Our soldiers are not psychologically ready for war: study
LOCAL war veterans have welcomed findings that suggest Australian soldiers should not be deployed to conflict zones without mandatory psychological resilience training.
Funded by Army Research Australia, data from Southern Cross University and Griffith University researchers found the psychological capital scores of Australian soldiers were not high - less than a handful of the 100 army personnel surveyed showed high resilience levels.
However, according to Southern Cross University Professor Yvonne Brunetto, the scores could be improved with psychological training to boost a soldier's psychological capital - hope, self-confidence and resilience.
Prof Brunetto said our soldiers' mean resilience score was lower than US police officers, her only comparable benchmark.
"We know that one in 10 soldiers return from war psychologically damaged. This comes with a huge cost emotionally and financially," she said.
"(The army) wouldn't send them to Iraq without appropriate weapons, now I think they have an obligation to them psychologically," she said.
Alstonville Vietnam Veteran Wayne Peters, president of the Ballina Ex-Army Association, who served with the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment in 1969, said he would have benefited from resilience training.
"Back then there was no psychological preparation for war. I saw scary stuff. A lot of things were confronting but at the time you are just doing a job. Later on it affects you. You don't know why you are feeling the way you do. It's just in your brain," he said.
"I hope and pray that the guys in Afghanistan aren't treated like we were. There was no debriefing. Nothing. You just wanted to get out of your uniform as quickly as possible."
Secretary of the Far North Coast Sub-branch, Sheldon Maher OAM, said while psychological resilience training could be beneficial, Australia already has "exceptionally trained soldiers".
"The fact is, a modern day soldier who is deployed into a conflict zone nine or 10 times is going to be knocked around. There is only so much resilience training you can do."
Mr Maher said that claiming for military compensation can be an adversarial ordeal and there are many soldiers who do not claim for psychological damage or seek help.
Prof Brunetto said that resilience screening and training could save on trauma-related compensation.
She said while further benchmarking was needed, the results showed that resilience testing should be a part of the battery of physical and mental tests.
She is seeking further grants for benchmarking and handed in the survey findings this month.