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Army Looks Into NG Mistreatment Claims

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  • Army Looks Into NG Mistreatment Claims

    Army Looks Into NG Mistreatment Claims
    May 19, 2010
    News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash

    Five Army generals promised a thorough investigation Tuesday into complaints that National Guard troops returning from Iraq got second-class treatment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to make way for the base's active-duty brigades coming home from war this summer.

    The Oregon National Guard troops, who served alongside I Corps Soldiers, are "our own," said Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby, the Lewis-McChord and I Corps commander. He said officers at every level intend to see there is no difference in their care and service.

    But Jacoby also said that the generals, who included the Army's top doctor and the vice chief of staff, met Tuesday with some Oregon Soldiers "who clearly had the perception that they were not being treated the same."

    Others believed they were getting excellent care, the generals said.

    Jacoby launched an investigation last week "to deal with perceptions and realities" after U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, both Oregon Democrats, complained to the secretary of the Army about the "unacceptable way" the Guard troops were being processed through Lewis-McChord's medical battalion.

    Many aren't getting the health care they deserve, while others are being released from active duty and sent home too soon, their letter to the Army secretary said.

    They described a long list of allegations from Guard members, including:

    -- The Soldier Readiness Center has overturned physicians' decisions about Soldiers' care to move them through the system more quickly and make way for the return of Lewis-McChord units.

    -- Staff at the center have told Oregon National Guard Soldiers to "suck it up" and leave.

    -- Requests for second opinions by doctors have been denied in violation of federal regulations.

    Wyden and Schrader asked the Army to review decisions made on all the Oregon Guard members who returned from Iraq last month needing medical treatment.

    In separate letters, the pair asked the U.S. Government and Accountability Office and the Inspector General of the Department of Defense to investigate what they believe is "possible systemic discrimination" against members of the National Guard and reserve troops. They received an immediate reply to some complaints from Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the Army surgeon general, who apologized for insensitive characterizations of Guard troops by one of his officers.

    That officer, the acting chief of family practice at Madigan, had prepared a PowerPoint that showed two tracks of treatment for active-duty and reserve/Guard troops returning from war. It used a trucker's cap and the words "Weekend Warrior" to depict National Guard troops. It also suggested some of these Soldiers might want to delay their return to civilian life as long as possible to keep collecting Army pay.

    The officer has been suspended pending an investigation, Madigan commander Col. Jerome Penner said Tuesday. He declined to name her.

    In a handwritten note to Wyden, Schoomaker said he was "appalled by the insensitivity of one of my officers. I deeply apologize for this depiction of our comrades in the Reserve component."

    U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., cited the PowerPoint on Tuesday and called on the Army to investigate a possible "culture of condescension."

    Schoomaker and Army vice chief of staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli flew Monday from Washington, D.C., to Lewis-McChord and met with Oregon Guard Soldiers Tuesday morning, Chiarelli said during an unusual news conference.

    Jacoby, Schoomaker and Chiarelli sat at a table with Maj. Gen. Philip Volpe, commanding general of the Western Regional Medical Command, and Brig. Gen. Jeff Mathis, I Corps deputy, to make statements about the inquiry and answer questions about the allegations.

    Chiarelli said there should be only one standard Army-wide for the care of all Soldiers. "I assure you this is a top priority and it will remain a top priority. We are truly one Army."

    But he and the other generals pointed out that every Soldier's case is different, injuries and their treatment are complex, and to that degree, troops will be treated differently.

    Lewis-McChord and Madigan have added staff to treat returning servicemembers and will continue to add doctors and open new facilities, the generals said. But they also pointed out theirs is a huge task. Some 45,000 Soldiers passed through the local base over the last year and a half, Chiarelli said.

    Three Stryker brigades totaling about 12,000 Soldiers will return to Lewis-McChord this summer.

    The new complaints echo the controversy that erupted in the wake of the Walter Reed Medical Center scandal three years ago.

    Fort Lewis was one of several military installations in 2007 where injured and wounded Soldiers -- including some returning National Guardsmen and reservists -- said they were treated poorly and hung up by bureaucracy.

    Commanders at Fort Lewis and Madigan pledged to make reforms that would serve as a model for the rest of the Army. In the summer of 2007, they created the Warrior Transition Battalion, a unified approach to caring for Soldiers before they return to duty or move on to civilian life.

    Wyden spokesman Tom Towslee said in a phone interview Tuesday that Army brass are taking the current complaints seriously and "deserve a lot of credit" for moving swiftly to investigate. But Wyden's staff worries there is a systemic bias by some in the Army against National Guard and reserve troops.

    "These are not weekend warriors," Towslee said. "They're just warriors, period."

  • #2
    Re: Army Looks Into NG Mistreatment Claims

    That's a shame. I hope they get to the bottom of it, either way.


    • #3
      Re: Army Looks Into NG Mistreatment Claims

      My friend in the AD Army likes to call the NG "Nasty Girl". He also said to expect that I'd be treated like a second class soldier if I ever deployed overseas because NG doesn't train every day like AD does.


      • #4
        Re: Army Looks Into NG Mistreatment Claims

        There's always going to be jealousy for National Guard as long as we accomplish in 2 days what the Active duty side takes 28 additional days to do.


        • #5
          Re: Army Looks Into NG Mistreatment Claims

          Originally posted by SteveGuard
          There's always going to be jealousy for National Guard as long as we accomplish in 2 days what the Active duty side takes 28 additional days to do.

          wish I had that line when I was overseas......AD _ _ _ _ _ _'s LOL


          • #6
            Re: Army Looks Into NG Mistreatment Claims

            Originally posted by SteveGuard
            There's always going to be jealousy for National Guard as long as we accomplish in 2 days what the Active duty side takes 28 additional days to do.
            I always said that the Guard is only screwed up one weekend per month, whereas the active Army is screwed up every day of the year.

            Even if we're only half as good as the active component, that means that we're twice as effective as they are, since we cost 1/4 as much.

            Jealousy is a factor in their resentment. Just remember that the best revenge is living well. If you want to "get back" at those resentful jerks on active duty (who are a minority, and definitely less common than 10 years ago), then the best way to accomplish that is to live fully the Army Values, and achieve the highest standards in all your endeavors.