Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Bully Behavior from Fort Sill...or It's Not Over

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. For my son, who just last week finally made his exit from Fort Sill’s PTRP (Physical Training and Rehabilitation program), to his first duty station, it’s not over. After 8 months at Fort Sill, and more than ½ of that time in Fort Sill’s PTRP environment (for stress fractures in his ankle), my son, amidst support from his Command Sgt Major, passed his alternate PT test.

Now someone in the chain of command at Fort Sill has apparently decided that revenge is required. On this day, his second day of actual duty at his first duty station, my son was advised that an email had been sent from the chain of command at Fort Sill, about his problem. Yes, he was a “problem”, and in good company. He and some of his peers cared more about their fellow injured soldiers than you did. He and they cared more about the truth than they did about their own hides. He and they saw the pack mentality of those that were over them, and refused to let their fears paralyze them. They refused to become institutionalized. They did not develop Stockholm Syndrome or anything else like that. Instead, they took their Army values seriously and stood up for themselves and each other. A gimpy Band of Brothers in a no-win situation.

Let’s just quickly review those values, in case you don't know them or have forgotten:

Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. constitution, the Army, and other soldiers.
Be loyal to the nation and its heritage.

Fulfill your obligations.
Accept responsibility for your own actions and those entrusted to your care.
Find opportunities to improve oneself for the good of the group.

Rely upon the golden rule.
How we consider others reflects upon each of us, both personally and as a professional organization.

Selfless Service
Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own.
Selfless service leads to organizational teamwork and encompasses discipline, self-control and faith in the system.

Live up to all the Army values

Personal Courage
Our ability to face fear, danger, or adversity, both physical and moral courage.

Obviously, some of you at Fort Sill have forgotten these, or you never believed them. So why am I surprised that you continue your bully tactics now?

Your own actions or inaction (some of which were unethical at best and illegal at worst) have caused your own consequences. Revenge is a two-edged sword that can slice your hand as easily as your intended mark.

I was planning to leave the Fort Sill events in the capable and ethical hands of a major newspaper writer and editor. I was envisioning a gradual return to normalcy, of eventually leaving my self-imposed part-time job studying Army regulations in general and Fort Sill in particular. I’m told that disciplinary actions have been taken with some of those in charge of Fort Sill's PTRP. I’m told that the investigation continues from multiple levels, including the Inspector General’s office, but I don’t know. I’ve been persona non grata for a while now.

Maybe the cadre at Fort Sill missed reading my blog? Well, miss me no longer, because here I am. I was just taking a break, and hoping to broaden my scope a little. Perhaps those in the chain of command might think about the sequence of events and the context that allowed those events to happen -- the verbal abuse, punishing and potentially injurious physical activities, assault -- and the tragic death of Mathew Scarano last month.

Now, so that no one at Fort Sill misses me too much, here’s a blog comment that was left on one of my posts here on 4/21/06, by the parents of an injured soldiers who spent some quality time in Fort Sill’s PTRP:

“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."
Original comment here

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).

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.

Image hosting by TinyPic

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:
Image hosting by TinyPic

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?

Image hosting by TinyPic

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:

Image hosting by TinyPic

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:

Image hosting by TinyPic

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):

Image hosting by TinyPic

Moving on...

Image hosting by TinyPic

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)