Fort Hood officials are investigating a rash of suicides in recent days, including the apparent murder-suicide of a soldier and his wife, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
The incidents come as the central Texas Army post reports a record number of soldiers taking their own lives. According to figures released Tuesday, 14 suicides and six more suspected suicides have been reported so far this year among soldiers stationed at Fort Hood. Fort Hood reported 11 suicides in all of 2009.
On Sunday, 31-year-old Sgt. Michael Timothy Franklin and his wife, Jessie Ann Franklin, were found shot dead in their Fort Hood home. Army officials are investigating the deaths as a murder-suicide.
Two soldiers died Saturday in unrelated apparent suicides, including a veteran of four tours in Iraq. A fourth soldier was found dead Friday. In November 2009, an Army psychiatrist at the base was accused of going on a shooting rampage that left 13 people dead and dozens injured.
The deaths come as the military grapples with how to prevent suicides among the troops.
More than 1,100 members of the armed forces killed themselves from 2005 to 2009, and suicides have been on the rise again this year. The sharpest increases have been in the Army and Marine Corps, the services most stretched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A report ordered by Congress last year and sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates in August said the service branches' prevention programs are inefficient. The 14-member panel of military and civilian doctors recommended dozens of changes, including the creation of a high-level office to set strategy and coordinate prevention programs across branches.
Officials with the Navy, which oversees health care for the Marines, say a number of factors are putting strains on its hospital staffs. Multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan are making troops more vulnerable to psychological problems, and the number of people living on bases has greatly expanded with military recruitment up because of the wars. The government also is demanding more rigorous pre- and post-deployment screenings to catch problems and treat them.
The Army has been beefed up its staff since 2007, adding 1,264 civilian, military and contract mental health workers. That's a more than 68 percent increase, but Army officials say it is 465 providers less than they would like.
The Marines' suicide rate is 24 per 100,000, and the Army's rate is close behind at 22 per 100,000. The suicide rate among U.S. civilians — when adjusted to reflect the age, gender and racial demographics of sailors and Marines — was close to 20 per 100,000 between 1999 and 2005, according to a Navy report.
The Air Force rate of 15.5 suicides per 100,000 is its highest since 1995. The Navy has the lowest rate at 13.3 per 100,000, but even that has been increasing over the last five years.