Monday, May 22, 2006

Fort Sill's PTRP -- the Aftermath



As expected, I have begun to receive comments and emails that essentially dismiss the importance of the situation at Fort Sill, because the autopsy report shows that PFC Mathew Scarano died by oral ingestion of fentanyl in an amount 3 times that of the lethal dose. By inference, some of those comments suggest that this negates everything that has happened at Fort Sill's PTRP. I started to reply in-depth to one of the more conscientious anonymous commenters, and then realized that it really was time to write another post here. My apologies to Mathew Scarano's family while I talk about him as if he were just a generic and faceless trainee (as if there were such a thing):

Here is the 2nd comment from Concerned (located in Lawton, Oklahoma) and my response in italics:
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From: Concerned Mailed-By: blogger.com
To: ptrosss@gmail.com
Date: May 22, 2006 3:12 AM
Subject: [We Are All Volunteers in This Army] 5/22/2006 12:12:24 AM

Ms. DeV - I hold people accountable for their own behavior. There are hundreds of thousands of people in the USA who are prescribed narcotic medications for one reason or another. All are accountable for how they use it - they all don't need human monitors; just mature behavior on proper use of prescription medication. The majority have no problems.

How I see it, is that PFC Scarano's fellow trainees betrayed him by not telling the ones in charge about their knowledge about his behavior, because they were afraid of punishment for PFC Scarano, as you suggested. Punishment rather than death would have been more preferable. Wouldn't you agree? Doctors aren't in the unit to manage day-by-day matters, the cadre are. Shame on drill sergeants too who didn't ask questions about overmedicated behavior.

I beg to disagree -- we do know what killed PFC Scarano and that is by having three times the fatal limit of the pain medication in his body. The only way for that to happen is if he orally ingested his medication, just like others described. Look it up in a pharmacology textbook or talk to a pharamacist. His behavior. His choice. He was the one most responsible for his own death. Did other factors play a role; yes, how could they not.

I hear there have been a multitude of changes in the Ft. Sill PTRP program since you and others have brought to light particular abusive situations that existed. Kudos on your efforts.

The reason for my vocality is the seemingly grouping everything into one pot, when evidence suggests otherwise -- particuarly when it involves drug addictions. I have lived with family members who have had drug addictions and have even died from them. PFC Scarano's legacy at Ft. Sill should be to emphasis the need for increased knowledge about drug addiction and how fellow soldiers have an duty to them and commands in helping to identify and seek treatment for soldiers who need it. Something to think about from an anonymous okie.
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<>Dear Anonymous Concerned Okie:

I, too, hold people accountable for their own behavior. Yet when that behavior occurs inside an institutionalized setting, it creates dynamics that can't be ignored. I don't have an agenda, except to bring as much info about the PTRP situations to light as possible.

What I believe that you aren't seeing is that it was common knowledge that PFC Scarano was overmedicated. That is, the Drill Sergeants saw him every day, and multiple members of the chain of command, in addition to his his peers. Of the two sets of observers, the PTRP-er who had been there longest (more than a year), and the eldest in age, (Pvt Howell) reported to CMHS (Community Mental Health Service) that Pvt Scarano was overmedicated, and not using his medication properly. This was reported by Pvt Howell to his own doctor, who was also PFC Mathew Scarano's doctor! Howell then reported that action back to his fellow trainees. That was the time for intervention by the authorities at Fort Sill, was it not? I don't understand why you aren't acknowledging that in fact, his situation had been reported. Perhaps you aren't aware that the CMHS is the authority at Fort Sill that prescribes and monitors many of the narcotic medications.

I am not doubting that Mathew Scarano ingested fentanyl. I have read about fentanyl until my eyes are crossed. I believe there is more to the story. When a key piece of evidence is missing, it is suspicious, no matter how you frame it. That piece of evidence is the medication log for Saturday. Mathew Scarano was typcally issued his patches, by his request (around the time of his death), after final formation at 6PM. In earlier months, he was given his medication earlier. Yet his mother spoke with him in the late afternoon of the night of his death (Saturday) and his speech was already slurred, which was unusual. Why was his speech already slurred? Apparently, there's no physical evidence in the autopsy report that Mathew Scarano ingested his patch. Even assuming that he was able to remove it from his mouth, after ingesting 3 times the amount required to cause death, how would he have disposed of it? Did a comatose Mathew Scarano get up out of bed and throw it away somewhere that the CID couldn't have found it first thing in the morning when the area was closed off for investigation? If they did find something, would it not have been included in the report? That would have been the easiest and simplest way to place the "blame" back on the deceased young man, would it not?

But this is all in the way of splitting hairs (albeit important) after the fact. Mathew Scarano was in the PTRP far longer than even the regulations at the time permitted him to be there. So were many others. The new regulations are an improvement if they are followed, but if the previous 6-month regulation had been adhered to, Mathew Scarano would have been at home months ago.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Mathew Scarano had become a prescription drug addict over his 13 months (minus one week return to training) in the PTRP at Fort Sill, consider this... He was 19 years old when he went in, and turned 20 and 21 in the PTRP. How many tools does someone that age have to deal with a growing addiction and no support? When your only in-person contact with your family is 2 weeks at Christmas, and a weekend once a month (and that only started THIS YEAR in February), what happens to you? When your entire world revolves around multiple Drill Sergeant's whims for 13 months, what happens to you? I'm not just speaking to PFC Mathew Scarano's state of mind, but of the entire PTRP, many of whom have had stays of longer than 6 months.

These 36-40 young men were confined to a small, designated area that included only their bay (quarters), dining hall, and a small workout area. The trainees were not allowed off-post passes, and for part of the time, they weren't allowed away from that designated area at all, even on-post. To stray outside the area of confinement meant that you were subject to arrest. Even within that area, you were subject to administrative action (like Article 15s) for walking alone. You could not go from one building to the next in your proscribed area without a companion. If you drank a Coke from a vending machine, you were punished. If you possessed a cellphone and got caught, you were punished. When you went to your doctor's appointments at the Medical Center on post, there was a Drill Sergeant telling to stop talking, to sit up, to wake up, etc. If you were working at your assigned job, you were subject to harassment by civilian employees. The boot camp scenario, that in the "real" Army world only lasts for 9 weeks, was perpetuated for more than a year for some trainees. Mathew Scarano was one of those trainees.

Add abuse on to this minimum security prison-like environment, and what happens? Fort Sill has carefully worded their statement to point out that verbal abuse in the form of cursing was going on... but cursing is the least of the verbal abuse that they endured. These young men were told day in and day out that they were worthless. They were told that they were lazy, were malingerers, and lying about being injured, even though they can't get into the PTRP without a valid medical diagnosis and test results (x-rays, mri, bonescan, etc.). Day in and day out they were told that they did everything wrong, even to having to re-scrape and re-wax a floor because it wasn't good enough. When they tried to go through their chain of command, they were ignored and threatened and laughed at. Once the information was public, they were threatened and verbally abused and laughed at again.

Even after PFC Mathew Scarano's death, when the CSM (Command Sgt Major) for Fort Sill's Training (in April) went on a tour through the PTRP, he wasn't familiar with their circumstances. Obviously, the chain of command didn't advise him. The CSM remarked, upon seeing a television, that the PTRP-ers shouldn't watch so much TV. He noticed that a pool table was pushed against the wall. He said that playing pool burned more calories than watching TV and suggested their TV time be curtailed and that they should play more pool. The Battery Commander didn't bother to tell the CSM that the pool cues and balls had been confiscated back in DS Langford's era because it was a "waste of time", and those items never returned. Nor did he bother to inform the CSM that TV time was confined to 2 hours in the evenings, and that with rare exceptions, the only programming allowed was military related documentaries or the news. The CSM also wasn't informed that the able PTRP-ers already did PT (Physical Training) twice a day, and weren't apt to be in danger of getting fat. No one has ever addressed the abuse situation directly with the trainees, to this day. They have to read it in the paper -- that is -- when they can get it.

Mathew Scarano exhibited all the symptoms of being overmedicated. His fellow trainees often assisted him to formation, and even insured that he was in the correct sleeping positions. At least one trainee reported suspected drug abuse to his doctor at CMHS. Their actions went above and beyond simply coexisting with him. As I reported in earlier posts, there were a significant number of trainees exhibiting a variety of mental health problems and symptoms of overmedication. I can't stress enough that a toxic environment was and is the problem at Fort Sill.

The climate of fear of reprisal that existed, that caused the trainees not to trust their chain of command, continues to exist at Fort Sill's PTRP even today. Until that is remedied, it doesn't take a crystal ball to predict there will be more incidents of various types. As late as April 18th, a young African-American trainee was refused his medications by a Drill Sergeant because he was late to the allocation. In the wee hours of the morning, that trainee had to be rushed to the Emergency Room. April 18th. Just a month ago. And this supposedly after the "climate" for abuse that is acknowledged by Fort Sill has supposedly changed. Why isn't that on the front page of a newspaper? Why, because most of the occupants of the PTRP and their families are still afraid to speak out.

20 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no way that they could have determined that it was orally ingested, unless they found the patch in his mouth.

It sounds like they are taking the results and creating a story to fit.

6:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband is currently waiting for discharge due to medical unfitness. (Involuntary I might add.)

So far he has only been evaluated for his problem. Treatment consists of "Here are some drugs. Now shut up."

He is getting more and more aggravated because his condition is getting worse due to LACK of TREATMENT. His philosophy is, if they don't want him, fine, but be done with it in a timely manner.

That isn't happening. Unfortunately.

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pat:

Just a note to let you know, After writing to the president, congress and all the representatives over and over since the bigginning of March, I just got my first response on Friday, July 21st. Rep Michaud's office called me. I explained to him that typical of politicians he was way to little and even more Late.

Jacqi

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

pat, thanks for the update. please let us know if there is anything we can do, anyone to call.i called sen. domenici- no response.how is your son? susie

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone ever thought of giving this information to the O'Reilly Factor? He might be interested.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Damien McMahan said...

I want to thank you again for everything you did for us Pat. Also I belive since I am now out of the Army I can tell my story of PTRP which may be posted soon. As for the Aftermath, I really only have two things to say. The first is about Scarano. I knew when the autopsy report came out there would be comments posted and mailed. It is amazing to me how somebody can make a death trivial because of the circumstances. Nevermind how long he had been there, the family who saw him 2 weeks out of the 52+ weeks he had been there, nevermind his love for the military and his desire to serve his country WHICH NEVER CEASED. Never mind the people who came to be like brothers to him, because some completely uninvolved person with a narrow outlook on life decides that his death is his own fault. Has this person who never met MATHEW STERLING SCARANO (who was still willing to sacrifice his life for their freedom) ever suffered from a dibilitating pain so bad that they had to be put on a sleep medication, a OTC anti-inflammatory, and two narcotic pain medications just to survive everyday life. And as if that wasn't bad enough, make sure that the people who lived in the place with hime for 6 months plus, those who looked at Scary like a brother, are also to blame because we failed him...you know what, I hate morons so I am getting off that subject. The other thing I wanted to say was isn't it amazing how quickly and efficiently the clean up crew worked.

4:14 AM  
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11:13 AM  
Anonymous Braveheart said...

Check out http://non-combat-death.org

There are family members of active duty servicemembers killed in uninvestigated non-combat situations. At least two were very young men in training.

The death you are writing about sounds a lot like what has happened in "Unit Watch" situations.

We would like to be a "meeting place" for other organizations and individuals who would want, eventually, to once again approach Congress for solutions to the abuses in the miitary which lead to these unfortunate deaths.

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was in PTRP at Fort Sill For 8 Months. I Knew Scarano, In fact I even gave him my boots when i left. They used to not Bring us to our appointments to see the doctor and Made us all work while we were injured. We would never Be allowed out of the barracks and Major Barry Whiteside Stopped us from Getting Con leave. It was an enviorment that could really make a person crazy. If there is anything that you want to know feel free to email me at trickheadd@yahoo.com

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That almost makes me not want to go to Bootcamp at Fort Sill. >.< I'm a recruit fresh from MEPS, and if stuff like that is going on out there is still continued today, then why havent the drill instructors, and the higher ups been replaced?

9:22 PM  
Anonymous AuntinIndiana said...

My nephew has been going through crap and bureaucracy at Ft. Sill since May. They put him in the PTRP and continually jacked him around. Being young and not always level headed, he jumped ship this weekend. We are not sure where he is but I hope to talk some sense to him. I am going to contact our Senators and plead for help. Any assistance would be appreciated!!!!!!!!!

5:44 PM  
Anonymous mominindiana said...

My son has been at Ft.Sill since May 28th, 2008 and hurt his shoulder while doing his basic training. At first they told him that he messed up his rotor cup and then it was possible nerve damage, then it was nothing wrong with him because the MRI did not show anything wrong. He has been in major pain and all they did was give him pain meds and something for inflamation. They were sending him to ptrp but never put him there, instead they worked him everyday, lifting 75lb bags of stuff, helping them with paperwork and training with other recruits. He missed a doctors appointment because they never told him that he had it. They have now put him back to training and he finally got so aggravated with everything and know one helping him that he left this Sunday and we have not heard from him. He kept talking about 180 days and he could get out, not sure what he is talking about. Im worried about him and possibly going to jail for leaving. If anyone could help out with suggestions that would be wonderful. The aunt from indiana is my sister, we are trying to find out any information we can.

6:15 PM  
Blogger Pat deV said...

It's unfortunate that your family member made the decision to go AWOL. Forcing a trainee to violate his medical profile is strictly against regulations, and is actionable. Also, not informing trainees of their doctor's appointments seems to be an unfortunately typical tactic employed by some at Fort Sill. That said, he's already left, and that puts him beyond anything I know. There is an organization called GI Rights. They have websites and phone hotlines, and may be able to assist you. I'm sorry for your trouble, and hope for the best outcome for your son/nephew.

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was in PTRP recently and nothing has changed....we had no contact to the outside world except on weekends and we just cleaned all day even when we were done the ds made us clean it again saying that we had to earn our pay somehow since we werent doing anything constructive with ourselves an yes its true tv time was 2 hours in the evening drill sergeants tracy and kincaid were forcing us to violate our profiles to do details while the ftu soldiers who were perfectly healthy did nothing but wait for pt...ds owens was the only one who cared but even he was bein threatened for tryin to follow what the brigade cmdr called to do by csm cunningham and ltc staley and they handed out articles like candy it was just like prison without bars...i mean we were forced to work in order to talk to our family fo christs sake

8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

any other questions email me at jchristian_17@yahoo.com

8:09 PM  
Blogger PV2 Burnham said...

So Were not alone... I'm at the Ft. Benning PTRP right now, things are no better here, SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE. I've been in PTRP for 8 months now, long enough to be present for 15 Suicides at Sand Hill, two of which were at my Company (Downrange and PTRP). My Blogspot is burnhamarmy.blogspot.com I havent gotten to PTRP yet, but I will soon. We need to do something, I refuse to run and hide anymore, just the other night they had final formation at 20:00, our clock said 19:52, so nobody was outside. Drill Sergeant came out of his office and said "You all have 30 seconds to get outside or else you don't get to f-ing sleep tonight." Some people were in the Can, a few were in the showers, nobody was prepared, we got smoked for about 20 minutes, then did bay maintenance for 3 hours, striping the floor and waxing it, lights out was at 23:00, we had 10 man fireguard. During one shift the guard was quizzed on the General Orders, they didn't pass, so we all had 5 minutes to change into ACUs and form it up. A private on crutches fell down a flight of stairs because the Drill Sergeant was counting down from Ten and he was the last guy, he didn't stop counting as the Private hit the concrete floor and crawled to formation.


PTRP, WTRP whatever the hell you wanna call it, the stuff that goes on in these units NATIONWIDE is Bullshit, we need to stand together, my email is Burntham113@yahoo.com, if you agree with me, anyone, contact me, we need to fight this shit.

I'm a human too.

9:02 AM  
Anonymous PFC Christian said...

Just a small updated I want to give major credit to PVT. Weisenhunt for going public...he fell down some stairs and slipped 6 discs in his vertabrae, they didnt even send him to ptrp but retained him at the reception Batt. this has prompted a visit frm Seargeant major Preston, the army top enlisted boy, to take a peek at fort sill so maybe this will finally bring much needed relief

1:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was sent to ptrp for a injury and a few months before i was sent a soldier died in his sleep too. nobody talks about him. i remember seeing scary when he came in. he was a well discipline soldier the longer he was there the less he started to care about the army. i became very good friends with scary i would say i knew him better then anyone else the morning i woke scary up and he didnt wake up scared me i felt it was my fault i still do to this day and it effects me deeply their is so much more to the story then anyone knows. the reason the facts arent out there is cause we were orded (gag order) not to talk about it to anyone. i still dont feel comfortable talking about it

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

pat i read all of these stories and they upset me you have no idea how much more there is you should start with pvt howell ask him about the letter he found.... i bet you get a defferent story then ask howell what he partake in ptrp i know i witnessed so much more you have about half the story but has been twisted to make the other privates look good which is far from the truth... the more i read bull-shit stories it upsts me nothing has been said about me and i was there for 18 months

12:16 PM  
Blogger Daniel Hand said...

I was in the ptrp for about a month in 2008, me and 3 other guys went awol, I don't know about the other 2 but I made it home and have since turned myself in and received a less then honrable discharge, apparently if you haven't been for 100 some days you can go awol and get away with it. I hope this helps some I'm sure its a terrible feeling not knowing if he is ok

12:35 PM  

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