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Army psychiatrists ordered Hasan to attend lecture series on Islam

As investigations into the the Nov. 5 massacre at the Fort Hood, Tex. army base ensue, the military community deals with the realities of violence at home and abroad.

Even if Hasan had sought to quit the Army over his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 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 that Hasan was not actively seeking formal discharge, he was evaluated by an Army promotion board in the spring of 2008 that endorsed his performance as an officer as patriotic, and elevated him from the rank of captain to major, a promotion that took place 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 the "no major left behind" program.

Hasan joined the Army in 1997, attended Army medical training and then worked as a psychiatry intern and resident at Walter Reed from 2003 until July of this year, when he was transferred to the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood. Hasan's last official performance evaluation took place in June of this year, according to an Army summary of his career known as an "officer record brief."

Maj. Gen. Gina S. Farrisee, the Army's personnel chief, said in an interview Monday that because of the ongoing investigation, she and other Army officials cannot discuss Hasan's specific situation. However, Farrisee said it would take an extraordinary circumstance -- such as debilitating illness or the death of a spouse -- for an officer with Hasan's rank and medical training to be allowed to resign before completing his or her service obligation. It would be "very, very unusual," said Paul Aswell, an Army personnel official. "I can't think of any in recent years."

Even after officers complete their service obligations, it is extremely rare for them to be allowed to leave immediately prior to deployments, Farrisee said. In the past three years, "we've had about three officers who asked to depart because their service obligation was over and then they did not deploy with the unit," said Farrisee, speaking of cases that came to the Department of the Army for approval.

The Army has received about 50 conscientious objector applications each year since 2001 from soldiers seeking either not to bear arms or to leave the service entirely because of religious or deeply held moral or ethical beliefs. Of those applications, a little more than half have been approved.

In the past three years, the Army board that decides whether to approve or disapprove such applications has not received any from Army officers with a remaining service obligation, according to the Army official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report

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