Friday, February 17, 2006

Cadre at Fort Sill PTRP Thinks Abuse is Funny

The cadre (command group) over the Fort Sill’s PTRP (Physical Training & Rehabilitation Program) and related areas think their abusive tactics toward their own soldiers are funny. Those in command of these injured soldiers in the PTRP check out my blog and use the information in it to ridicule and harass their own men. Some of them make cute comments (that I choose not to delete). The cadre knows who’s who, of course. The identities of the soldiers are not a mystery to them.

When I first began this campaign to draw some attention to the sickening circumstances the injured soldiers at Fort Sill’s PTRP were enduring, there was a part of me that hoped maybe, just maybe, it was one or two “bad apples” (sound familiar?). I have come to understand that the situation is far worse than that. And so the rest of my post is:

An Open Letter to Members of the Cadre who can’t Stop Laughing and to Those Who Claim to Have No Knowledge of Any Abuse:

Dear Cadre members,
I understand that you think that the abusive tactics displayed by you and/or those in your command are funny. You share that with some people in a little place called Abu Ghraib. They had some bad actors, too. I wouldn’t call the company that you share “good” but I’m beginning to understand a great deal more about how that situation must have come to happen. It all starts when you have no loyalty or compassion for your own men, your own soldiers.

That’s’ right. Like it or not, these are your own men. These are the soldiers you are charged with overseeing. I don’t know how you came to be at the PTRP or FTU (Fitness Training Unit). Maybe you are all poor achievers who have to step on others you perceive as weaker in order to feel better about yourselves. Maybe this is just a transition post for you, and you have bigger and better things to do than worry about a bunch of “Broke Dicks” (yeah, I know that and worse are what they are called). Maybe you are actually functionally illiterate and can’t read or understand the PTRP soldiers’ medical profiles sufficiently to command these soldiers daily activities.

In the end, though, it doesn’t matter. They are not failures. They are not weak. They are not cowards. You are all three of these things.

You fail them every time you curse at them for having injuries, or add just one more bully tactic to see if someone will break…and sometimes one does. Maybe that relieves your boredom. You fail them when you don’t set an example by your own behavior, when you lash them instead of leading them, when you insult them instead of inspiring them. You should be ashamed instead of laughing.

You are weak because you can’t resist the temptation to browbeat and beat your own men when they are already fighting to regain their physical abilities, fighting to live with daily pain, and fighting to make themselves put one foot in front of the other every day with no end in sight. You should be silent instead of laughing.

You are cowards because you have verbally and physically abused those who are unable to defend themselves. You who hold all the “aces” in your hands, sneer at them for taking your abuse, and hand out punishments when they can’t accomplish your latest whim, or can’t take it any longer and speak or act out. Don’t insult my intelligence with your talk of discipline and the good old days. You have deliberately driven some of them to the thin edge of their sanity, and a couple of them over it. These are the acts of cowards and bullies, not of brave men. Those of you who stand by and turn a proverbial blind eye (you know who you are and so do I) to all this are even more cowardly because you know better but you are too afraid for yourselves to help your own men, your own soldiers. Some of you use your rank as a shield, and in this case, it's a human shield made up of your own soldiers. You should be court-martialed, not commended.

You don’t deserve the soldiers you have in your charge. Despite all your efforts, they have, for the most part, taken care of each other the best way they could manage with little to no resources. They have, for the most part, developed a loyalty to each other. They have tried to help each other. They have endured your abuse for months (and more than a year for some), and survived. I would be proud to call almost any of them my son, beyond the one I already have in your "care".

In closing, I would like to express my fondest personal wish for you: May you have to walk two miles with a full rucksack in each of your own injured soldier’s combat boots with people like yourself treating you just the way you have treated your own men.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Another Method to Silence Abused Injured Soldiers at Fort Sill

February 8, 2006

The Command Sgt. Major of the PTRP (Physical Training & Rehabilitation Program) Battery met with its inmates at Fort Sill on Wednesday, February 8th. She informed the injured soldiers that the Army had an Open Door Policy. She cautioned the PTRP inmates to be careful what they told their family members, as things could be interpreted incorrectly. In addition, she revealed her bias by stating that she would, “of course”, after any report then check with the drill sergeants to see “what really happened.” Drill Sergeant Langford was seen to be strolling in and out, and it’s hardly a mystery why no Privates stepped forward at that time to challenge “what really happened.” Regarding family members, the Com. Sgt Major stated that if any phone calls were received regarding mistreatment of injured soldiers, Fort Sill staff would be sure to tell their own side of the story.

After the meeting, Langford crowed about his early victory. He informed his victims not to worry, that he wasn't going anywhere. He’s been coached now, about how to legally continue the abuse. Here’s yet another Catch 22 for the injured soldiers: The Drill Sergeants do not order the injured individuals to do injurious tasks (such as hand scraping the floor, moving heavy furniture, etc.). They merely state (as they have in the past) that a certain task must be complete by a certain time or else battery wide punishment will be exacted. If an individual who should not be performing a potentially injurious task performs it, he is violating his medical profile and will be punished if he admits to having done so. That’s what I would call “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. But apparently the Army, in the person of Sgt. Langford and his chain of command call, “pushing you to the limit of your profiles.”


Monday, February 06, 2006

Cover up of Abuse Begins at Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Breaking News on Thursday, Feb 9th: See Another Family with a Son in PTRP at Fort Sill Weighs In on the Abuse! (press back button on your browser to return here)

Private Gopher, the young soldier who was recovering from knee surgery when Sergeant Langford kicked his legs out from under him on January 31st (see
“Abuse Escalates”
below), has been motivated to sign a statement that says he did not receive any ill treatment at the hands of his sergeants. For this, they are dangling a discharge in front of him…sweet escape from his tormentors. Any soldier who was present (i.e., entire Physical Training Rehabilitation Program contingent) should not have seen the act that did not occur, as they were ordered (by the 1st Sgt) to turn around as it was happening. Therefore, any soldier who DID see anything [that did not happen] is guilty of failure to obey a lawful order (which is a punishable offense). The details of the statement are not known, as Private Gopher can’t discuss them with his anyone lest his superiors renege on the deal. What an expedient way to get rid of someone who has become an inconvenient victim. As a footnote, it has been revealed that Private Gopher was one of two soldiers who were on suicide watch for a young man who broke under the stress (see
“Breaking News”
below) and had to be taken to a crisis intake center in Lawton, Oklahoma for several days. That young man has since been returned to Fort Sill, and awaits discharge as well.

Discharges have become highly sought after items these days at the PTRP at Fort Sill. This is hardly news to those who know what these young soldiers, who volunteered to serve their country, are enduring on a daily basis. (See Abuse is Rampant below) Prepared to serve their country, they were shocked to be treated in a fashion that violates the Geneva Convention:
at the hands of their own superiors. Forbidden acts in the convention include: (a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; 2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

Let’s not forget that these are soldiers whose offense was getting INJURED during training. Some are technically graduates who were prevented from proceeding to their first duty assignment; some are trainees who were felled at various points in training. At least one has been in residence at PTRP for fourteen months!

Family Day Weekend – What to do with the Families of Injured Soldiers?

It was Thursday, February 2nd. Family Day Weekend was due to start on Friday, February 3rd. The bay floor, painstakingly [sic] hand-scraped by injured soldiers in the PTRP, was still not waxed. That was unacceptable. After all, the families were arriving on Friday. All wall lockers (full length lockers) were hauled out by the PTRP soldiers, again without regard for recovering injuries, and placed outside in the field. When the PTRP soldiers completed waxing the floor, they replaced all wall lockers.

5AM Friday, February 3rd: Oh happy day! Soldiers in the PTRP were informed that they would be able to possess some portable electronic devices that had been confiscated (walkmans, etc.). They would be allowed to leave the post with their family members, and wear their [coveted] civilian clothing! In addition, on Sunday they would be allowed to watch the Super Bowl and order pizza! Thus the report to the families would be rosier than might have been expected.

Between 0900 and 1500 (9AM-3PM), families were given a tour of the facilities (soldiers were disappointed that no one noticed the floors), and an overview of the “treatment” given their family members. One parent questioned his son’s continued detention after an injury that remained unimproved after five months and was quickly hushed by being told he would be spoken to one-on-one. Since at least November of 2005, PTRP families have been told that their sons (there are no females in Basic Training at Fort Sill) would soon be moved to a barracks at Fort Sill, instead of being housed like livestock, 40-50 to a room. This rabbit was again pulled from the hat to deflect any questions about the living conditions of the PTRP soldiers. However, as usual, no time frame was given for this transition.

There needs to be a full investigation of the abusive practices at Fort Sill. Those practices have resulted in soldiers being retained for up to fourteen months and given medication that renders them incoherent; injuries that are verifiable with bone scans are not treated as “real” (“no bony protrusions”); heavy physical labor is ordered without regard to severity of injury or recover status; verifiable psychological and physical abuse goes unpunished; and just last week, an assault took place that is being covered up. The IET (Initial Entry Training) status of these soldiers is being used to excuse mistreatment the like of which has made national headlines when used on foreign detainees. Are we so numb to the abuse of “enemy combatants” that we no longer care that our own sons, brothers and husbands are receiving similar treatment right here at home? If so, then we have come to a place where I am ashamed to be an American.

My eldest son served in Iraq. He is one of the lucky ones to come home safe and sound and whole. The young men retained at the Fort Sill, Oklahoma PTRP deserve no less.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Abuse at Fort Sill, Oklahoma Escalates

Kneecap – The definition from is: verb 1. To shoot or otherwise damage someone's kneecaps as a form of revenge, torture or unofficial punishment.

Derivative: kneecapping noun

You wouldn’t think that kneecapping would be an acceptable punishment for someone who bought a carton of cigarettes and 4 cans of chewing tobacco. Yet that is what happened on Tuesday night, January 31st in Fort Sill. The privates don’t deny that the perpetrators deserved disciplinary action, and they accepted their usual military measure of being chewed out with the guilty. But what happened after that is almost unbelievable:
Morale wasn’t too high at the FTU (Fitness Training Unit) yesterday after a Private lost his composure, cut himself up and smeared himself with feces after his sojourn in the PTRP at Fort Sill (See
"Breaking News"
below. Still, who really knows why a soldier in the FTU commissioned another soldier (Private Gopher) in the PTRP (Physical Training Rehabilitation Program) to obtain the above named contraband for him in the first place?
At one point in the public disciplinary process, Private Gopher, who very recently had knee surgery, lost his composure and turned and walked away from his sergeants’ wrath (ripping off his BDU shirt, tee shirt, and hat). The Sergeants understandably became even more upset. At that point, one of them ordered two brand new recruits who were witnessing the process to take Private Gopher down. They did so. At no time did Private Gopher resist. He returned to his lawful place in formation and donned his cast off uniform components. He was then ordered by one of the sergeants to “take a knee”. According to witnesses, Private Gopher replied, “I CAN’T take a knee, sir, but I will sit down.” He was ordered again, louder this time, to take a knee.

Remember that these sergeants are fully aware of the physical state of their various “privates”. They KNEW Private Gopher had just had knee surgery.

Again Private Gopher replied that he could not take a knee, but he could sit down, and would do so. At that point, in full view of the rest of the PTRP soldiers, Private Gopher’s legs were knocked out from under him and he “fell down screaming”. [The account as related to me on Feb 1st] Then, the remaining PTRP soldiers were ordered to turn away from this spectacle and told that they didn’t need to watch. And so the intimidation campaign and abuse has escalated to another level.