Monday, May 08, 2006

Abuse is Old Hat at Fort Sill’s PTRP

by Patricia deVarennes

At Fort Sill, the attitude toward injured soldiers in training is that they are “pretending to be injured”. That’s the word from a soldier who recently graduated from Basic Training at Fort Sill and asked not to be identified.

In a system that was designed to remove soldiers from the rigors of the Basic Training environment, it depends entirely on the individual Drill Sergeants as to how the occupants are treated. Some of these injured soldiers have actually completed all their training. Others are at various stages in their training programs when they are injured. Fort Sill’s policy has been to take some Drill Sergeants who were at the end of their stint in Basic Training, and have them “cool down” in the PTRP. Unfortunately, their cooling down process often made the PTRP occupants the objects of their contempt.

Regulations outlining a maximum 6-month stay have been ignored. Several occupants were retained for over a year, and many more exceeded the six-month cap. That has placed injured soldiers in a situation where they may be subject to the whims of multiple Drill Sergeants and commanders over their stay, with little in the way of consistency or follow-up investigation into their situations.

In addition, there appears to be a tradition of abusive behavior in Fort Sill’s PTRP. It was hardly surprising, then, that my reporting the recent situation there was initially met with a complete lack of understanding of the reason why I called it abuse. This comment from Alex illustrates a history that goes back to 1990:
“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."

Additional documentation by those current or recent occupants of Fort Sill’s PTRP is available here (scroll down). One trainee dropped in who had escaped the confines of Fort Sill’s PTRP and FTU to corroborate the recent events documented in earlier posts:

Date: Mar 12, 2006 5:18 PM

I was in PTRP for 6 months and was treated badly as well as all the other privates...there were people in there with knee or arm problems and they told us we ALL had to stay up past lights out and scrape the mind you a lot of us could not get on our knees to scrape or use our arms to glad DS (expletive deleted) is gone. B-Btry needs to be shut down...

One aspect of the PTRP situation at Fort Sill that remains unresolved is the practice of moving the soldiers back and forth between the FTU (Fitness Training Unit) and the PTRP. Even through the current time, some soldiers, having run out of options to get proper medical care, will accept being moved into the FTU in the hopes of getting out one way or the other (either through passing their final PT (Physical Training) test or by attempting it enough times within a several week period that they could be “chaptered”. Some families who do try to intervene on behalf of their family members are met with an escalating process of being placated, then ignored. Unfortunately, some of our government representatives can’t even be bothered to “support the troops” here at home:

Such has been the case with Jacqi’s son, whose head injury, received during physical therapy for a knee injury, has potentially dangerous symptoms. Her comments on my blog over time illustrate this aspect of what happens when you try to get past the laissez faire attitude of the system and those outside it:

March 4, 2006
When I read these articles I really went nuts. Being from a military family, I expect my son to be "made a man", however there is a difference between character building and abuse. My son is in PTRP and he had suggested I look for a sight called suffering at Fort Sill as it described his very first day there. I couldn't find that however I did find this one. I immediately contacted the IP and he confirmed that (with a grain of salt) these stories are somewhat true with a little embellishment of course. However an investigation had been launched and that the sargents in question are no longer there. I spoke to my son last night and he confirmed that as well and said that things are starting to change and it is getting better. His first day was the kneecapping and he was also on the second wave of scraping the wax. His knee injury happened in November and at this time they still have 3 different diagnosis's and have yet to do anything. That as of yesterday is also changing. Master Sargent Dixon was very helpful and I now feel alot better about the situation knowing that he is a man of his word. Within one day he had accomplished what he had promised to me. Thank you for posting this site so that I was able to know what was going on as my son could not tell me anything and able to do something about it.”

April 21, 2006
“Well the inadequate health care still continues. My son during physical therapy had a 50 lbs weight dropped on his head ended up luckily with only 8 staples in his scalp. No further tests were done on this and since has been suffering with crippling headaches which drop him to his knees. They are refusing to do a cat scan as they want a Doctor to prescribe it and as they are putting him in a 3 week limit to pass his run he is now longer receiving physical therapy (though still needed) and doesn't have a "doctor" to authorize a CAT scan. My son has opted for the transfer for the PT test so as to finally be out of 95th one way or the other. Of course if he is discharged he will very likely have no medical back up for his injuries either. The depression has gotten out of hand as has the verbal and psychological abuse causing it . I have written to all the representatives, congress and the president and not one has responded either verbally or in writing. Obviously the Government has no desire to take care of thier own.

May 3
“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.”

It appears that no one in command is motivated to intervene for these young men, individually or collectively.

Pvt. Clayton Howell, a fearless advocate for his fellows in the PTRP, was another of the injured who was shuffled back and forth from the PTRP to the FTU (see his document here or here when you scroll down ). Uncomfortably for Fort Sill, he also went to the CMHS (Community Mental Health Service), who was administering the late Mathew Scarano’s medication well before Pvt. Scarano’s death, to register his concern over the drugged state Scarano was in each night. He reminded the CID (Criminal Investigation Division) of this upon their interview. For his efforts, Howell is currently awaiting a discharge for a psychological disorder. At least he will be out of the PTRP and FTU arenas…but at what personal cost?

For Fort Sill, problems of corruption and dishonesty within its command community are eye opening:

In January of 2005, a Drill Instructor and Staff Sergeant were convicted of selling PT insurance to trainees to guarantee their passing the final test. The Drill Instructor was also convicted of assault and conspiracy.

In April of 2006, thirteen soldiers, at least 8 of whom were from Fort Sill, including a Captain, and 6 sergeants, had either pleaded guilty or were convicted and awaiting sentencing from “Operation Tarnish Star”, a drug operation involving cocaine trafficking.

Recently, two regulations were changed. One involves the P2 or Permanent Medical Profile. An injured trainee, under certain circumstances, can apply for a permanent medical profile. These P2s, as they are called, are most commonly given to those trainees with extremity injuries. P2s who have not completed their training program are theoretically allowed to return to training, to try once again to complete their training regimen. If they have completed training, they are then allowed to retake their final PT test with an alternate event.

However, the command at Fort Sill has categorically informed those at the PTRP that they need not waste their time attempting to return to training. One young man who attempted to do so was immediately sent back to the PTRP, rejected for training. Because he was considered healed, the PTRP sent him upstairs to the FTU. What happens to these soldiers who are branded no longer injured, but not allowed to return to training? The unfortunate soldiers who already have their P2s are now stuck trying to figure out how to get rid of them. What seemed like a viable solution from TRADOC command to further the Army’s goal of retention had now turned into a limbo of another sort. Permanent medical profiles allowing an alternate event (a long standing practice with specific regulations and guidelines for those outside the training environment) are being rendered useless by the Fort Sill Training command’s commitment to a power struggle.

This power struggle that continues between the Training command and the Medical command once again has the lowest ranking soldiers as its victims. The only time in recent history that they have had a common interest was when Pvt. Mathew Scarano died unexpectedly.

The other regulation that has been changed looks promising on the surface. I received the following communication on April 17th from the TRADOC command Surgeon’s Office.

“I would like to officially let you know that we have changed the wording of TRADOC Regulation 350-6 as highlighted below. This change has been authorized by the Commanding General of Army Accessions Command, and notice has been sent to all Brigade Commanders, TRADOC wide.

I appreciate your efforts on behalf of the entire PTRP Community. Please be aware that your efforts have had a positive impact on how the PTRP system is run across the entire army, and not just a Fort Sill. The intent of PTRP was to help injured warriors recover by moving them to a safe place to heal, and not to risk further worsening injuries by continuing to overuse joints or limbs that needed a safe place to heal. It is a good program, with a noble intent, and we are now much further down the road to repairing the problem you noted.”

7) Within 90 days of assignment to PTRP, Commanders will obtain a written statement of clinical prognosis from the supporting medical community (i.e. Physical Therapist, Orthopedic Surgery Staff) concerning assigned Soldier's progress and likelihood of full recovery by 4 months of PTRP assignment. This recommendation should contain a clinical assessment of whether the Soldier is expected to recover sufficiently to withstand the rigors of Army training, and complete all of the physical requirements of BCT/OSUT by 4 months of PTRP assignment. See paragraph H-3b for details.

c. Ninety-day clinical assessment. PTRP Commanders will request recommendations from their Soldiers' physicians, 90 days following assignment to the PTRP, concerning a Soldier's progress and likelihood of full recovery by 4 months of PTRP assignment.

(1) This recommendation should contain a clinical assessment of whether the Soldier is expected to recover enough to withstand the rigors of Army training, and complete all of the physical requirements of BCT/OSUT by 4 months of PTRP assignment.

(2) If there is a low likelihood of recovery from the injury, then the physician, after discussion of the Soldier with the PTRP/RECBN Commander, should initiate a MEB.

(3) If there is a reasonable likelihood that the Soldier will indeed recover, then the Soldier should continue to be supported through rehabilitation, with the long-term expectation that he or she will return to training. After 90 days of assignment, a new assessment of the Soldier's progress and likelihood for recovery should be made and documented every 30 days thereafter (assuming that an MEB was not initiated at the 90-day mark).

If this new regulation is followed, it will mean that many of the situations of the past year at Fort Sill will be avoidable in the future.

As always, some individuals rose above the politics of the situation to deal with the problems at hand. Members of TRADOC’s Surgeon’s Office have been by far the most concerned about the well being of injured soldiers in training.

Fort Sill’s PTRP situation should be relatively easy to improve. Yet, the response by Fort Sill’s command has been inadequate at best, and criminal at worst. All these young men in the PTRP volunteered to serve their country in a time of war. They deserve our respect, not our derision. The late Mathew Scarano described himself and his fellows in the PTRP as “casualties of a broken system.”

As long as the Fort Sill PTRP system depends entirely on the kindness and professionalism of individuals, it remains a situation always ripe for cruelty, and the history of abuse at Fort Sill will have more chapters.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Abuse happens at Ft. Leonard Wood. I was in a similar program and if interested please e-mail me at

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mothers of America,

I promise that your boys will get three squares a day, a rack to sleep in, and the tough and sometimes brutal training necessary to defeat the enemies of our great nation on the battle field. The business we're in isn't a kind one. Our business is blood and broken bones. Tell your boys to think before they sign the dotted line. If they can't hack it, tell them to work somewhere else.

-An annonymous
U.S. Infantry Sergeant

12:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

US Army SGT-

Really are you kidding me?! You sound like some one who wouldn't be able to survive without the military. You sound like you condone this type of shit.

I suppose getting 3 meals a day is good treatment to you huh? Whatever happened to treating HUMANS like people? Did anyone ever say anything about treating this kids like people would somehow make them soft?

However, I do agree with you about one thing... These kids shouldn't be risking their lives for such a corrupt institution. They should think long and hard before they sign regardless of what type of incentives they are offered. They should talk to vets and current active duty to see what they are really getting into and not believe the lies their recruiters tell them.

I stand by what I have to say and I will tell anyone who will listen to stay the hell away from ALL branches of service. They are all the same regardless of how they reinvent themselves. This is the dark side no one has the guts to talk about. Don't make uninformed decisions and don't believe the recruiters. They are sent to recruiting duty because they have been trained to lie and they do at any and all cost... just as long as they can get you to sign on the line...

Don't do it. It is NOT worth it.

2:45 PM  

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