Sweating All the Stuff, Big and Small

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Documentation of the Situation at Fort Sill's PTRP

The following pages contain some of the documentation I have accumulated thus far in my attempts to bring attention to the unconscionable conditions at Fort Sill’s PTRP. For the background blog posts, please refer to:

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
Injured Soldier PFC Mathew Scarano Dies in Fort Sill’s PTRP
Additional link by a PTRP family member
Additional link by a PTRP soldier

For the current postings, go here

The following are excerpts from the Army Regulations document TR 350-6. The entire 179 page document is available here

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This is a copy of my initial correspondence with the Training Liaison’s office in August of 2005 regarding my concerns about my son’s injury:

From: Patricia deVarennes> Mailed-By:


Date: Aug 21, 2005 10:43 PM

Subject: Pvt [deleted] -- please read

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Dear Sir:

I spoke with my son, Pvt. [deleted] (C 1/40 FA, 3rd Plt,

Reapers) tonight and am very concerned about something he related to

me. Apparently his feet are so swollen that he can barely get them

into his boots with said boots unlaced. He has had x-rays of both his

feet and knees (he was having problems with his knees as well) which

have come up negative. The physician apparently asked to see both

feet for comparison, but with both swollen, also apparently decided it

wasn't a problem.

Perhaps the knee problem will resolve on its own (let's hope), but

I'm sure that most people with experience in athletics would realize

that extreme and long term foot swelling of this kind is indicative of

a real problem.

I'm not a doctor, but my elder son (also in the Army, currently in

Iraq at Taji) had trouble with shin splints that were resolved with

treatment and haven't troubled him since. It's possible that [my son]

(with his size 13-14 feet) may be suffering from a comparable

condition in his feet.

Your own Boden BP, Osbahr DC at the Uniformed Services University

of the Health Sciences, The Orthopaedic Center, Rockville, MD says:

"Stress fractures are common overuse injuries seen in athletes and

military recruits. The pathogenesis is multifactorial and usually

involves repetitive submaximal stresses...The classic presentation is

a patient who experiences the insidious onset of pain after an abrupt

increase in the duration or intensity of exercise. The diagnosis is

primarily clinical, but imaging modalities such as plain radiography,

scintigraphy, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging may

provide confirmation. Most stress fractures are uncomplicated and can

be managed by rest and restriction from the precipitating activity."

[my son] told me that he really wants to complete his training and

is very frustrated with this situation. He used to walk for miles

without any difficulty, and no doubt could still do so if his feet

weren't swollen and painful. He isn't allowed to have so much as an

asprin or ice to relieve this condition.

I would appreciate any assistance in this matter. I believe that

the Army would like for [my son] to be successful, but he needs help to

overcome this challenge.


Patricia deVarennes ([my son]'s mother)


Phone #

(Note: It was shortly after this that the first of nine temporary medical profiles was written, and continued through November 2005)


Some 7 months after my initial inquiry about my son's injury, this is the official response from Connie Mack’s office after receiving the Adjutant General’s official response (both letters are below):

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There are clear and specific processes for dealing with abuse allegations. Note the requirement for preliminary inquiries into ALL abuse allegations...When the chain of command proved indifferent to the injured soldiers suffering, the Inspector General's office became involved:

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The TR 350-6 is quite specific concerning the location of medical records when someone is entered into the where are my son's medical records? Who else's medical records are missing and why?

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My request to Senator John McCain and the response from his office (how many ways
can people find to say they don’t give a damn? More than you can imagine…and this is just one of them.) Here's what I wrote to the estimable John McCain, at the height of the injured soldiers' abuse situation, and below that is his entirely inadequate response:

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Other primary sources:

(The first written communication I received from a Fort Sill PTRP member--Patdev):

From: Clayton Howell Mailed-By:
Date: Feb 16, 2006 3:44 PM
Subject: Hello
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I am also a member of FTU/PTRP My name is PVT Clayton Howell. I know of all
the situations and am doing my best to work on it. I have compiled a list of
complaints and sent them to various sourses to include your post on blogger.
The only name I am using is my own. I intend to send you a full list of the
complaints once I have completed them for now here is my parcial list.

Any thing you wish to talk about I would be glad to share information or
listen to any information you might have. I have limited internet acess
during the day when I am at "class"(I once attended school during our lunch
time, but recently they have forced me to not go to class.
A Compilation of Complaints from Bravo Battery 95th
Below is a compilation of complaints from soldiers at Bravo Battery 95th to include PTRP, PCU, and FTU. All complaints were collected by me and typed and edited for language, rhetoric, grammar and spelling to the best of my abilities. To the best of my abilities I believe that I did not alter the meaning of or the context of any of the complaints given to me. I will make additions, alteration, and exclusions form this list as misinterpretations, new material, complaints, or grammatical errors are brought to my attention. As of now the soldiers’ names will be left anonymous unless they ask to have their names included or it is required by a recipient of this paper.
All of the material following are valid and original complaints relayed to the author of this paper:
I enjoyed my 6 month stint in a state correctional facility before I was pardon for my crimes, much more than being here for the past year. I have been confined here for a year and have yet to commit any crime. I wanted to serve the United States by being a member of the armed forces. I wanted to do nothing more than to fight for and to promote freedom. All I have done here is what I have been told to do. And for that I have been robbed of my dignity, freedom, and many basic human rights many people take for granite. Companionship and the continuing meaningful relationship with others (wife/kids/families in too many soldiers’ cases) is not possible here. We are allotted 20min to 1 hour to use the phone in the evening sometimes. Over 200 people to use 24 phones to talk to wives, children, loved ones, family, and friends. For no reason at all we are not allowed to possess cell phones, laptops, or any other kind of communication device. So a few minutes every few days is all we have to maintain relationships outside the building we live in. Death, back to prison, or death in prison would be more preferable than this. I have seen homeless men with more of a life, more purpose, and more motivation than me. I feel as if I no longer have a soul.
Duty hours are from 0400 until 1800 (4:00am until 6:00pm) with an hour for personal time. Unless our drill sergeants want to hang around and bitch at us or complain about how we do not have motivation or aren’t good enough to be in the army.
Being in formation outside in all weather conditions for 20-45 min sometimes well over an hour. Not able to wear a hat that covers our ears or gloves to cover our hands. Seeing permanent party wear scarves and thick non issue gloves, that we aren’t authorized to wear. If we wear our winter cap we are not authorized to wear our ear flaps down. If we have to wait for over 15 or 30 min in degraded weather conditions while the first sergeant and drill sergeants stand inside watching us and talking to each other; why cant they come out and be information with us or at least let us leave early.
We are sometimes punished by having our phone/personal time taken away for “mandatory entertainment.” For example:
4th of July there was a southern rock concert held in the chapel.
Super bowl Sunday we were stuck in a room to enjoy it.
The reenactment of historical baseball at Fort Sill.
Christian concerts, ceremonies, and rituals regardless of faith.
And various other activities around Lawton/OKC.
All of these events were made mandatory that we had to attend instead of calling family, writing letters, or reading books (for those who are lucky enough to have them). On most occasions we are told they are “optional” then only 2 or 3 people will volunteer to have their private time taken away. When they don’t have enough “volunteers” or they can’t find anybody who wants to come and watch the others who are left behind they make them “mandatory” for all. The main reason we are conscripted for these “entertainment events” is to make our unit, the base, or the army look good. Because nobody in their right mind would want to go to them.
On Christmas we were forced to buy a $75 ticket to get off base. The same bus ticket would cost $20 or a taxi ride would cost $50 or $25 if you found another soldier to ride with you. We asked why we had to buy a bus ticket from only this company who was on base and why we could not take a cab we were told that we aren’t being authorized to leave any other way and we would have to stay on Fort Sill over Christmas exodus if we did not by this exuberantly priced ticket.
In bravo battery there are many people who have finished basic and AIT but forced to live in a basic training style barracks and being governed by drill sergeants. We are being told that if we complain to any of our superiors or talk to our congressmen that they will “step on us like a bug” “be destroyed” or “crush our nuts.” We live in constant fear of retaliation for something we do or something somebody else does because they don’t punish just one person they take it out on everybody. Our treatment is very poor, prisoners and detainees get treated better than us. They lecture us on our personal time when we spend literally all day doing absolutely nothing. Being stuck in an over glorified closet with no windows or ventilation all day(in the battalion). Not having furniture in the room we live in other than the beds, which we aren’t allowed to sit on. Being told in an “open floor” discussion to “go fuck yourself” when we bring a valid problem or complaint to the drill sergeant.
They blatantly disrespect us constantly and they treat some privates better than others if they like football or basketball and will talk to the drill sergeants about it. Almost every private is fearful of retaliation even if we file a legitimate complaint. When we bring up violations of rules and regulations they tell us they don’t care but when somebody is out of regulation or policy they will give them an article 15 take away 2-4 weeks pay and be on restriction/extra duty for 45 days. Propaganda posters are strewn all over the building we live about noncommissioned officers respecting their subordinates but none of us here have ever seen an ounce of respect, help, or the first sign of being treated like a decent human being.
Letters, certified packages, and other parcels are being singed in our name and being received by others. The mail system takes only days to deliver a letter going out, but on Feb 13 soldiers were getting letters postmarked on the 12th of Dec. Packages and letters are delivered to the wrong building and they put them in a stack or throw them into a locked room and don’t actively seek out who they belong to.
Many people have been here for 6-18 months in I.E.T status for a variety of reasons. Some of us had more privileges and better treatment in AIT and basic. People coming into basic now can smoke, use smokeless tobacco and keep their cell phones.
Mass punishment is wrong and does not work over long periods of time. Many believe it only serves to demoralize. Once you have a privilege (like using the phone or leaving the barracks on the weekends for 2 hours) they take them away for no real reason. And once they have taken all of your privileges what then can they punish you with? Most people just don’t care when they take everything away. “If I am going to get punished for doing everything right just the same as the guy who got caught with cigarettes, I might as well just smoke myself. Why would I do the right thing?” Why is it that 100+ people are responsible for 1 person hiding a can of smokeless tobacco in his mattress? And if you do try to correct them nobody will listen to you, so you notify the drill sergeant and he proceeds to punish everybody including the person who was trying to help.
Some privates run around hitting people in the genitals and think it’s funny or will put their genitalia on people while they sleep. Or they will urinate or put seamen into their canteens when they are not looking or are asleep. There are many other soldiers who whiteness these acts and sit by idly. There are many other cases of sexual abuse/assault that happen among the privates here and nothing can be done. We notify the chain of command and they might yell at us because they don’t know who did it but nothing ever happens.
(Approximately Jan 28th)
I have no idea why I do not care anymore I just want to sleep all the time. The new revelation started last Friday when I was put back into FTU from PTRP (the first instance of this ever.) There is no reason that I should be treated the way that I have been for the last 50+ weeks. For the initial 9 weeks of basic training I can understand the hazing and ruthless treatment, but not for over a year. I used to be able to cope by listening to music, calling people on a hidden cell phone, or talking to my friends in the bay. But now they will no longer let me talk to my friends or listen to music on the radio, and they found the hidden cell phone and confiscated it. If I was just able to do anything to mentally get away from this place I would. Just to forget who I am and what I am doing day in and day out. An hour or two of disassociation is the only way I was able put up with the meaningless and mindless bullshit and torment of being here “on duty” 16 hours a day. The only way to describe my life is sorrow, loathing, spitefulness, depression, and endless tortuous misery. Nobody is willing to help improve our treatment or listen to our complaints. I joined the army to make a difference and to help other people. Now I am being help prisoner, doomed to a fate worse than death. At one point I know I had a purpose. At one point I know I cared. I do not know when I lost it and if I will be capable of ever possessing it ever again. I am not sure if I lost it in AIT or the beginning of June when I was attached to FTU. I know that I have lost more since Friday and even more last night. I do not know how, why or how I can recover. I do not think I have shown any of the army values for a very long time. I believe I projected the image that I cared for many months and it was just an act; but it was all that I could do. I am being set up for failure and have been for weeks. The fact that this unit will not follow regulations does not inspire hope or willingness to comply with any orders or any of their bogus policies. In my opinion none of the cadre show any of the army values to any of the soldiers here. That is just my opinion and I may not see the whole picture. On exodus I came back with renewed motivation that I have not had since basic training. Drill sergeant Frazier and Langford managed to snuff out all of my hope and drive within the first few days we were all back. I will try to do my best, but I can not manage a positive thought for very long. The army values did mean something to me at one point even though it is just propaganda on paper. I have always known it was just propaganda, but they are a good base for morals if people would lead by example. In conclusion I hope this paper reaches somebody and they read it in whole and are not too judgmental. I also hope that I can improve myself and the situation that I am in. Perhaps I can be what they want me to be. Perhaps I can fulfill my enlistment and be productive, but that is not realistic. And it is not what I really want; all I want in this world is to be anywhere but here. I believe that I have permanent physical and psychological damage from this place. If I could describe this place in 2 words it would be: “Malevolentia Imperium.”
1 Malevolentia: Latin, malevolent; having or exhibiting ill will; wishing harm to others; malicious. Having an evil or harmful influence
2 Imperium: Latin, can be translated as “power”. In Antiquity this concept could apply to people, and mean something like "power status" or "authority", or could be used with a geographical connotation and mean something like "territority".
For no good reason yesterday February 14, somebody decided to take my pillow off my bunk and wipe their ass with it and they also thought it would be a grandiose idea to piss into my canteen (the only drinking container that I have because we are not afforded cups.) I have never done anything to this individual nor have I ever talked badly about him. He just has some malicious hatred for me. This is another fine example of the quality of human beings that we are forced to live with. When I notified the cadre of this they just yelled at and punished everyone including me.

(The TR 350-6 regulation document does indeed address hazing and other forms of harassment and abuse.--Patdev)

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One of the late PFC Mathew Scarano’s emails to me, followed by a draft document he was working to complete at the time of his death because he wanted to do something constructive:

From: Mailed-By:
Date: Mar 7, 2006 3:01 PM
Subject: Casualties of a broken system
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First off, I want to thank you for becoming our champion when no one else would. Thanks almost exclusively to you blowing the whistle when it came to the status quo in PTRP, things may indeed be changing for the better, some permanent institutional practices regarding PTRP are starting to take form. I was one of two individuals who spoke privately with the Investigator-General.

My name is Mathew Scarano, PFC. I turned 21 last month. One of your first articles about PTRP mentioned me briefly when it came to very heavily medicated individuals being sometimes unable to make it to final formation. (I still try.)

I'm also the longest-serving member of PTRP, by a margin of nearly a month. Some of the seniors among us jokingly refer to each other by our rank in terms of seniority. (3 being third-longest, 2 second-longest), etc. I am number one. As of 1 MAR I have been in PTRP for exactly one year, and Fort Sill even longer. Mind you that I mean consecutively - no leave whatsoever outside of the two-week "Christmas exodus". Perhaps that is my fault; I should have been more vocal about that. It just seems that there is rarely an opportune time, considering that sometimes the few who went on leave, either convalescent or personal leave, often either didn't come back within the period of time they were allowed or didn't come back at all and that I would be perceived as being a flight risk.

Needless to say, it has been extremely emotionally and physically taxing on me. I liken being here to being incarcerated, and it often helped during the bleaker points in PTRP history to think of it as such: I'm far from being any kind of expert on the subject, but perhaps it was a psychological self-defense mechanism to try to perceive what was going on as being punitive in nature.

When I first entered PTRP on 1 MAR 2005, there was no FTU or PCU; the Bravo Battery building was dedicated entirely to PTRP. The only other individual in PTRP who came in the following month agrees that conditions then were more tolerable for various reasons, but mainly I believe it is largely because we could at least tolerate one another. The nature of the people made it more interesting and the bold but often reckless escapades of some of the MEB-bound soldiers (housed in PTRP at that time) kept us on our toes. We had priority in the mess hall over Alpha Battery, which consists of newly-arrived in-processing soldiers, and therefore didn't have to wait in line behind hundreds of people. (I am unsure why this changed.)

I could go on about the differences between the past and present but I digress.

My injury is degenerative and getting worse.

I was lied to about surgery, as were many others, and it was brought to the attention of the Investigator-General that the medical community had been telling us that we face courts-martial or severe forms of non-judicial punishment if we declined the surgery suggested to us by the doctors here at Fort Sill. This has since been demonstrated to be a bald-faced lie.

I was told that I'd receive arthroscopic shoulder surgery initially, which had little chance of success, and when that failed I would receive a full shoulder replacement, after which my left shoulder would be essentially disabled for the rest of my life.

Just a little rudimentary research into the subject revealed that there are countless other, infinitely more promising options available to me in the civilian world, which I choose to explore, instead of being a guinea pig to a medical system I have no faith in, whatsoever. This is the same medical system which has botched surgeries and performed procedures without the patient's knowledge. I guess their rationale is that up until recently, the patients, in our case, were under the impression that we had virtually no input in the matter, anyway.

I've recently been told, by our case worker, that I'm getting an MEB but as of now my consultation is pending, I've heard no further word yet but am hopeful that as a result of the controversy caused by the attention garnered by your blog, I'll be out of here soon. I am a casualty of a broken system; I fell through the cracks of the bureaucracy that is the system which all of us must go through, as is every other one of us who have been here.

I am a living symbol of the failure of the system and after having been ignored for so long, despite trying to raise as much attention as I could, I might finally be able to get on with my adult life after spending over a third of it in PTRP, deprived of everything from being able to be with my family, to fundamental physical needs such as sleep and recuperation from my injury, to the basic human freedoms and creature comforts which I will never again take for granted.

As deep as my hatred is for the institution that is PTRP, I have learned a lot about both myself and human nature during my tenure here. It has given me time to study certain subjects, time which I lacked on the outside, and get around to literature that I'd always wanted to read. Such pursuits are my only real escape from my dismal little reality, other than my medication. (I realize how the latter sounds but sadly it is true. It is my only real deliverance from the chronic, piercing and sometimes debilitating pain in my shoulder.)

At any rate, I felt compelled to write to you because of what you have done for me, and more specifically, all of us. You managed to shock the system out of its complacency, at least to the extent where hopefully in the future conditions improve and individuals are not retained in PTRP over six months.

So, on behalf of a very grateful PTRP, thank you, very much.

P.S: I have no problem if you want to print this in your blog, nor do I care if it's done anonymously or not, especially since it wouldn't be very hard to deduce who I am.

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From: Mailed-By:
Date: Mar 14, 2006 3:13 PM
Subject: Something you may be interested in:
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I've been studying psychology on my own, and I'm trying to apply it to the underlying problems of PTRP. It isn't finished yet, as I am still unsatisfied with it, but I intend to show it to our commander when I am finished. I hope it is at least, in some small, minor way, a bit insightful. I've wanted to do this for a long time, and finally the time is right - also, at least when I get out of here one day, I can say that when asked what should happen to address the problems of the PTRP, I actually said something instead of being characteristically indifferent or cynical.


As of 15 MAR 05, I have been in PTRP continuously for over one year, through the equivalent of several generations of PTRP. I believe this gives me a unique position from which to examine the underlying, root problems afflicting us all, since no one else, save the couple others who have been in PTRP nearly (within a month) as long as I have, have objectively seen the evolution of PTRP and witnessed how it affects different people, and from that, the true nature of PTRP.

Being in PTRP puts one in a state of perpetual cognitive dissonance, most particularly in those who have needlessly been here for an unreasonably long amount of time, more specifically those who have been in PTRP longer than six months in contrast to the official TRADOC position (AR 350-6, section 4-4).

Cognitive dissonance is the perception of incompatibility between two cognitions, which for the purpose of cognitive dissonance theory can be defined as any element of knowledge, attitude, emotion, belief or value, as well as a goal, plan, or an interest. In brief, the theory of cognitive dissonance holds that contradicting cognitions serve as a driving force that compels the mind to acquire or invent new thoughts or beliefs, or to modify existing beliefs, so as to minimize the amount of dissonance (conflict) between cognitions. Experiments have attempted to quantify this hypothetical drive. (Leon Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, 1957).

This is simply because of the arising of conflicting cognitions: the underlying, fundamental need for a sense of purpose and meaning, conflicting with the conscious realization of the monotony and mundane, typically pointless nature of our daily life, the utter lack of self-determination and control of one's own fate and decisions, as well as the needlessness of the extremely long durations of the stay of a few members of PTRP, and the manner in which we are frequently treated (usually by individuals outside of our battery who typically have no valid understanding of our situation) – such as being lied to about potentially life-altering medical procedures in a patronizing and passive-aggressively demeaning manner, or being treated in a belittling manner by some of the TMC staff, for a couple examples – creates a psychological condition which fosters disassociation from reality, often profound periods of depression, escapism and self-destructive behavior, and an indifference towards authority at all levels from once motivated and disciplined individuals, all of which I have personally experienced and witnessed over the past year in PTRP without any serious reprieve.

Not to mention the element of the physical pain most of us experience. Though I have no references to substantiate this, I believe that the tremendous psychological pressures we undergo weakens our means of rationalizing our pain, which contributes to the dehumanizing experience. It is my firm belief that this could lead to long-term drug dependency when there is no other means of dealing with pain if one is not cautious.

This is all undoubtedly part of the elaborate self-defense mechanism on the part of the psyche to correct this conflict, and the nature of the adverse reactions to PTRP, ranging from the extreme and destructive to more subtle, such as social withdrawal and introversion, depend largely on the conditions present at the time (the conditions in PTRP are always changing – one could even call them cyclical), the disposition of the individual detained in PTRP, social and environmental factors, and that individual’s experiences in life thus far.

The disparity between members of PTRP is also a huge factor, and in my opinion and experience, one of the most significant. The nature of the micro-society within PTRP changes with the departure of some somewhat "senior" members, and the arrival of new ones. These individuals have ranged in age from 17 to 39 and thus their maturity level and means of dealing with the stressors and aforementioned inner conflicts associated with being in PTRP, especially for an extremely long period of time , vary as much as the individuals, leading in some cases to inevitable personality conflicts and irreconcilable differences which can only be solved by keeping the conflicting individuals separated as much as possible, and interaction on a professional level limited only to what is absolutely necessary.

Attempts to remedy these conditions from training cadre have been either successful or counter-productive depending on the circumstances and the nature of the changes, either rewarding or punitive. However, in the long run these remedies - such as increased privileges including use of electronics and limited personal time - though often successful and beneficial in the short term, and undoubtedly well-intended, are ultimately only superficial “stop-gap” measures which do not address the underlying long-term conditions creating the problems currently facing PTRP, due to the “cyclical” nature of the actual PTRP platoon, and the (until recently) unchanging nature of the ineffective, overly bureaucratic medical system, in respects to PTRP. The only long-term solution for PTRP would be an expedient passage through, and out-processing from PTRP, and a far more strict adherence to the Army regulations regulating PTRP, instead of using the “six month” regulation (AR 350-6 Sectio n 4-4, subsections 1(c) and 6(d)) as a guideline, as it was (arguably) not intended as one.

Unfortunately these conditions cannot be remedied at our "local" level, by which I mean within our battery. It will require a serious overhaul of a neglectful, malfunctioning bureaucracy which has, in the past, been indifferent to our plight (at best) or outright harmful (at worst). These changes will by no means initiate themselves and if necessary, should be forced upon the system by higher authority.

Quite recently, and for the first time in my year-long subjective experience, some changes in the system are indeed in the early phases of manifesting themselves. Whether or not they will be helpful or lasting in the long run, or whether the system will revert to its previous form when no longer under outside scrutiny, can only be determined by time and ongoing evaluation.

In conclusion, the problems of PTRP are multi-faceted: personal, psychological, and physical. The often notorious morale problems associated with PTRP, and the problems which stem from it, as well as cause it, result in a highly problematic environment which creates the conditions we see today, causing individuals to undergo a sometimes radical, permanent attitude change as the result of the extremely demoralizing inner conflicts which everyone in PTRP will eventually go through to some degree, depending on the length of stay. PTRP is not the cause of the problems which are attributed to it, but rather the victim. On a personal level these conditions will worsen, directly proportional to the amount of time spent in PTRP, with one growing progressively less motivated, and more demoralized, until a critical point is reached.

It is my opinion that it is time to stop paying lip service to these many problems and either make legitimate, calculated efforts to solve the problem in the long run, for the future generations of PTRP as well as the present, or do away with PTRP altogether.

Some of the issues brought forward by the Late PFC Scarano and Pvt Howell had already been considered at a high level by TRADOC command in August of 2005 (See the full Powerpoint version here

The excerpt of this document (below) is of note because it addresses the fact that the PTRP Commanders are supposed to be Physical Therapists (see sentence in bold below).

The cache of a series of recommendations about the PTRP made in August of 2005 by a variety of Colonels who are MDs, Phd’s etc.:

MEDCOM Findings: Injuries

* #1 injury of concern is stress fracture (4:1 Female to Male)
o No standardized rehabilitation or training programs for those diagnosed with stress fracture
o Injury rates have increased with increased rigor
* Physical Therapist “forward” works, but has pros and cons
* Physical Training Rehabilitation Program (PTRP)
o 50-65 % return to BCT
o Of those who return, similar graduation/ attrition rates
o Leadership issue - how to keep injured Soldiers motivated?
* New combat boots heavy (and perhaps an injury issue)
o Drill Sergeants prefer not wearing the new boots
* Gender differences in injury
o Ft. Jackson appears to have very high injury rate in females
o Pelvic stress fractures from road marches, increased load

MEDCOM Findings: Motivational Factors

* High motivation decreases risk of attrition
* Factors that can increase performance
o Success
o Confidence
o Group cohesion
o Sense of purpose
* Motivation to train is a psychological process
* Unpleasant experiences can serve as toxins that diminish motivation to train or continue the mission
* Challenge: can recruits be trained to effectively persevere in the face of motivational toxins? (Homesickness, Separation from Romantic Partner, Anxiety / Fear, Lack of Privacy, Lack of Sleep, Sense of Failure, Physical Discomfort, Ostracism / Rejection, Intimidation, Injury, Failure to Connect with Battle Buddy or Others, Recycling)

* Code all five (5) PTRP Co Cdr positions for Physical Therapists (Surgeon -- done)

(If done, then why is there not a Physical Therapist command position in Fort Sill’s PTRP?-Patdev)

* Foster and encourage a credible TRADOC-MEDCOM Partnership
o Support Soldiers to Success
o ID of correctable conditions that can be treated (with treatment and rehab supported by TRADOC)
o Open communication between Docs and Cdrs

Monday, February 13, 2006

Information for Family Members of Injured Soldiers in PTRP at Fort Sill

UPDATED 3/6/06
This is an Open Letter to all of you who have family members in the PTRP at Fort Sill:

I am Private Sincere’s mother. He is one of the injured privates at the Fort Sill PTRP. I wanted to provide others who are family members of PTRP soldiers at Fort Sill with information I have gathered about what to do if you are concerned for your son/husband/brother…

If I can help you in any way, or if you would like your family member's story posted without mentioning his name, please email me at ptrosss (“at” symbol) (sorry, have to write it out to prevent spam robots from getting it).

If you’re afraid, do something anyway. At least when you finally fall asleep in the wee hours of the morning, you will know that you are doing something, however small, to help your family member. I speak from experience. When I started to lose heart, I remembered that ALL of our sons/brothers/husbands had been forced to perform work that may have impacted their injuries (scraping floors, moving heavy furniture, etc.). ALL of our sons/brothers/husbands had inadequate medical supervision. Most, if not all of our sons/brothers/husbands had experienced intimidation/threats, etc., and had been called worthless, useless, fill in the blanks with various cursewords because they were injured. At least one of our sons/brothers/husbands had been the victim of assault. This is all unacceptable and illegal, even in the Army, even in a Boot Camp situation.

Remember that this is not even a Boot Camp scenario; this is a supposed rehabilitative environment. And certainly, if your son/brother/husband has been assaulted for any reason, you should already be doing something! Remember that you are not alone. Discuss this situation openly with family and friends. You have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to hide. The more attention this situation gets, the more likely positive change will occur. (NOTE 3/6/06: This in fact is happening -- enough attention was drawn to the situation that it could not be ignored or dismissed -- PD)Now let’s get into some of the “something you can do”:

I have filed a complaint with my congressman’s office, and written to several others. Eventually, I was contacted by a congressional caseworker, and she is reviewing my son’s individual situation. That’s not enough, in my opinion, based on what I know to be true of the situation at Fort Sill. But it’s a start, and if all of us with concerns (and we ALL should have concerns) about our family member write to our congressional representatives (and keep writing if you don’t get a response), then it will become obvious that there’s a problem. (NOTE 3/6/06: I don't know how many of you did this, but I do know that it helped in my son's medical situation. I will add that this was done after other methods failed.--PD)

--If you decide to write to your congressional representative, and you don’t know who that is, find out here:
United States House of Representatives

Document as much as you can about your family member and the circumstances of the others in PTRP. Explain to them that your son can’t fill out a form, and detail as much much as you can. Be clear. If you don’t hear from them within a few days, follow up that communication with another one. Your congressional representative has caseworkers whose sole job is to investigate.

Official Channels – What I Have Done:

My particular concerns started out in August of 2005, after my son couldn’t get his combat boots laced over his feet and was in extreme pain. I wrote to the training liaison officer at Fort Sill. I was contacted in return, and while my son endured some verbal harassment for my intervention, it at least got him some ice and ibuprofen. X-rays were negative, but his condition persisted. A bone scan was scheduled, but my son was informed that if he went that day, he would automatically fail and be recycled (repeating Boot Camp). Another bone scan was scheduled, and that time the Drill Sergeants didn’t even bother to inform him of it (in Boot Camp, the Drill Sgts are notified, and they notify your family member of their appointments).

My son received temporary profiles that prohibited running, and was ordered to take an alternate walking event for the final PT test, instead of running. This was in November. All other components of the test were performed and passed, as was the alternative event. He went from his two mile walking test to the medical center where a bone scan was performed. He was informed that he had passed and would graduate, which he did.

Then, as I have documented on my blog here (See Abuse is Rampant at Fort Sill, he was “ungraduated” and the bureaucratic nightmare began. That was the least of the problems, as it turns out, with his stay in the Fort Sill PTRP.

It may be hard to think about, but document EVERYTHING from your family member's conversations. Get names, dates, times, places, etc. Remember that your son/husband/brother's oral record may be all you have to go on and give out, since they aren’t allowed to make statements to the press, etc., and you are their only hope for help at this time.

(NOTE 3/6/06: It has been pointed out to me that CO Captain Nuels is currently willing to discuss their family member's situation 580-442-4771. This should be your first stop to ask for assistance as long as you have no reason to think otherwise. -- PD)

Due to my son having officially graduated, when he was “ungraduated”and his medical care in question, I contacted the IG’s office (Inspector General) at Fort Sill. ANYONE can contact the IG. If you haven’t done so, I recommend you do it NOW.
Here is their contact information:

Phone: (580)442-3224

(NOTE: This step was vital to the changes that occurred in the Fort Sill PTRP--PD) You will be told that you are a 3rd party, and thus not necessarily entitled to know what happens, but it’s definitely worth the effort. I was contacted the first time I wrote to them, and have recently again contacted that office to update them on the situation of the entire PTRP. (UPDATE) The IG's office welcomes your input if you are a PTRP family member or a PTRP soldier.

Be prepared for a lot of buck passing, regardless of whom you write. You’re going to be discouraged, hear a lot of double talk, and encounter a lot of red tape. It will be suggested that you don’t understand the situation, that you aren’t getting the whole story, that because a detail of a story has changed with the passing of time, it means your entire complaint is invalid. Endure this and persevere. The fact is that you can’t get on your white horse and rescue your family member. If it could be done, I would already have a white horse saddled in the backyard. Heck, I would already have ridden out and done the rescue.

Contact the Public Affairs Office at Fort Sill.

Someone steered me in this direction when I erred about whom to contact. Tell them what your family member has been through, and what the other injured soldiers have been through as well as far as you know. If as one parent I heard from stated, her son feared for his life at one point, you should say that. TELL THE TRUTH. In theory, your complaint should reach the actual base commander. I’m still waiting to see if this actually happens, but don’t let that stop you from writing as well.
(NOTE: While I was contacted by the IG's office, no one else in the chain of command bothered to contact me. The IG's office was the most responsive -- PD). If the situation remains unaddressed, the next step up is at the Combined Arms Center at Ft. Leavenworth, KS in the person of Lt Gen Petraeus. If that fails, then you go up to Gen. Wallace, who is the TRADOC commander and Lt Gen Petraeus’ boss. I’m waiting. My patience is thin, but I’m waiting. (NOTE 3/6/06: There was some significant positive involvement at a TRADOC command level -- I doubt he'd appreciate being named here -- PD)

Don’t expect ANYONE to be glad to hear from you. If someone is glad to hear from you, that person is likely going to try to doubletalk you out of pursuing the issues.

This is obviously an ongoing process. I will add to this document as I learn more. If only one or two of us follow up on this, we can be ignored and our sons can be silenced. If we -- as the families of these fine young men who volunteered to serve their country and are now being treated like trash – stand together in our resolve to see this situation remedied, it’s possible that not only our family members will be safer, but also those to follow in the future.

IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR FAMILY MEMBER HAS A LEGITIMATE COMPLAINT OR ISSUE THAT IS NOT BEING ADDRESSED: Please don’t give up, and please don’t put it off. Write today. Make phone calls. Think of anyone you know who might help these injured soldiers who are members of your family and mine, and contact them as well as those I’ve suggested above.

Return to We Are All Volunteers in This Army

Monday, January 30, 2006

Abuse is Rampant at Fort Sill, Oklahoma

After an absence from blogging for many months, I’m going to co-opt my own forum for what may seem to be a side issue. It has come to my attention that there is a place at Army Basic Training installations called PTRP (Physical Training Rehabilitation Program). Theoretically, it’s for soldiers who have been injured during training to rehabilitate and be returned to training. Perhaps that is the case at some of those facilities. I really couldn’t say. But in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, home of the Field Artillery, it’s different. I’ve discussed the tale that I’m about to tell with many regular folks, and some soldiers on active duty. Their responses range from disbelief to incredulity. The sad thing is that those with the power to change it view it as business as usual.

Whatever its original purpose, the PTRP at Fort Sill is now a warehouse for a sliding inventory of 40-50 injured soldiers, and its occupants have been there for tenure of up to fourteen months. Current regulations state that in order to be admitted to PTRP, a soldier “is likely to recover within 4 months, and complete all the physical requirements of training.” In another area of the TR 350-6, they do acknowledge that a stay can be “up to 6 months in duration”.

It all started in August, 2005, when a young man whom will we call Private Sincere enlisted in the Army. He probably should have known when his first MOS (job description) was misrepresented to him, that this did not bode well for his future in the Army. Still, his brother was on duty in Iraq, and he wanted to “do something”. He went back to the MEPS (military entry processing station) with his recruiter, who helped him to change to the MOS he “thought” he had in the first place.

Once in Basic Training, Private Sincere was injured by late August. He called his home, alarmed at the fact that his feet were so swollen he couldn’t lace his combat boots, and he was in extreme pain. He was not allowed to seek medical attention, or to take anything to relieve his pain and inflammation. Pvt. Sincere was derided as if he had somehow deliberately created the symptoms. His mother wrote to the liaison officer, and Private Sincere was sent to “sick call” (after more verbal abuse). He received ibuprofen and was restricted from running. He did well in all other aspects of his training. He finished his Advanced Individual Training and was second in his class. He was ordered to take an alternative event (walking instead of running) and passed all other aspects of his final PT (physical training) test. In fact, he finally received a bone scan (nearly 3 months after the symptoms began) an hour after he successfully completed the final PT test. The scan revealed stress fractures. Private Sincere graduated and then, immediately after the ceremony, was informed that he and two other soldiers were being assigned to the PTRP. They wouldn’t be going to their first duty stations. So sayeth Colonel Fulton, who waited until the last moment to have his subordinate, Captain Cunningham, drop this on the drill sergeants of the three graduates as their families, who had come from across the country, waited for them. Later, Capt. Cunningham would have to “ungraduate” the three young soldiers in order for the PTRP to accept them. It had made good theater, however, at the graduation ceremony, to be able to say that they had 100% graduation (this naturally didn’t include those who had been discharged in the early stages of the process). The drill sergeants and officers were all quite self-congratulatory that they had taken this motley crew of useless “recruits” and turned them into soldiers. Somehow, the fact that these young men had all volunteered in service to their country, and stuck it out until the end, didn’t matter. [I recall when my eldest son graduated from Basic Training at Fort Knox in 2000, the presentation, at least, was quite different. -PD]

At first, it wasn’t too bad for Private Sincere and his fellow retainees. Soldiers were given limited exercise and duty, and RICE (rest, ice compression, elevation), and allowed to watch some TV or read while they maintained their quarters and recuperated. In Private Sincere’s case, the initial rest (sprinkled with a little hope) was the only thing that could help him. The three graduates were in an awkward position, because technically they had completed all their training. They had been promised (as had their families) that they would be treated humanely, and that they would retain their status as graduates. They might not be able to wear their hard won berets, but Capt. Cunningham assured the concerned parents of the three holdovers that he would speak to the sergeant at PTRP and explain their special circumstances as graduates. This, of course, was soon remedied by the fact that Capt. Cunningham had to “ungraduate” them. And so began the three privates descent into a real twilight zone. IMAGINE A BOOT CAMP THAT NEVER ENDS…

The Inspector General’s office found no regulations had been broken in the “ungraduation”. Instead, it was related that those in charge had exceeded their authority by ordering an alternate walking event for the unsuspecting three. Regulations did not forbid the alternate event, but did not provide for it, either. What “should” have happened in Private Sincere’s case was that he “should” have been assigned to PTRP when his injuries first became apparent. He was described as “lucky” to have been allowed to complete his training. [How is it lucky to continue to stress an injury for nearly 3 months after it occurs?] “All” he had to do now was to run 2 miles in 16 minutes and 36 seconds (8 mins and 18 secs per mile) and on he could go to his first duty station…or back to basic training (recycled) as if he had not been through that gauntlet already and graduated.

The initial living conditions in the PTRP were bad enough. There were 50 “privates” in a bay (like a crowded dorm). Sewage backed up on a regular basis, creating obvious health hazards. Mentally ill privates were housed with privates whose injuries were purely physical in nature. One private frequently cut himself. Another sang at the top of his lungs, 24 hours a day. Another talked to himself constantly, muttering and cursing, and trying to start fights. Some were on medication, and couldn’t even stand up for evening formation…literally incoherent and drooling on themselves [one particular private who fits this description has been in PTRP for 14 months]. These privates were initially put into PTRP for physical injuries, but had deteriorated over time. Exploratory surgeries were done on some, and they’d wake up to discover that multiple procedures had been performed without their knowledge. On at least one soldier, those procedures had to be corrected by additional surgery. Some soldiers were alarmed and went to the mental health counseling unit where they were told, “We’re getting tired of being the counselors to PTRP.” There was a parade of temporary drill sergeants, some who actually cared about these young men. One of them even managed to get permission for these soldiers to enroll in college classes while they were in PTRP. But that was before Sergeant Langford.

Sgt. Langford is permanently assigned to the PTRP. He’s certain that these injured soldiers are all malingerers…he’s been heard to say so. This is despite the fact that no soldier in PTRP is there without a medical profile that states their condition and allowed activity levels. After canceling all weekend on-base passes (PTRP soldiers are not allowed off-base passes), one of Langford’s first acts was to require these injured soldiers to scrape the bay floor with glorified razor blades and re-wax it. Soldiers with a variety of injuries, including those who’d recently had surgery, and those with broken bones, were crawling around on their hands and knees, scraping the floor [note: the size of this floor area takes days to scrape]. They completed this task and waxed the floor, only to be told that it wasn’t good enough. The scraping began again, and as of the time of this blog post, continues. In addition, the PTRP occupants are no longer allowed to sit down when not working on the floor, in direct conflict with their medical profiles. The rest of the base is now benefiting from these soldiers’ plight as well as a source of “free labor”. The privates are now required to work at various locations, regardless of the degree of physical activity, regardless of their medical profiles. I’m told, however, that the privates look forward to this because they are treated like human beings at these jobs. So they perform their work without regard for the physical toll it may take on them…anything to get away from the punitive conditions in the PTRP. Oh, and those soldiers who were unfortunate enough to enroll in classes before Langford’s arrival…they’re allowed no time to do their homework. The FTU (Fitness Training Unit) is overflowing, and as a consequence, the PTRP occupants (currently numbering 40+) are stuffed into ½ the space they had before (i.e., ½ a bay). Raids, euphemistically known as “health and welfare” have been instituted, with searches for forbidden items. Last raid, a pack of cigarettes was found…and that soldier’s punishment by Sgt. Langford exceeded the punishments for several AWOL soldiers who returned from Christmas break 6 days late, and the two soldiers whose urine tests were positive for hard drugs like cocaine. Confidential medical records sent for another private were read aloud by Sgt. Langford as he made fun of the soldier.

It appears that Sgt. Langford has found his soul mate. This past weekend, Sgt. Bullock, of the FTU, ordered all 70 members of the FTU and PTRP to arise from their beds every hour from 10PM to 2AM for formation. Anyone who did not comply would be given an Article 15 (non-judicial punishment). Three of the soldiers in the PTRP were on sleep profiles; i.e., mandated 7 hours of sleep per night, and given sleeping medication to ensure it. So their fellow privates had to get them out of bed, help them to dress and stumble out to formation, at 10 PM., 11 PM. 12 AM, 1AM, and 2 AM. Just to keep it interesting, Sgt. Bullock required two uniform changes. That made sure that the exhausted soldiers couldn’t just fall back into bed in their uniforms and rise up for formation. Finally, they were allowed to sleep after 2AM formation, until 5AM. The members of PTRP already have to report for formation five times a day. Now it appears that 5 times a night is acceptable as well. Remember, this is a PHYSICAL REHABILITATION UNIT.

THESE SOLDIERS HAVR DONE NOTHING WRONG. THEY WERE INJURED. They are not supposed to be in detention, and yet they are being punished over and over again. The final irony is that the PTRP families have received invitations to “Family Day Weekends” at Fort Sill for PTRP soldiers (February 3rd, March 10th, and April 14th). This is supposed to boost morale. Perhaps Sgt. Langford will invite the families to watch their injured relatives scrape the floors? Maybe Sgt. Bullock can give everyone a laugh and invite them to a midnight formation of the injured and the drugged? Maybe a plunger party? Perhaps Captain Cunningham will be on hand to explain to the parents of Private Sincere and his two fellow graduates why he lied to them? [We all know why, to get rid of them, but it might be interesting to see him squirm] Perhaps Colonel Fulton could explain why he is allowing this abuse in the name of PHYSICAL REHABILITATION?

If abuse like this of our own soldiers is systemic, is it any wonder that abuses occur with the helpless and weak (as well as the detained) when our soldiers are deployed?

After following all the existing protocols for complaint she could find, and a fax to her congressional representative [no response], Private Sincere’s mother finally decided to go public on this blog. She is concerned for the ramifications for her son. What will happen to him? To his credit, Private Sincere’s frustration with his own situation is nothing compared to his outrage at how the severely injured and helpless are treated. I hope some of you who read this will share his outrage. Imagine that these fine young men are your sons, husbands, brothers, etc. Imagine a boot camp that never ends and pray that your relatives never have to endure it.