General’s suicide before taking SMDC post a result of “self-doubt, sleep deprivation”

Redstone Arsenal
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The suicide of Maj. Gen. John Rossi, two days before he was scheduled to take the reins of a post in Huntsville, has prompted an Army-wide review of mental health issues in the general officer corps.

This, according to the police and military investigation reports about Rossi’s death.  Rossi hanged himself last summer at his home on Redstone Arsenal.

Rossi had just moved on base from Fort Sill, Oklahoma and was scheduled to be promoted to lieutenant general and assume command of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command on Redstone Arsenal.

According to the Army Times report, investigators ruled Rossi’s suicide was due to career and medical stress that impaired his judgment.

“They ultimately overwhelmed his psychological defenses and ability to cope with these negative emotions, resulting in his decision to commit suicide during the last period of time in which he was likely to be alone before assuming command of the SMDC,” according to the report.

The report said Rossi was overwhelmed by his new position and “had an irrational belief that he was intellectually incapable of mastering the technical aspects of the SMDC, particularly those related to space defense,” according to the investigation.

Rossi’s wife said he expressed this self-doubt to her once they moved to Huntsville.  He said he was terrified he would fail at the job and fail the Army and his family, the report indicated. The investigation revealed Rossi slept five hours a night and had kept this routine going for about two years.

The Army has implemented a sweeping review of mental health higher in the ranks.

“Following Maj. Gen. John Rossi’s death, the Army created a Task Force led by a 3-star to study the effect of stress on senior leaders, as we have done for the rest of the force,” said an Army spokesman.  “We will continue to work with and teach our leaders to create an environment where it’s okay to ask for help no matter your position or rank, and reinforce in all Soldiers and leaders that it is their duty to lend a helping hand. Maj. Gen. Rossi’s death was a tremendous loss for the Rossi family and, indeed, our entire Army family.”

Army Secretary Eric Fanning said Rossi was not suspected of any misconduct, but the review will look at several high-profile misconduct cases within the Army’s top ranks in recent years. Thirty involve general wrongdoing and seven involve sexual misconduct, inappropriate relationships or sexual harassment.

Read the reports in their entirety:
United States Army AR 15-6 Investigation, Major General (Promotable)  (MG(P)) John G. Rossi
Law Enforcement Report, United States Army Criminal Investigation Command, Suicide of Major General John G. Rossi