialize them, to remember that day."

They'll also remember Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who was not part of the 467th, but was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan with the unit.

Hasan is accused of 13 counts of murder in connection with the shooting. He's the only person charged in the massacre.

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Dindy.....

    USMC forever.....
    I am sorry.........what I meant is Human Bombs . In Sri lanka also we were thinking oh!!! innocent die from Army bombs. Yet the real picture was something else. They were real cadres. Then there was a Ha Ho about Army attacked schools . Then it was clear they were LTTE trainning camps. If they are just civilians they should not stay near Al quaeda or Taliban. They must leave them and Isolate t hem. as these two groups are merciless and dangerous.May God PROTECT CIVILIANS and TROOPS !! including my son !!

    November 11, 2010 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  2. Linda

    I am the wife of a retired soldier,Viet Nam. The mother of a retired soldier,Iraq. The grandmother of a returning soldier from Afganistan. Men who love their country and their families more than their own lives. God bless them and all their companions and men.

    November 10, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. LarryKegel(US Army)

    These Troops are so brave to fight so that We can keep Our FREEDOM!!! We should be backing them with anything They need to finish the job right... MAY GOD WATCH OVER OUR TROOPS AND THOSE FIGHTING AGAIN THE TARRIEST OF THE WORLD!!!

    November 9, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dindy.....

      Larry who is this? cant spell words correctly. (who is tarriest ? :)

      November 11, 2010 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
  4. Dindy.....

    USMC FOREVER....WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

    November 9, 2010 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
    • USMC Forever

      Dindy,I'm talking about those gutless wonders who operate those cursed drones from half way around the world hurling 500lb.bombs on defenseless people who have no chance at all!!!

      November 9, 2010 at 4:21 am | Report abuse |
      • Jerry

        Thank you,USMC Forever. I don't have any use for those "gutless wonders",either!!!

        November 9, 2010 at 4:24 am | Report abuse |
      • LarryKegel(US Army)

        I rather Bless the Army Troops there that are fighting there and helping make the Country better!!!

        November 9, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
      • Dindy.....

        USMC FOREVER...........Cant loose the good men on the ground like lambs for meat for these cruel Al quaeda .God !! protect the soldiers and Bring them Home safely. Also Help us to find out domestic bombs in Flights and Parcels at Air ports and other places where people gather. Please God reveal all of it.!! Amen.

        November 11, 2010 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  5. Dindy.....

    Thank God for the men and women in the battle who fight to save our lives !!!

    November 7, 2010 at 2:58 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dindy.....

    Thank God I am alive when cowards come to rule the world with suicide Bombs

    November 7, 2010 at 2:55 am | Report abuse |
  7. John

    All this belly-hooing about these "great" heroes. Don't you think that it's being slightly overdone,MG? Like I said before,there's no glory in killing people only heartache!

    November 6, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • SL

      John, If you knew anything about the military you would know these CSC Soldiers have more than likely never killed anyone, but helped ease the mental stressors of soldiers who have had friends die, and seen people blow each other up. At the end of the day they are still people, and you could never stand the horrors that soldiers re-play over and over in their mind.

      November 7, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  8. MG

    proud to bE an AMERICAN AND LIVE IN AMERICA

    November 6, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. risab

    THANK GOD THAT I AM A HUMAN NOT AN american

    November 6, 2010 at 7:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Dindy.....

      Thank God I am alive!!! when cowards try to rule the world from Bombs!!!!

      November 7, 2010 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
      • USMC Forever

        True enough,Dindy. You know how the C.I.A. works by your blogging about them. Thanks for the enlightenment.

        November 7, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • rme

      And you are able to write and say what you want because men and women have stood up to extremizm in order to have the freedom of speech, etc. Wake up! You are so ignorant to the real world around you.

      November 10, 2010 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
  10. risab

    GOD KNOWS HOW MANY INNOCENT PEOPLE THEY HAVE KILLED

    November 6, 2010 at 7:24 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Good post,risab. Thank you.

      November 6, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
      • Danielmountain

        what are you agreeing with, are you a half wit?

        November 7, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • rme

      You are so unbelievable! How many innocents have the Talaban and Al-Queda killed? You can't even imagine. Your comment is not worth posting. Thank goodness for the men and women who VOLUNTEER to help keep our freedom. I'll bet you never served one hour for your country.

      November 10, 2010 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
  11. risab

    GOD KNOW HOW MANY INNOCENT PEOPLE THEY HAVE KILLED

    November 6, 2010 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Dindy.....

      HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT GOD KNOW. ?DID GOD TELL YOU? IF DID WHEN AND HOW?

      November 7, 2010 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. Dindy.....

    I did nt know you were drowning here. Sorry boy.

    November 6, 2010 at 4:39 am | Report abuse |
  13. Gary Johndro

    YABBA-DABBA-DOO!!!

    November 5, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dindy.....

    Thank you God for bringing them back home safely and for giving them courage to face all the challenges before and after they went. Thank you again and again !!!

    November 5, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |