Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Fort Sill’s Adjutant General Supports Abusive Tactics at PTRP

(Let's Move Furniture!)

by Patricia deVarennes

The recap: On January 31, 2006, I began to publicly document abusive tactics employed by Fort Sill’s PTRP.(Physical Training & Rehabilitation unit). This unit is supposed to be a place of healing and physical rehabilitation for soldiers injured during training (also known as IET, Initial Entry Training). The PTRP is only available to those injured soldiers who are sufficiently impaired for the Training Command to remove them from their Basic Training or AIT (Advanced Individual Training) environment – or – in the case of some – graduates of OSUT (One Station Unit Training), a combination of Basic Training & AIT under the umbrella of IET (Initial Entry Training). Common injuries include (but not limited to) dislocated and separated shoulders, torn ligaments, broken bones, miniscal and ACL knee injuries, stress fractures (usually of the extremities), groin hernias, and other physically traumatic injuries.

PTRP stays are to be 4-6 months according to regulations. Yet at Fort Sill, some soldiers are warehoused there for a year or more (add link here). In some instances, soldiers have been moved to the FTU (Fitness Training Unit) upstairs in the same building for a week or so, then restarted in PTRP as if they hadn’t spent months there already, and the 4-6 month term begins anew.

(Note: See here a snapshot of the Army's PTRP regulations and other primary source documents in reference to this shameful situation)

All PTRP soldiers, regardless of status (graduated or in training) or length of time in the Army, are considered IETs (Initial Entry Trainees). That means they live under most of the same restrictions as a recruit fresh off the bus, and even more restrictions than soldiers in AIT(Advanced Individual Training). They have been informed that they are subject to arrest if they leave an area outside of a short block of buildings that house Reception, PCU (Physical Conditioning Unit for recruits who can’t pass the physical test to enter Basic Training) & FTU (Fitness Training Unit). Even within that area, they are not allowed to walk alone. Their uniforms differ significantly from those who are considered “permanent party” (6 months or more in the Army, unless you’re in the PTRP or FTU)regardless of their length of service. On weekends, they can only get a limited time on-post pass. Even in AIT (Advanced Individual Training), the soldiers are given off-post passes as rewards.(see below)

My son and approximately 40 other soldiers at various points in their training or post-graduation, were confined to the PTRP, ostensibly to heal and either return to training or take/re-take their PT (Physical training) test and move on to their first duty stations. Medical treatment was at least lacking, and sometimes highly questionable. I requested an inquiry from my congressman’s office (Connie Mack). While I was initially told that my son would have to fill out a form, his office has since been of assistance.

While the very nature of the PTRP could be interpreted as punitive, beginning in January of 2006, a drill sergeant was put in place whose tactics were openly abusive. The environment was dangerous and low morale essentially disintegrated to no morale amidst the abuse.
(Select the following blogposts from the Archives on the right sidebar for background:
Abuse is Rampant at Fort Sill, Oklahoma
The Abuse at Fort Sill Oklahoma Escalates
Coverup of Abuse Begins at Fort Sill, Oklahoma
Another Method to Silence Abused Injured Soldiers
Cadre at Fort Sill Thinks Abuse is Funny
Abusive Drill Sergeant Removed at Fort Sill)


Thanks to the courage of the members of the PTRP at that time, the Inspector General’s office at Fort Sill was able to document enough information for an investigation. The abusive drill sergeant was removed, and it was hoped by the PTRP-ers that they could begin to put those incidents behind them and move on. (See Abusive Drill Sergeant Removed) Unfortunately, that was not to be. On March 19, 2006 PFC Mathew Scarano died in the PTRP. (See Injured Soldier PFC Mathew Scarano Dies in Fort Sill’s PTRP or his own letter and document here and be prepared to scroll down to find it).

Now:
While some who should have been dispersed from the PTRP some time ago now have been discharged or moved on, others have not. Some have become targets for a low level but persistent harrying campaign. One incident was initiated by a civilian employee who made baseless accusations of theft in an easy access facility that at the time wasn’t even secured by working locks! Very sad.

Don’t get me wrong. No one expected that after PFC Mathew Scarano’s death, everyone was going to circle around, join hands and sing Kumbaya. Yet the PTRP inmates who remain from January were witnesses to and/or recipients of abuse, indifference, alleged medical incompetence or neglect; numerous lies, and the death of their friend and peer just two weeks ago. They are worn down, exhausted, and frustrated. They have had their complaints and suffering ridiculed by the chain of command, and once again, essentially been told that they didn’t see what they saw, or experience what they have lived.

And now, I have received a letter full of falsehoods, easily disproven, forwarded from Connie Mack’s office, who received it from the Adjutant General’s office at Fort Sill. It boggles my mind with the quantity of lies that compose it.






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FALSE. My son did not injure himself while climbing off a vehicle. In fact, he is completely mystified as to why this story has been fabricated. The Red-Leg Challenge was a live-fire field exercise. My son was injured back in August of 2005. In fact, I was so concerned that I wrote to the Training Liaison’s office on August 21st!. (see my email here & be prepared to scroll down)

After that, he received a total of ten temporary medical profiles! (of which there are nine still in existence in hard copy) for his injury (stress fractures in his ankles) before graduation day on November 18th. An interesting note is that -- mysteriously -- his hard copy medical records are missing! He was recently supposed to be evaluated for a permanent medical profile (to facilitate his qualifying for an alternate physical test event) based on the recommendation of the Army orthopaedist, but oops, you can’t do that without your hard copy medical records.

I wonder why they are missing? I’m told that everything is on the computer now…but no one is interested in pressing the Print button. It would be interesting to review the computer record and compare them to the orginials…wouldn’t it? (Pssst, those medical records were last seen in the area of the Colonel’s office over in the Basic Training Area. How about someone taking a look there?)

In addition, my son and two others completed their Basic Training, and their AIT (Advanced Indvidual Training) and were ordered last November to take an alternate event for the running portion of the APFT (final physical test). All three passed the alternate event, and graduated! They were literally pulled out of line to sign out, go home on leave, and then report to their first duty stations.

Because the PTRP is only for trainees, and the three amigos had graduated, they had to be “ungraduated.” Why? Because there’s a power struggle going on between the Training side of the command and the Medical side of the Command. They were simply caught in the middle, as have been many others...

The next selection from the Adjutant General’s letter:
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BIG PROBLEM: The PTRP units are supposed to be different from the other IET (Initial Entry Training) sites throughout the Army according to their own regulations! You don’t have to take my word for it, glance here . In other words, these injured young men are supposed to be healing. Look at the absurdity of the above letter's statement. An entire platoon of injured soldiers is instructed to scrape and wax the floors (twice). In order to wax the floor each time, all of the furniture (including wall lockers and bunks -- see photo above) had to be moved out of the building and back in again. The tool for scraping was a glorified razor blade with a handle. Now, what kind of injury would this activity NOT hurt? As previously documented (See Abuse is Rampant,) the entire platoon was told to accomplish the task in a given timeframe or else punishment would be given to the group as a whole. These are injured soldiers. The lie is given to the final statement about limits by the entire preceding paragraph. If you can’t even figure out that the above activity is bad for those convalescing from injuries, how can you determine abuse?

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The guidelines do not say that it’s okay to house soldiers in an area where raw sewage regularly backs up. They did, and it did. This has since been addressed. Square footage is no doubt within the guidelines. However, soldiers at different levels of training are not supposed to be housed with new recruits who have never been to training at all. Mentally ill soldiers are not supposed to be housed with soldiers whose injuries are physical. They did both, they know it, and enough said.

Moving on to another paragraph of the Adjutant General’s letter:

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FALSE. This program was not presented to anyone in the PTRP as voluntary. The PTRP occupants were ordered to report to their various places of employment. The irony is that they learned to love their jobs, even those that had physically overtaxing jobs, because they were treated like regular soldiers, instead of pariahs. Since it has been discovered that the few remaining veteran PTRP-ers like their jobs after all, and take pride in their work, they are now being removed from them for any flimsy pretext the chain of command can manage. Isn’t that just all of a piece with the campaign so far?

Next worthy paragraph:

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Well, this isn’t very recent at all. It happened during the “bad times” I’ve previously blogged about since January. And it's interesting, because this was never a complaint from anyone as far as disciplinary action …but it probably does work for their attempt to discredit my other complaints. Of note is that the monetary punishment for having a pack of cigarettes and a lighter is the same as someone else having a positive urine test for cocaine. Also of note is that consuming a soft drink can also get you an Article 15. I agree that discipline must be maintained. Yet, I find it passing strange that in AIT (Advanced Individual Training), which some of the injured PTRP-ers have completed, both alcohol and tobacco use are rewards for those of legal age! I guess it all depends on which side of the tracks you live at Fort Sill. See below (excerpt from TR 350-6):

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Moving on...

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At the March Family Day, we were given impressive presentations about our family members’ medical care. This was a week before PFC Mathew Scarano’s untimely death. Needless to say, the reality is significantly different from the presentations. Instead of a wakeup call, recent events have seen butts being covered at a rate that belies the near legendary snail’s pace of the Army bureaucracy.

On a more personal level, the medical community, in the person of the Orthopaedist, has determined that a permanent medical profile is in order due to the likelihood of reinjury (my son has healing stress fractures in his left ankle), and an alternate walking event is necessary for my son to once again pass the final PT test (did you ever see the movie, "Groundhog Day" -- he's been there done that and passed the test once already) and continue on to his first duty station. However, his permanent medical profile status is being circumvented due to his missing medical records. Hello???? Is anyone home? (Note the regulations here that require medical records to accompany a soldier into the PTRP). This resource page also has an interesting excerpt from a TRADOC command meeting in 2005 in which the attending powers that be decided that all PTRPs should have Physical Therapists as commanders.

And so it goes...

Hang in there, Private Gopher. Hang in there, Private Sincere. Hang in there, Private Howell, and all the rest of you at Fort Sill's PTRP.

Good luck, Private Meadows. So glad you made it out, Private Candlestick Maker! Thanks for all your help.

God rest your soul, Mathew Scarano. I will never forget you.

In closing, my 83 year-old mother had this to say: “I know there’s a war going on, but it’s not supposed to be in OKLAHOMA!” I couldn't have said it better myself.

(see the entire Fort Sill Adjutant General's letter and other primary documentation sources here)

11 Comments:

Anonymous Lisa said...

I just want to say that what this blog is about is something that is and has been a problem in the Army for a long time - and not just for PTRP's. I cannot believe that I came across this site - 10 years after my experience. I thought that what I went through when I was made a "holdover" in AIT and forced to continue living in one of the most basic training-like environments in the Army was unique. This blog is not only helping those in the situation now, but is a comfort to one who has felt this way in private for years since her release.

I was a holdover pending a security clearance at Ft Bliss Tx for almost a year and a half. I thought I was weak for feeling exactly how these soldiers in this blog describe. I often got suicidal. I actually intervened in one soldier's attempted suicide (which was covered up by the Drill Sergeant) and there were many other suicide attempts as well. I think the "cognitive dissonance" description was spot on. Joining the military more than most professions makes one think they will "serve". That they will have a purpose. One larger even than themselves. They are willing to be selfless. But then they are ordered day in and day out to pick weeds, pick up trash on the sides of highways, clean incessantly, etc. And treated like they did something wrong when they didn't.

Anyway - everything you descibe in here was happening to AIT holdovers (which included medical holds) back in '95-'96 too. Keep up the fight!

1:47 AM  
Anonymous Alex Constantopoulos II said...

Ms. DeVarennes,

I found out about your blog on another website, checked it out and was sickened by the information, as well as the groundswell of emotions that came over me.

I was a member of Delta Battery, 2/80 in the summer of 1990, where I came down with viral brochitis. After 3 days in the hospital, I was sent to the PTRP at the 95th AG. It horrifies me to find out that 16 YEARS LATER the same damned things are still happening. If there is anything with which you need help concerning this matter (I currently live in the Washington, DC, Metro area), please feel free to contact me at aconsta383@yahoo.com. KEEP UP THE GOOD FIGHT!!!

9:21 AM  
Blogger Pat deV said...

Thank you, Lisa and Alex, for your responses. I am sorry that each of you suffered what you did...and I honor your courage in posting.

If it was up to me, everyone who had similarly suffered would bring it to the light of day (whether here or elsewhere) because it's only when these ugly secrets come into full view that things can change. As long as this stuff stays hidden, we will be reading about similar incidents (which I've come to understand are not as isolated as I first thought)in another 10-15-20 years.

Many people don't want to know this stuff...they don't want to think that it could be their family members or friends or neighbors. But it IS...and somehow people need to come to understand this.

Thanks again.

7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Pat:

Previously Jacqi and 4/21 anonymous.
My son was also just charged with an article 15 for having his cell phone which supposed after March 1st they could have. As he graduated Basic and AIT all except his run due to his knee injury he was supposed to have the same privilges which of course he is not. He stated that he will accept punishment for the cell phone as he did have it but he is now in a battle about the rights that they are entitled to. Of course as he has spoken to the IP for the previous investigations and has stated flat out to them that he will fight the abuses they do not look kindly at him. He is still being denied the CAT scan as they "feel there is probably nothing wrong" although they still cannot explain the excruciating headaches just gave him aspirin. I have written and paid for delivery of letters directly to the President, and every member of Congress as well as the first lady. The last batch of letters were done on the 24th of April and still not even an acknowledgement. They have however deleted my letters (for the second time)from the "letters to leaders section. The Government is a joke and there is no one in power that is willing to step in and help. I cant even get the press interested enough to look into it.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Pat deV said...

Jacqi, please write to me at ptrosss@gmail.com. I have already posted your son's situation on my most recent entry and will add this to it tonight.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous thisoneguy said...

i was held over at B battery this past summer. after completing AIT i was sent to FTU as i could not pass the apft due to an INJURY. the injury was addressed but nothing was done about it. finally after 2 months the doctors decided to get me a bone scan. But after the scan my discharge papers were rushed and i was gone in less than a week. due to them rushing the paperwork it was not right and i received an entry level seperation despite my 1.5 years in service and now i do not have my college, medical, or any other veteran benefits aaronsippel@hotmail.com

8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I left the ftu/ptrp last june 2007, and things have not changed at all. I spent countless nights writing home to find that my mail was not sent out, and the mail that my family sent was never given to me. I was in the ftu for a little over 4 months, and not one time did my pt test ever improve. I was told at the end of my ftu visit by a drill instructor that i would never pass a pt test. I like many of these young men just wantend to serve my country. Then I was forced into this hellish place and i sat. A year later I still don't sleep well. I long to be with some of my best friends that are in the real army... My discharge was convenently one week before my six months. how nice of them to keep me there, waisting taxpayers money and my time, knowing that they were going to give me the boot anyway. My mother told me about this site when I was going through all of the same shit that these young men went through. As of june 2007 there is no change at all. It breaks my heart to see that no one has done anything to help these guys out. the drill sergents, are now different, still act the same. We had one drill sergent that would make us yell the soldgers creed for hours, only to break for chow. this went on for weeks. The only time they let us outside was for pt and chow. the rest of the time was spent sitting on the floor, or some mindless task that "needed" to be done. I would have rather gone through basic training again than to sit there. At least the prisoners that we ate chow with were rationd smokes. I know that this is just thrown together, but i just wanted to let you all know that this stuff is still going on in the exact same unit a year later. Thank you for your efforts!

Pvt C.M.

10:26 PM  
OpenID germanfreak1943 said...

I was at fort sill back in june of '07. The volunteery work was forced there was no such thing as volunteery. It was either you do it or you got an article 15 for disobeying a direct odor. Drill Sergent Hoops and Frist Sergent Birney of 95 ag alpha battery was known for that. I remember I had direct orders not to do any lifting, or no more than needed walking. They had me lifting 20 pound bags of ice and walk it 200 feet 16 times even after i let them know of my statis. They don't care about anyone down there. I can't say that about all though. There were a few that actually seemed like they cared and the wait between appointments for get it you would rot first.

1:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading this disgusts me. It too brings backs haunting memories for me. I arrived at Ft. Hell(Sill) as I called it in the 95th AG Reception Battalion in spring of 2008. As any new recruit fresh off the red carpet lines bus from Oklahoma City, I was nervous yet excited to be there, at what opportunities awaited me, or so I thought. Anyway, my second day there, while recieving my uniforms, I had, as what my fellow recruits would later tell me was, a seizure. Well, needless to say, I was taken to the hospital down the road, evaluated, for maybe an hour and released back to regular duty. What a joke! Over the next couple of months I was bounced around the 95th from battery to battery, denied the proper medical treatment. As time progressed I, like many other recruits that were stuck in the medical holdover unit, began to grow both volatile and depressed. I began hurting myself with whatever was available to me to try and forget the mental anguish I was going through with having a depressed and overwhelmed wife at home as well as a dying mother. Well, needless to say after about a month I broke and threatned another soldier directly in front of the first sgt. Birney( by the way he is a whole other story). I was sent to CMHS(Community Mental Health Services) to be evaluated and told once again I was fine. Big suprise huh? What Qwacks! I asked them to help get me home for a week at my expense so that I could bury my mother and console my wife. The so called psychologist on staff there looked at me and snickered, then he said that I was just trying to get out of the army. He then told me to have a seat in the lobby and that he would call and have my unit pick me up. I was furious. I wanted to kick his ass right there. Needless to say, I got so sick of the bullshit that I crept out of my barracks early before formation, stripped off my ACUs and put on my civilians, ran to the hospital called a cab and was on my way to the Lawton,OK greyhound bus station. The feeling of liberation was indescribable as I boarded that bus. I remember being on the bus, on the highway, and looking over while I was passing the keygate to my left. I proudly raised my hand to the bus window and gave Fort Sill the single finger salute. Well, as soon as I got home went to see a pschiatrist/psychologist (who just so happens to be on the American Board of Psychology and Neurology) and was immediately diagnosed with schizo effective disorder. I guess that's what happens when you get your education from a university and not a cracker jack box. Anyway, since then I have turned myself into Fort Knox at there Pcf and been discharged with an OTH. I will take it. As a matter of fact I just recieved my DD214 in the mail and when I recieved it I threw a party. To my brothers and sisters suffering there at Ft. Sill, I am not telling you to go AWOL. Just do what you have to do to make your voice heard amongst the abuse, neglect, and corruption so rampant at Ft. Sill

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not know when this was written cause I cannot find a date, today is 26 of January 2010 and I graduated from fort sill after 3 weeks of ftu on october 14, some people are being treated badly but you never took pictures of the bay, when you look at the pool table, big screen tv with xbox360 and ps3 with full use of 3 or more hours a day... Your not so sad. I'm jelouse, my 11th week for 68w training (combat medic) is far worse than my time at basic training at fort sill being mocked as a pink flamingo, pathetic pt failure, shitbag and all most said by my drill sergeants. Even physical abuse to the point of a drill sergeant sent home multiple times for beating privates and throwing knives into lockers pulled a knife on people from our company. He went as far as kicking someone during a road march into the ditches sending him to medical holdover which he is here now recovering because he sucked up dual foot fractures. I wish I could go back... I truly wish I had never come to fort Sam Houston where we don't fear sergeants as much as people in our bay pulling a knife on someone.

6:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I WAS IN FT SILL FROM JAN 06 TILL MARCH WHEN I WENT AWOL. THAT PLACE IS A CIRCUS. I'M GLAD THAT I HAVE HAD NOTHING MORE TO DO WITH THE MILITARY. YOU ARE NOT A PERSON WHEN YOU ARE THERE. YOU ARE PROPERTY. NO ONE HAS COME LOOKING FOR ME. THAT'S ONE THING THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW. LEAVE OUT OF BASIC......AND YOUR FREE.

10:28 PM  

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