Thu, May 22, 2003 - Page 4 News List

NCO cracks under stress of his duties

NERVOUS BREAKDOWN A non-commissioned officer asked permission to be relieved of his duty after he developed physical and psychological discomfort

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Due to work pressure caused by the fight against SARS, a non-commissioned officer (NCO) has suffered a suspected nervous breakdown and is now waiting for permission from the Ministry of National Defense to be relieved of his duties, military officials said yesterday.

The sergeant whose name was not disclosed, would become the first professional serviceman to quit his job because of SARS. He works at a military unit in Taipei responsible for the security of one of the camps.

The sergeant has been hospitalized for a month, first at a mental asylum and then at the Tri Service General Hospital, and was discharged only recently.

Shortly after his discharge, the sergeant developed another fit of physical or psychological discomfort and was rushed back to the Tri Service General Hospital for emergency treatment.

He was said to have attempted to commit suicide, but this was yesterday vehemently denied by the military.

The sergeant, now in a stable condition, has been determined by doctors to be unfit for military duty. He is awaiting orders from the ministry permitting his discharge.

A ministry official, who spoke in his private capacity, said they suspect the sergeant might have faked the physical or mental illness to avoid joining in the fight against SARS.

"Cases of faking illnesses are common in the military. We usually need some time to determine whether they are real. In the case of the sergeant, we think there is no need to keep him in the service if he is so determined to leave," the official said.

The official said it is a regret that a commanding NCO is unable to handle sustained work pressure, especially as the military is desperately in need of manpower to combat SARS.

The sergeant has to serve two more years to complete his three-and-a-half-years term.

He is one of the so-called "specialty NCOs," who joined the military after graduating from senior-high school.

Specialty NCOs have become the major source of NCOs as the number of career NCOs, who join the military after graduating from junior-high school and serve much longer than three-and-a-half-years, keep decreasing.

The increased ratio of specialty NCOs in the military temporarily solves the NCO-shortage problem, but this also creates new problems.

The new problems mainly have to do with the competency and emotional quotient of these specialty NCOs, military officials said.

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