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:
From: Concerned Mailed-By:
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.
<>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.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Medical Hold Abuse Reaches Beyond Fort Sill

by Patricia deVarennes

If you are perceived as weak, you will be abused. If you are still in training status, you have no status. That seems to be a common attitude among those in command of soldiers in the various medical hold systems at some Army training bases in our country.

During the past five months of blogging about the abusive and inhumane situation at Fort Sill, I have received a large amount of feedback about the PTRP (Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation program) and medical hold programs, not only at Fort Sill, but at other training facilities. One soldier, who asked for complete anonymity, described to me that at one point in the PTRP process, he forgot his first name and had to look it up. He’s never told anyone else that before, but wanted people to understand how dehumanizing and overwhelming the PTRPs can be…

Their stories deserve to be heard.

Although Fort Knox has court-martialed drill sergeants for abuse in Basic Training, abuses in their PTRP apparently went unpunished in the same time frame.

On March 7, 2006, John related his story (additional comments by him were added later and are also included):

"Profiles," or the paperwork that denoted the limits of what you could physically do, were frequently violated by drill sergeants. In one incident, a drill sergeant jokingly jumped on an injured private and cracked some of his ribs. I personally had hair ripped from my chest by a drill sergeant. Getting six hours of sleep and spending all day doing manual labor and standing in formation is not a sufficient way to "heal."

…I was at PTRP at Ft. Knox from early August 2004 to early October 2004. The commanding officer at the time was a physical therapist (this was used to bolster their claim of what a great program it was). Despite this, the return to duty rate seemed relatively low. When people were granted their medical discharge papers by their doctors he would often threaten to shred them, and I believe in the case of one Private in October of 2004 he actually did such.

After I was out, I contacted my congressman. Senator John Cornyn's office actually sparked an investigation with a governing medical unit in the Army. Their conclusion? Well, it pertained to my medical treatment. I really didn't have any complaints there; I was angered at that unit. Their response? "Any claims against the unit should be addressed by the unit." Did the unit ever respond? Nope.

…From what I've heard about Jackson's PTRP, it isn't too bad. Knox, Sill and Benning all have awful reputations, though. In my six weeks there I witnessed one person desert and two others openly threaten suicide to the point where they were discharged. Not that the drill sergeant who said, "Kill yourself, I don't care. You probably deserve it," was much of a morale booster to dozens of injured and disenchanted privates.

While there are good souls who work the PTRPs around this nation, it is keen to remember an old proverb: the fish stinks from the head. My old commanding officer threatening to put medical paperwork through a paper shredder is case in point. PTRPs are often archaic, festering shitholes that have no business existing in the American military, and some of what goes on there is a disgrace to the hundreds of thousands of men and woman who honorably serve our country. I wish I could say that I've mentioned all the downsides to PTRP, but it's only the tip of the iceberg.”

There's plenty I didn't cover- like having injured soldiers buffing all night, all types of bizarre threats, and injuries that people received while in PTRP. One private fell down the stairs and broke his foot; another had a drill sergeant jump on his chest a joke and crack his ribs. Granted, he was friends with the drill sergeant in question, but when a 30 year old man (Drill Sergeant) is jumping on an injured trainee as a game, you have to wonder about their integrity. He was also fond of forcing us to do pushups. I'll never forget Private (name deleted) in medical hold getting "smoked" with us shortly before departing to Walter Reed hospital for back surgery. This is still just the tip of the iceberg. (note: smoking is “corrective training, frequently pushups, used to punish trainees for infractions, real or imagined).

Another Army soldier, who is still in active service, sent me the card shown above. They were apparently issued to all incoming trainees at Fort Benning. He was not injured, but relates what he observed happening to those who were (note: “recycling" means repeating basic training):

“If a soldier was ill or injured enough they sent them home which I know because we had 4 soldiers re-enter during my cycle from other battalions. My corroboration in with what is happening at Ft. Sill though comes from those soldiers I knew well who, for legitimate medical reasons or other reasons were set aside but were right along side of us for our training.

They all should've been gone within a week of being pulled out but most were around till the 7-8th week of training and were being given the run around, one week they'd come in all smiles after being told they'd be discharged in a week and the next day they find out it could take 6. We had one guy hang himself with his belt on his bunk and apparently while we were gone one of the "softer" trainees found himself in the middle of a Drill Seargeant 'Shark Attack' and later that day slit his wrists with his shaving razor.

...There wasn't a minute that went by when the Drill Seargeant's didn't make some type of verbal attack at them or to the rest of us about them to make sure that they and we knew it. With the exception of those that went AWOL, which as I learned when I had to go to the Infirmary happens with alarming frequency despite the warning that it's an offense punishable by "death," that those guys didn't really deserve it. The stigma behind joining the group of 'flunkies' was such that a soldier in my platoon was so against being put in that group that he attempted to stay with us with a back problem so bad he could barely do anything at times.

Not being recycled is the only thing that keeps people from going to sick call sometimes no matter the pain, which is a shame….Especially since the card that they handed us at Benning specifies that as one of our basic, your son's as well, rights along with the right, "To be treated fairly and with the respect which all men and women deserve."

It hurts me to know that so few people are able as in the case with Abu Ghraib and so many other things in life can tarnish the image of many and bring su much pain and unneeded suffering to others. Reading the story of the PTRP unit at Sill just shows the bullheaded stubbornness that a few misguided soldiers can have, in this case the NCOs the ones who are to be the backbone of the Army. That is the type of unprofessionalism that some of the older NCOs that I've come across in my short time in the Army have warned me about. I know that if when and if I reach that level I won't repeat those types of offenses.

I'd like to thank you for sounding the alarm for these types of abuses happening within the system that is to breed the sons and daughters that are to bleed. If it's going to happen anywhere the last place it should be is on US soil and definitely not in training, or bowels therein. While my experience at Ft. Benning was not the most perfect of times the bulk of my Drills were looking out for us and for that I thank them.

“PFC Ski” runs a site dedicated to the PTRP . He has made his story public in order to try to help other current and former PTRP occupants, and to try to open a dialog with the Army. His injuries are permanent…so is his pain. Here is an excerpt of his story:

PTRP it's a name that anybody who has been in will never forget.
I outlasted most of the SGTs and all of the IET [Initial Entry Trainees] and AITs [Advanced Individual Trainees] at FLW [Fort Leonard Wood].

It is Groundhog Day, and the only time we felt like soldiers is when somebody did something wrong or it as a bad day for the SGT on duty. Most people I served with want to forget what happened, some of them don't talk at all about it like it never happened.

I was 26 in 2000. My father and his father both Army, my father being a cop I had a different childhood then most . My point is that I was no HS grad that never had a job, I worked as a Loss prevention Detective and worked court cases (I never lost a case). I know whats right and wrong.

My first clue that things were not right was when we were sent to burn in the sun in PTs with no head gear July in MO, the MO heat has melted the wax off my combat boots, and it did it that week. My skin has not changed back where I was burned, and some had to got the hospital for burns.

Even the coldest shower on my head hurt like hell.

What happened while I was in PTRP was not military, it was hate, nothing less then hate for us.

The Army knows whats going on Patricia, they just have to look at the amout of stress fractures going into PTRP and then coming out.

At FLW PTRP they got rid of most the bad SGTs, and for a while it was just the every day "Groundhog Day" that was the problem.

While I was in we only had 2 books our Army "smart Book" and our religious choice. No other reading was allowed. We were to read standing at the end of our bunks, we would go months without phone calls, we had to sneak body soap and writing paper from people who went to the hospital as the SGTs maybe took us to get stuff once a month; people wanted paper and pens more then soap that should tell you something.

I have seen things that I think my own blood family thinks I'm lying about.

I have seen people forced out of med profile only to hurt them self more and get medboarded.

They would stick FTU [Fitness Training Unit] in with us, they have no military anything and would cause problems and we PTRP would also get punished. They did this fully knowing this would happen.

I have seen people forced to kneel on ACLs [torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament, severe injury of the knee] forced "front back gos" people while stress fractures in hips no less...[Front =pushup position; back =flutter kick position; go = running in place].

Some do this because they want to weed out people that most likely will not make it back, and they think that hurting them more will hurry this and move other people into a bunk.

Some do it because they are well F**ked, I seen good people get broke because they would "smoke them" before their test to get out of PTRP.

2 fireguards a night for 2 weeks does strange things too you, on top of no sleep you cant take your pain meds on fear of falling asleep on duty. They know this fully.

AWOLs, some killed themselves after getting to the holding company going out of the Army, the list goes on. We even had SGTs who would smoke us right after we ate, some threw up because of their pain meds.

I did 2 basics before PTRP, I was sent back to week 1 1/2 because I missed 4 sit-ups on my last test. I did basic again mostly helping soldiers and odd jobs BRM D&C map training, but me and other holdovers never did anything dangerous like a course. The last week before graduating they sent all the holdover and myself on a course. My Buddie that came with me from my first time around basic went with me to ask if we had to do this as we seen many people get hurt the first time we did it.

SGT said no we had to do it, I got half done with the course, went up 30 feet and fell. After I fell they pulled all the hold overs and anybody who did it before off.

It was found that 1 should not have been sent back too another basic 2. I should have never been on that course. I got retired 30%

I had too fight to get 100% SS and 100% VA, I was but on TRDL Temp Retired Disabled List and have had too go to Walter Reed every year too get checked too see how I'm doing.

I just got a letter 5 days ago that they want to drop my retirement to 20% just off being retired. They can only keep you on TRDL for 5 years this was my last year I have been found disabled all these years but the last year they can keep me on they want to short change me.

So now I have to fight again.

…I have a torn rotor cuff and nerve damage RSD yahoo search RSD and you will see how bad this is. I am unable to do anything I did before the Army and it hurts all the time.

I was promoted just before I left , I was also retired with a flag, I have no show able vise with the Army, as in I have no 15's or had to leave with problems, I
was shown as a model soldier.

I also worked outside PTRP was given freedom tho this was at the end of it all.

I miss the Army more then my own life. The family you have in the Army is closer then Blood family and if they said they could fix me but it would take 15 years off my life I would do it so I could go back in the Army.

As bad as it is for all this to happen here, at home, I did not imagine that it happened in a war with the same arrogance and lack of purpose. In some ways, it was yet more shocking to me when I received the following comment on my blog:

“Date: Mar 27, 2006 10:37 AM
Subject: [We Are All Volunteers in This Army] 3/27/2006 06:37:53 AM

I was called up for the first gulf war despite the fact that I had a broken ankle and a torn ligament in my knee and was wearing a cast. The colonel in charge of the battalion wanted 100 percent mobilization.

When I got to the mobilization station I was shuffled off to a similar temporary holding unit with other injured soldiers. As an NCO I wasn't treated nearly this badly, but we were basically abandoned til the war ended and then they couldn't dump us out fast enough. Despite having a cast and crutches, I had to supervise civilians and soldiers outdoors in subzero temperatures in snow and ice. Consequently, I fell and reinjured my ankle.

During this whole time you are made to feel like a criminal, as if you had done this to yourself just to get out of something. I have read many articles that say the same things are happening now and talked to a few old buddies who are still on active duty that say the same. Once you are no longer of use to them they quit caring about you.

I am in the American Legion now and we are constantly fighting the cuts to the VA benefits this admnistration has put forth. It is the same mindset at work.”

The situation at the various PTRP or medical hold locations throughout the Army is longstanding and, in some cases (such as Fort Sill), critical. Their stories speak for themselves. Their stories are all too familiar. It should not be this way. These young men and women are our family members, our friends, out friends’ kids, our coworkers and our neighbors.

The PTRP and medical hold systems need a complete overhaul. The original purpose of the PTRP was intended to relieve soldiers of many of the physical and psychological strains and stresses associated with the IET (Initial Entry Training) environment at training posts. Obviously, the situation is intensified and more dangerous when soldiers are in a training environment, but even release from that environment is no insurance against abuse if you are injured. If the Drill Sergeants and chains of command over these injured soldiers are incapable of supervising the care of the injured, they should pass these soldiers over to those who can take care of them in their home communities, or at the very least, in a competent medical rehabilitation setting that addresses their physical injuries and treats them as human beings instead of trash.

(Note: Any blog comments are available for review throughout the various blogposts)

Thanks to JoAnn Wypijewski for keeping me going when I got discouraged, and believing in this story when no one else did.

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.