Thursday, March 29, 2007

Day Promotes Plan for Boosting Military Health Care Standards

From the Lincoln County News

Story date: 03/28/2007

By Judi Finn

Barbara Damon Day of Newcastle left last week’s private meeting with Gov. John Baldacci jubilant. She approached Baldacci to ask if he would sponsor the bill she was promoting that, among other things, would link the Maine Center for Disease Control with the Maine National Guard to better track and communicate health concerns. The bill would create a state model for linkage that Damon hopes ultimately could lead to national legislation to have higher standards regarding all health issues in the military.

“He said he would sponsor it enthusiastically,” said Day.

Day’s son, 41-year-old Maine Army National Guard Capt. Patrick Damon of Falmouth, died June 15, 2006, in Afghanistan. Damon’s cause of death was listed as an apparent heart attack. The military categorizes his death as a sudden, unexpected death. Day contends it was a prolonged, preventable death. “Pat fell through the cracks,” she said, and Day wants to fill those cracks, so other soldiers don’t die because of an unknown reaction to a drug or vaccine, for example.

Her goal is to keep Maine soldiers safe from preventable, non-combat deaths. Day believes her son’s death was due to reactions to immunizations and medications, poor response time by emergency personnel and to the lack of medical equipment.

According to Day, the rough draft of the bill is still in the revision stage and will be turned over to a legislative committee, probably Legal and Veterans Affairs. If enacted, the new law would call for setting up an advisory commission that would hold at least one public hearing a year. This would be for the loved ones of dead service people or veterans with undiagnosed health problems, for example, who have questions. Day doesn’t want people “to have to jump through the hoops” she did to try to get answers about her son.

Damon continues to tenaciously research non-combat deaths in the military and drug and immunization reactions as a way to give credence to her belief that the status quo health care protocols in the military are substandard and deadly.

Her immediate focus is on the proposed bill. She said, “I want to line up people to testify before the Legal and Veterans Affairs.”

Day has become a familiar face at the State House, and many there knew her son well. He began working in state government in 1994 as a legislative aide in the House and worked for four Speakers as their aide. A Democrat, Day has met with both parties’ leadership and received bipartisan support for her efforts, she said. At the time of Damon’s death, he was on leave from his job as administrative director of the Public Utilities Commission.

Any veteran with a disability or a veteran who has not received help or family members of deceased service people willing to testify should contact Day at 586-5003.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pat Tillman's Death Investigation

Although Pat Tillman's death was a "combat death", it exemplifies the lies and cover-ups that families of "non-combat deaths" must deal with. While this may seem like an exaggerated case, I assure you that it is SOP (standard operating procedure).


Officer: Criminal conduct not found
Family calls report 'unsatisfactory,' denounces Pentagon for exploiting death

By Frank Davies and Julia Prodis Sulek, MEDIANEWS STAFF

Article Last Updated: 03/27/2007 02:31:50 AM PDT

WASHINGTON — A four-star general will determine what punishments await up to nine Army officers — including four other generals — who gave inaccurate or misleading information about the "friendly fire" death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman, the Pentagon's top leaders announced Monday.

Findings of two simultaneous investigations concluded Tillman, a former NFL star and San Jose native, was killed accidentally by other Rangers during a patrol in Afghanistan in 2004. But Brig. Gen. Rodney Johnson, head of Army criminal investigations, found no criminal conduct or cover-up in the shooting.

Thomas Gimble, however,acting inspector general of the Defense Department, concluded that individual officers made "critical errors" in handling and reporting Tillman's death and "had no reasonable explanation" for why they did not inform the family of how Tillman died until three weeks after a nationally televised memorial service in San Jose.

Punishment for those officers could include reprimands, demotions, dismissal from the Army or court martial trials for making false statements under oath.

Tillman's family, including his widow Marie and brother Kevin, who have been critical of the investigation, all gathered at an undisclosed location in San Jose on Monday to be debriefed on the reports. The lead investigators from each probe were sent to San Jose from Washington to explain the reports' findings.

In a statement released Monday night, Tillman's family called the report "unsatisfactory" and denounced the Pentagon for using Tillman and his family as "props ... in a public relations exercise."
Outside the small blue house in San Jose's New Almaden neighborhood, where Tillman grew up, TV trucks were parked out front.

Tillman received national attention — and a personal letter of thanks from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — when he gave up a lucrative pro football career with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army with brother Kevin after the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Army investigators refused to explain what motivated officers to mislead or withhold information about Tillman's death, but one of the investigations included a reference to the political sensitivity and celebrity of the case.

One week after the shooting, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of joint special operations, sent a message to top brass that it was "highly possible" that Tillman was killed by "friendly fire."

McChrystal told investigators that he sent that alert a few days before the memorial service to allow top generals "to warn the acting secretary of the Army and President of the United States about comments they might make in speeches to preclude embarrassment if the public found out friendly fire was involved."
McChrystal testified he assumed family members had been told that Tillman's death may have been caused by friendly fire. They hadn't.

Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger, a now-retired three-star general who was in charge of Army special operations, also was criticized by investigators. Kensinger attended the May 3 memorial service.

"We found compelling evidence that Lt. Gen. Kensinger learned of suspected fratricide well before the memorial service and provided misleading testimony to both Brig. Gen. Gary Jones and to our investigators," the report found.

Kensinger testified "that he decided not to tell the Tillman family because friendly fire had not yet been confirmed, the investigation was not yet completed, and it was just 'not the right time' to do so."
Pete Geren, acting secretary of the Army, said Monday the findings of the two investigations were sent immediately to Gen. William Wallace, a four-star former battlefield commander in Iraq, and he expected a swift review.

"It is important to the Tillman family, to our Army and to the American people that we resolve this matter as quickly as possible," Geren said in a Pentagon briefing. "Far too much time has passed in getting things right in this case."

Geren apologized to the Tillman family and acknowledged that the Army's handling of the case had eroded its standing: "We as an Army failed in our duty to the Tillman family, the duty we owe to all the families of our fallen soldiers: Give them the truth, the best we know it, as fast as we can."

The four generals were named in the report, the other officers were not. The Army cited privacy concerns in their cases.

McChrystal is the highest current ranking officer criticized in the investigation. He was also blamed for "misleading statements" in the documents recommending a Silver Star for Tillman, as was Tillman's regimental commander, James Nixon, who is now a brigadier general at the Center for Special Operations in Florida.
The citation for the Silver Star cited Tillman's valor under hostile fire, and investigators said Monday that the Army rushed its procedures to be able to present the Silver Star to the family at the memorial service.
In Monday's statement, the Tillman family questioned the award, pointing out that before Pat, the Pentagon had never awarded a Silver Star to a soldier killed by friendly fire and "never fired upon by the enemy."
"The award of the Silver Star appears more than anything to be part of a cynical design to conceal the real events from the family and the public, while exploiting the death of our beloved Pat as a recruitment poster," the statement says.

Geren said an Army board had affirmed that Tillman earned the Silver Star with heroic action, but would modify the wording on the citation.

In the three years since the shooting, seven soldiers have been disciplined in the Tillman case, including the four Rangers who fired on him, thinking they were attacking enemy Afghan forces. At least two were demoted or forced out of the military.

Frank Davies can be reached at or (202) 662-8921.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I Am Sullied No More

March 09, 2007

I am Sullied-No More

Faced with the Iraq war's corruption, Col. Ted Westhusing chose death before dishonor.

--submitted by Patti Woodard

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Army is Ordering Injured Troops to go to Iraq

This mostly talks about physical injuries, but we know (as one mentioned) there are many with psychiatric issues going back too. This is an investigative piece naming names.

The Army is ordering injured troops to go to Iraq

At Fort Benning, soldiers who were classified as medically unfit to fight are now being sent to war. Is this an isolated incident or a trend?

By Mark Benjamin

Mar. 11, 2007

"This is not right," said Master Sgt. Ronald Jenkins, who has been ordered to Iraq even though he has a spine problem that doctors say would be damaged further by heavy Army protective gear. "This whole thing is about taking care of soldiers," he said angrily. "If you are fit to fight you are fit to fight. If you are not fit to fight, then you are not fit to fight."

As the military scrambles to pour more soldiers into Iraq, a unit of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., is deploying troops with serious injuries and other medical problems, including GIs who doctors have said are medically unfit for battle. Some are too injured to wear their body armor, according to medical records.

On Feb. 15, Master Sgt. Jenkins and 74 other soldiers with medical conditions from the 3rd Division's 3rd Brigade were summoned to a meeting with the division surgeon and brigade surgeon. These are the men responsible for handling each soldier's "physical profile," an Army document that lists for commanders an injured soldier's physical limitations because of medical problems -- from being unable to fire a weapon to the inability to move and dive in three-to-five-second increments to avoid enemy fire. Jenkins and other soldiers claim that the division and brigade surgeons summarily downgraded soldiers' profiles, without even a medical exam, in order to deploy them to Iraq. It is a claim division officials deny.

The 3,900-strong 3rd Brigade is now leaving for Iraq for a third time in a steady stream. In fact, some of the troops with medical conditions interviewed by Salon last week are already gone. Others are slated to fly out within a week, but are fighting against their chain of command, holding out hope that because of their ills they will ultimately not be forced to go. Jenkins, who is still in Georgia, thinks doctors are helping to send hurt soldiers like him to Iraq to make units going there appear to be at full strength. "This is about the numbers," he said flatly.

That is what worries Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America, who has long been concerned that the military was pressing injured troops into Iraq. "Did they send anybody down range that cannot wear a helmet, that cannot wear body armor?" Robinson asked rhetorically. "Well that is wrong. It is a war zone." Robinson thinks that the possibility that physical profiles may have been altered improperly has the makings of a scandal. "My concerns are that this needs serious investigation. You cannot just look at somebody and tell that they were fit," he said. "It smacks of an overstretched military that is in crisis mode to get people onto the battlefield."

Eight soldiers who were at the Feb. 15 meeting say they were summoned to the troop medical clinic at 6:30 in the morning and lined up to meet with division surgeon Lt. Col. George Appenzeller, who had arrived from Fort Stewart, Ga., and Capt. Aaron K. Starbuck, brigade surgeon at Fort Benning. The soldiers described having a cursory discussion of their profiles, with no physical exam or extensive review of medical files. They say Appenzeller and Starbuck seemed focused on downplaying their physical problems. "This guy was changing people's profiles left and right," said a captain who injured his back during his last tour in Iraq and was ordered to Iraq after the Feb. 15 review.

Appenzeller said the review of 75 soldiers with profiles was an effort to make sure they were as accurate as possible prior to deployment. "As the division surgeon and the senior medical officer in the division, I wanted to ensure that all the patients with profiles were fully evaluated with clear limitations that commanders could use to make the decision whether they could deploy, and if they did deploy, what their limitations would be while there," he said in a telephone interview from Fort Stewart. He said he changed less than one-third of those profiles -- even making some more restrictive -- in order to "bring them into accordance with regulations."

In direct contradiction to the account given by the soldiers, Appenzeller said physical examinations were conducted and that he had a robust medical team there working with him, which is how they managed to complete 75 reviews in one day. Appenzeller denied that the plan was to find more warm bodies for the surge into Baghdad, as did Col. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., the brigade commander. Grigsby said he is under "no pressure" to find soldiers, regardless of health, to make his unit look fit. The health and welfare of his soldiers are a top priority, said Grigsby, because [the soldiers] are "our most important resource, perhaps the most important resource we have in this country."

Grigsby said he does not know how many injured soldiers are in his ranks. But he insisted that it is not unusual to deploy troops with physical limitations so long as he can place them in safe jobs when they get there. "They can be productive and safe in Iraq," Grigsby said.

The injured soldiers interviewed by Salon, however, expressed considerable worry about going to Iraq with physical deficits because it could endanger them or their fellow soldiers. Some were injured on previous combat tours. Some of their ills are painful conditions from training accidents or, among relatively older troops, degenerative problems like back injuries or blown-out knees. Some of the soldiers have been in the Army for decades.

And while Grigsby, the brigade commander, says he is under no pressure to find troops, it is hard to imagine there is not some desperation behind the decision to deploy some of the sick soldiers. Master Sgt. Jenkins, 42, has a degenerative spine problem and a long scar down the back of his neck where three of his vertebrae were fused during surgery. He takes a cornucopia of potent pain pills. His medical records say he is "at significantly increased risk of re-injury during deployment where he will be wearing Kevlar, body armor and traveling through rough terrain." Late last year, those medical records show, a doctor recommended that Jenkins be referred to an Army board that handles retirements when injuries are permanent and severe.

A copy of Jenkins' profile written after that Feb. 15 meeting and signed by Capt. Starbuck, the brigade surgeon, shows a healthier soldier than the profile of Jenkins written by another doctor just late last year, though Jenkins says his condition is unchanged. Other soldiers' documents show the same pattern.

One female soldier with psychiatric issues and a spine problem has been in the Army for nearly 20 years. "My [health] is deteriorating," she said over dinner at a restaurant near Fort Benning. "My spine is separating. I can't carry gear." Her medical records include the note "unable to deploy overseas." Her status was also reviewed on Feb. 15. And she has been ordered to Iraq this week.

The captain interviewed by Salon also requested anonymity because he fears retribution. He suffered a back injury during a previous deployment to Iraq as an infantry platoon leader. A Humvee accident "corkscrewed my spine," he explained. Like the female soldier, he is unable to wear his protective gear, and like her he too was ordered to Iraq after his meeting with the division surgeon and brigade surgeon on Feb. 15. He is still at Fort Benning and is fighting the decision to send him to Baghdad. "It is a numbers issue with this whole troop surge," he claimed. "They are just trying to get those numbers."

Another soldier contacted Salon by telephone last week expressed considerable anxiety, in a frightened tone, about deploying to Iraq in her current condition. (She also wanted to remain anonymous, fearing retribution.) An incident during training several years ago injured her back, forcing doctors to remove part of her fractured coccyx. She suffers from degenerative disk disease and has two ruptured disks and a bulging disk in her back. While she said she loves the Army and would like to deploy after back surgery, her current injuries would limit her ability to wear her full protective gear. She deployed to Iraq last week, the day after calling Salon.

Her husband, who has served three combat tours in the infantry in Afghanistan and Iraq, said he is worried sick because his wife's protective vest alone exceeds the maximum amount she is allowed to lift. "I have been over there three times. I know what it is like," he told me during lunch at a restaurant here. He predicted that by deploying people like his wife, the brigade leaders are "going to get somebody killed over there." He said there is "no way" Grigsby is going to keep all of the injured soldiers in safe jobs. "All of these people that deploy with these profiles, they are scared," he said. He railed at the command: "They are saying they don't care about your health. This is pathetic. It is bad."

His wife's physical profile was among those reevaluated on Feb. 15. A copy of her profile from late last year showed her health problems were so severe they "prevent deployment" and recommended she be medically retired from the Army. Her profile at that time showed she was unable to wear a protective mask and chemical defense equipment, and had limitations on doing pushups, walking, biking and swimming. It said she can only carry 15 pounds.

Though she says that her condition has not changed since then, almost all of those findings were reversed in a copy of her physical profile dated Feb. 15. The new profile says nothing about a medical retirement, but suggests that she limit wearing a helmet to "one hour at a time."
Spc. Lincoln Smith, meanwhile, developed sleep apnea after he returned from his first deployment to Iraq. The condition is so severe that he now suffers from narcolepsy because of a lack of sleep. He almost nodded off mid-conversation while talking to Salon as he sat in a T-shirt on a sofa in his girlfriend's apartment near Fort Benning.

Smith is trained by the Army to be a truck driver. But since he is in constant danger of falling asleep, military doctors have listed "No driving of military vehicles" on his physical profile. Smith was supposed to fly to Iraq March 9. But he told me on March 8 that he won't go. Nobody has retrained Smith to do anything else besides drive trucks. Plus, because of his condition he was unable to train properly with the unit when the brigade rehearsed for Iraq in January, so he does not feel ready.

Smith needs to sleep with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine pumping air into his mouth and nose. "Otherwise," he says, "I could die." But based on his last tour, he is not convinced he will be able to be in places with constant electricity or will be able to fix or replace his CPAP machine should it fail.

He told me last week he would refuse to deploy to Iraq, unsure of what he will be asked to do there and afraid that he will not be taken care of. Since he won't be a truck driver, "I would be going basically as a number," says Smith, who is 32. "They don't have enough people," he says. But he is not going to be one of those numbers until they train him to do something else. "I'm going to go to the airport, and I'm going to tell them I'm not going to go. They are going to give me a weapon. I am going to say, 'It is not a good idea for you to give me a weapon right now.'"

The Pentagon was notified of the reclassification of the Fort Benning soldiers as soon as it happened, according to Master Sgt. Jenkins. He showed Salon an e-mail describing the situation that he says he sent to Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley. Jenkins agreed to speak to Salon because he hopes public attention will help other soldiers, particularly younger ones in a similar predicament. "I can't sit back and let this happen to me or other soldiers in my position." But he expects reprisals from the Army.

Other soldiers slated to leave for Iraq with injuries said they wonder whether the same thing is happening in other units in the Army. "You have to ask where else this might be happening and who is dictating it," one female soldier told me. "How high does it go?"

-- By Mark Benjamin

--Submitted by Kathie Costos

From the New York Times

March 13, 2007

For U.S. Troops at War, Liquor Is Spur to Crime


In May 2004, Specialist Justin J. Lillis got drunk on what he called “hajji juice,” a clear Iraqi moonshine smuggled onto an Army base in Balad, Iraq, by civilian contractors, and began taking potshots with his M-16 service rifle.

“He shot up some contractor’s rental car,” said Phil Cave, a lawyer for Specialist Lillis, 24. “He hopped in a Humvee, drove around and shot up some more things. He shot into a housing area” and at soldiers guarding the base entrance.

Six months later, at an Army base near Baghdad, after a night of drinking an illegal stash of whiskey and gin, Specialist Chris Rolan of the Third Brigade, Third Infantry Division, pulled his 9mm service pistol on another soldier and shot him dead.

And in March 2006, in perhaps the most gruesome crime committed by American troops in Iraq, a group of 101st Airborne Division soldiers stationed in Mahmudiya raped a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killed her and her family after drinking several cans of locally made whiskey supplied by Iraqi Army soldiers, military prosecutors said.

Alcohol, strictly forbidden by the American military in Iraq and Afghanistan, is involved in a growing number of crimes committed by troops deployed to those countries. Alcohol- and drug-related charges were involved in more than a third of all Army criminal prosecutions of soldiers in the two war zones — 240 of the 665 cases resulting in convictions, according to records obtained by The New York Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Seventy-three of those 240 cases involve some of the most serious crimes committed, including murder, rape, armed robbery and assault. Sex crimes accounted for 12 of the convictions.
The 240 cases involved a roughly equal number of drug and alcohol offenses, although alcohol-related crimes have increased each year since 2004.

Despite the military’s ban on all alcoholic beverages — and strict Islamic prohibitions against drinking and drug use — liquor is cheap and ever easier to find for soldiers looking to self-medicate the effects of combat stress, depression or the frustrations of extended deployments, said military defense lawyers, commanders and doctors who treat soldiers’ emotional problems.

“It’s clear that we’ve got a lot of significant alcohol problems that are pervasive across the military,” said Dr. Thomas R. Kosten, a psychiatrist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston. He traces their drinking and drug use to the stress of working in a war zone. “The treatment that they take for it is the same treatment that they took after Vietnam,” Dr. Kosten said. “They turn to alcohol and drugs.”

The use of alcohol and drugs in war zones appears to reflect a broader trend toward heavier and more frequent drinking among all military personnel, but especially in the Army and Marine Corps, the two services doing most of the fighting, Pentagon officials and military health experts said.

A Pentagon health study released in January, for instance, found that the rate of binge drinking in the Army shot up by 30 percent from 2002 to 2005, and “may signal an increasing pattern of heavy alcohol use in the Army.”

While average rates of alcohol consumption in the Navy and Air Force have steadily declined since 1980, the year the military’s health survey began, they have significantly increased in the Army and Marine Corps and exceed civilian rates, the Pentagon study showed. For the first time since 1985, more than a quarter of all Army members surveyed said they regularly drink heavily, defined as having five or more drinks at one sitting.

The rate of illicit drug use also increased among military members in 2005, to an estimated 5 percent, nearly double the rate measured in 1998, a trend that the study called “cause for concern.”

The study also found other health problems in the military, from the growing popularity of chewing tobacco to a 20 percent increase during the past decade in service members who are considered overweight.

Lynn Pahland, a director in the Pentagon’s Health Affairs office, said the rising rates of heavy drinking and illegal drug use among active-duty military personnel are particularly troubling inside the Defense Department. “It is very serious,” Ms. Pahland said in an interview. “It is a huge concern.”

In the military, seeking help for psychological problems, including alcohol and drug abuse, is considered a taboo, especially among officers competing for promotions. Several officers interviewed for this article said the Pentagon was not doing enough to reduce that stigma.

Though the Pentagon has spent millions of dollars on several initiatives to reverse the trend, including a new Web site that deglamorizes drinking, financing to combat alcohol abuse has fallen over time, a Pentagon spokesman said. Spending on programs to reduce alcohol abuse, smoking and obesity dropped to $7.74 million in the current fiscal year from $12.6 million in fiscal year 2005 — a 39 percent decline.

Some military doctors and other mental health experts said the Army’s greater use of so-called moral waivers, which allow recruits with criminal records to enlist, may also be a factor in the increased drug and alcohol use.

Getting liquor or drugs in Iraq is not difficult. One of the most common ways to smuggle in brand name gin or clear rum is in bottles of mouthwash sent from friends back home, soldiers said. Blue or yellow food coloring makes the liquid look medicinal. Some Army medics have been known to fill intravenous fluid bags with vodka, Army officers said.

In Iraq, liquor of a distinctly more dubious quality can be purchased from Iraqi Army soldiers or civilian contractors working on American bases, and Iraqi soldiers have sold locally produced prescription drugs to American troops for a tidy profit.

Commanders have not always regarded drinking as a problem. The Army “was a culture in the 1970s that encouraged drinking,” said a retired Army colonel. “You’d go out drinking together and you’d find your buddy hugging the toilet at the officer’s club and think nothing of it.”

Command tolerance for such behavior began changing in the 1980s, and by the 1990s, “if you had more than a couple drinks at the club, people started looking at you strange,” the retired colonel said.

But at a time when the military is fighting two major ground wars, the often serious consequences of heavy drinking has emerged with increasing clarity as more troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other mental health problems, military officials and mental health experts said.

“I think the real story here is in the suicide and stress, and the drinking is just a symptom of it,” said Charles P. O’Brien, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine who served as a Navy doctor during the Vietnam War. There is a high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder among Iraq veterans, he said, adding that “there’s been a lot of suicide in the active-duty servicemen.”

More than 90 percent of sex crimes prosecuted by the military involve alcohol abuse, defense lawyers and military doctors said. Roughly half of the marines charged with crimes in Iraq exhibit clear signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, a Marine defense lawyer said.

“They turn to alcohol and drugs for an escape,” he said.

The health study released in January was produced for the Pentagon by RTI International, a nonprofit research organization. Robert M. Bray, the group’s project director, first agreed to be interviewed for this article but later declined after a Defense Department spokesman said he was not available to comment.

In the past two years, though, top military officials have begun talking publicly about the danger that excessive drinking among the troops.

In 2005, the Army’s deputy chief of staff at the time, Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, wrote in an editorial in a magazine for Army leaders that the rising rate of heavy drinking and drug use “seriously impacts mission readiness.”

General Hagenbeck, now the superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point, said more than half of soldiers discharged for misconduct had also been disciplined for drug or alcohol use within the previous year.

“When one soldier has an alcohol or other drug incident, it impacts the whole unit,” General Hagenbeck wrote.

That kind of ripple effect has played out repeatedly in Iraq, military defense lawyers said, as soldiers who drink or use drugs commit crimes and hinder their unit’s combat and support missions.

Specialist Lillis, for example, was given a bad conduct discharge and sentenced to 10 years in prison as punishment for his drunken shooting spree; he is in a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. A military judge sentenced Specialist Rolan, who testified that he drank to relieve depression in Iraq, to 33 years in prison for killing a fellow soldier.

Two of the soldiers charged in the Mahmudiya case pleaded guilty to murder, and a former Army private described as the ringleader, Steven D. Green, is awaiting trial for rape and murder in a federal district court.

Last year, the Pentagon spent $2 million to initiate its “That Guy” campaign, (, which recommends that service members “reject binge drinking because it detracts from the things they care about: family, friends, dating, sex, money and reputation.”

The Pentagon is poised to launch another Web-based antidrinking campaign this summer.

Capt. Robert DeMartino, a doctor with the United States Health Service who is coordinating the project, said the hope is that service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq will use the site to find help coping with post-deployment problems, including alcohol dependency.

Andrew Lehren contributed reporting.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Independent Review Group Announces Public Meeting

March 09, 2007

Independent Review Group Announces Public Meeting

The Independent Review Group (IRG) recently established by the Secretary of Defense to identify shortfalls in rehabilitative care and administrative processes at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) and the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC), will sponsor public meetings next week at WRAMC on March 13, and at NNMC on March 14. Locations for these meetings are the Joel Auditorium in building 2 at WRAMC and the Clark Auditorium, building 10 at NNMC; both meetings will begin at 1:30 p.m. and end at 3:00 p.m. Members of the IRG will be available to speak with the media at the conclusion of meetings both days.

Details regarding how patients and family members may offer comments appear on the IRG website, Patients and family members may provide their experiences and insights via the Internet and may do so anonymously if they choose.

The IRG has arranged an IRG Hotline that can be accessed by dialing, 1-866-268-2285. Comments submitted via telephone also may be anonymous. IRG members or staff will not be on the line when patients provide comments, however, comments will be recorded and reviewed by the IRG staff throughout the day. These two sources for providing information to the IRG will continue in operation for the duration of the IRG, April 16, 2007.

Media interested in attending the public meetings at WRAMC should email,, and phone, (202) 782-8474. Media interested in attending the public meeting at NNMC should phone, (301) 295-5727. There will be a media opportunity following the public meetings. Vehicle make and model, license plate number, and photo identification will be required when entering the installation.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Walter Reed Debacle

The "outrage" over conditions at Walter Reed isn't ringing true for me. Of course, Army officials knew about the way veterans are being treated within the system. Salon published an article a year ago, but it didn't have the visibility of the most recent series. So, heads are rolling, numerous articles and interviews are being aired, but we all know that the attention span of the American public, and especially our politicians, is short. They'll get as much mileage out of their "outrage" as possible and then move on to other things.

The next perceived crisis or event or whatever will turn the public's attention elsewhere and the injustice will continue.

This is clear to all the families of victims of uninvestigated non-combat deaths. We get the limited attention of politicians, but nothing is ever done to right the wrongs. Even major articles about the problem of uninvestigated non-combat deaths, as poignant and fact-filled as they are, have had only limited effect on reform of the military.

Military personnel are used, abused, and thrown to the side of the street in America. Like trash. Once they are no longer useful, they are forgotten.

Paul Krugman, in today's New York Times, wrote an editorial called, "Valor and Squalor" about the Walter Reed debacle. It is a "Times Select" article, so I will not paste it in its entirety. Here is an excerpt:

The redoubtable Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight
and Government Reform, points out that IAP Worldwide Services, a company run by
two former Halliburton executives, received a large contract to run Walter Reed
under suspicious circumstances: the Army reversed the results of an audit
concluding that government employees could do the job more cheaply.

And Mr. Waxman, who will be holding a hearing on the issue today, appears to have solid
evidence, including an internal Walter Reed memo from last year, that the
prospect of privatization led to a FEMA-type exodus of skilled personnel.

You may be able to pick up a paper copy of the NY Times if you don't subscribe online. I am planning to listen as much as I can to today's hearings.

--submitted by Braveheart

Thursday, March 01, 2007

More on Walter Reed from The Army Times

Walter Reed patients told to keep quiet

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Feb 28, 2007 20:26:13 EST

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.

Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.

They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.

The soldiers said they were also told their first sergeant has been relieved of duty, and that all of their platoon sergeants have been moved to other positions at Walter Reed. And 120 permanent-duty soldiers are expected to arrive by mid-March to take control of the Medical Hold Unit, the soldiers said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Army public affairs did not respond to a request sent Sunday evening to verify the personnel changes.

The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: “It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.

-- submitted by Patti Woodard