The Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people last week at Fort Hood, Texas, did not formally seek to leave the military as a conscientious objector or for any other reason, an Army official said, despite claims by a relative that he had.
WASHINGTON — The Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people last week at Fort Hood, Texas, did not formally seek to leave the military as a conscientious objector or for any other reason, an Army official said, despite claims by a relative that he had.
It is unclear whether Maj. Nidal Hasan made informal efforts to leave through contacts with his immediate superiors, and if so how his chain of command at lower levels might have responded.
But any formal request to separate early would have been submitted to the Department of the Army, according to the official, who saw Hasan’s file before it was recently sealed by Army investigators. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
In 2007, addressing other physicians at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Hasan said that to avoid “adverse events” the military should allow Muslim soldiers to be released as conscientious objectors instead of fighting in wars against other Muslims. At the time of the shooting, Hasan was about to be deployed to Afghanistan, officials have said.
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Even if Hasan had sought to quit the Army over his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as his aunt has said he did, the Army almost certainly would have denied any such request, senior Army officials said. Hasan had a continuing obligation because the Army had provided him with medical training.
In a further indication Hasan was not actively seeking formal discharge, he underwent an Army promotion board in the spring of 2008 that called his performance as an officer patriotic and resulted in his elevation from the rank of captain to major in May 2009, according to the official.
The Army faces a severe shortage of officers who hold the rank of major, as Hasan does, and that shortage is particularly acute in some medical branches. The Army this year is short about 2,000 majors needed to fill slots created as the service has grown in recent years, according to Army data. In the field of medical doctors, the Army lacks about 15 percent of the majors it needs, the data show.
To address the shortfall, virtually all Army captains are being promoted to major. The Army’s promotion rate from captain to major has been well over 90 percent since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, leading some officers to describe the trend as “no major left behind.”
Hasan joined the Army in 1997, attended Army medical training and then worked at Walter Reed from 2003 until July, when he was transferred to Fort Hood. Hasan’s last official performance evaluation took place in June.
The Army has received about 50 conscientious-objector applications each year since 2001. A little more than half have been approved.