The US armed forces are involved in a perpetual conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq and the role of the USAF is most significant in any ongoing campaign. US airforce Seargent Steven Bellino shot his commander Lt Colonel William Shroeder at San Antonio base. The killing is blamed on Post-traumatic stress disorder. It appears that Sgt Bellino confronted the Lt Colonel and the two men grappled for some time before Bellino shot the senior officer. The killing is not a good omen and shows that somewhere down the line battle fatigue is getting to the combatants.

The case cannot be brushed under the carpet as both men were not in any combat zone and once out of actual combat should have led a normal life. The Sgt was tense and killed himself after killing his superior.

The killings

The USAF investigators are investigating the case. Sgt Bellino and Lt Col Schroeder were both members of the US special operations command. Having served together should have been a bonding factor, but Sgt Bellino was nursing a wound and he took it out on Lt Col Schroeder. The Sgt had a remarkable career in the military and had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, he had failed to complete an elite pararescue program and that probably rankled him. He had trained for this course along with the officer killed by him.

Sgt Bellino probably blamed the Lt Col for his failure to complete the course.

Mental problems

AF authorities should have kept a watch on Sgt Bellini especially after his failure to complete the course, especially when he absented himself without leave and went home to Ohio. This was a clear case that Sgt Bellini was suffering from some mental disorder.

He had developed a persecution complex and he killed his senior officer as well as pulling the gun on himself. The killing of fellow soldiers, called fratricide, is a well-known phenomena in an armed force fighting a perpetual conflict and does lead to PTSD, but the name of the game is vigilance.

Last word

Morale is one of the ingredients that is the hallmark of a successful military organization.

This is more so for a force like the US military which has global responsibility. The new C-in-C Donald Trump will have to address this problem when he takes over as US president, as such killings can affect the morale of the USAF.