Accession Number:

ADA193074

Title:

The Human Response to the Gander Military Air Disaster: A Summary Report

Descriptive Note:

Corporate Author:

WALTER REED ARMY INST OF RESEARCH WASHINGTON DC DIV OF NEUROPSYCHIATRY

Report Date:

1987-12-01

Pagination or Media Count:

60.0

Abstract:

On 12 December 1985, 248 members of the 101st Airborne Division were killed in a military air disaster in Gander, Newfoundland. This is a summary of the human response to that event. Throughout the report leadership emerges as the key variable ameliorating stress. However, this variable is most likely to be situation dependent. This report, therefore, is an attempt to facilitate consistent, appropriate responses in mass casualty situations, and to provide a source of expertise and consultation for next time. It also has implications beyond those related to infrequent mass tragedies. First, the military is not psychologically prepared to deal with death in any significant numbers. It has been nearly 15 years since American soldiers saw combat in Vietnam. In troop units only a few aging first sergeants and command sergeants major have had direct combat experience. In the small primary combat unit the ability to effectively deal with death separates blooded from green units. Green units become disorganized in the face of loss blooded units absorb loss and move forward with the mission. Second, there is no doctrine for reconstituting Army units which have suffered severe losses, save the discredited individual replacement system which places new, isolated soldiers at high risk for stress breakdown. Fourth, there will be a next time. In an age of high speed mass transportation, terrorist tactics, and rapid commitment of troops to combat, these kinds of casualties are most probable and must be expected.

Subject Categories:

  • Psychology
  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

Distribution Statement:

APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE