State News

Baghdad shooting victim counseled soldiers

Posted May 13, 2009 5:26 a.m. EDT
Updated May 13, 2009 7:44 p.m. EDT

— Navy Cmdr. Charles Springle made a career of treating soldiers for combat stress caused by frequent deployments to battle zones. He also tried to fight the stigma that can prevent those who need mental help from seeking it.

Springle, 52, was deployed at a U.S. military clinic in Baghdad, Iraq, counseling service members when an Army sergeant finishing up his third tour of duty allegedly shot and killed him and four other comrades.

The war's deadliest case of soldier-on-soldier violence starkly shows the struggle Springle and his colleagues face dealing with the emotional problems suffered by some soldiers repeatedly deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

"He regarded it as very important work," said Bob Goodale, a friend of Springle's and director of behavioral mental health for the Chapel Hill-based Citizen-Soldier Support Program. "We all who work in this know that it is difficult. This is an example of how difficult."

The military identified the victims in Monday's shooting as Springle and four soldiers from the Army: Pfc. Michael Edward Yates Jr., 19, of Federalsburg, Md.; Sgt. Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, 25, of Paterson, N.J.; Spc. Jacob D. Barton, 20, of Lenox, Mo.; and Maj. Matthew Houseal, 54, a psychiatrist from Amarillo, Texas.

A commander since 2002, Springle went by his middle name of "Keith" and had been in the Navy for 21 years. A Navy spokesman at the Pentagon said Springle left behind a wife and two children in Wilmington.

Goodale and Springle had worked together on a presentation that outlines potential traumas experienced by service members who have done multiple tours and the barriers that can keep them from being treated.

"We have to find better ways to reduce the stigma," Goodale said Tuesday. "To work on the acceptance of combat stress as a real thing. It has been for centuries, and we must persevere."

"It's heartbreaking to see how needlessly his life was taken, basically, when it's by a fellow soldier," Springle's cousin, Alton Dudley said. "He was such a fine young man. The world needs more of him, instead of less."