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Army Training Brutality
kyupol at 3:24PM, Dec. 17, 2007
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http://www.medindia.net/news/view_news_main.asp?str=2&x=20788

Army Training Regimen Brutal in US, Needs Overhauling


Two months after the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scam broke out, soul searching questions are raised across the US over the way the injured veterans are treated. And now commentators are charging that the army's very training programme is inhuman and that those who manage to come out unscathed at the end of it all should count themselves lucky.

What happened at Walter Reed to soldiers injured in war is not shocking at all if one ponders what happens at Army posts to soldiers injured in basic training, says JoAnn Wypijewski.

Basic training is one of those regimens of cruelty that people have come to accept as normal. The Army may claim to have eliminated some of its most abusive practices, but the theory of “breaking them down to build them up,” still remains intact, it is felt.

A drill sergeant kicked a soldier in his bad knee, sending him to the floor screaming. He also punished and terrorized the soldiers in numerous other ways. Those who have the misfortune of being seriously injured and have to be pulled out of the rigours of it all, even if temporarily, are routinely described as “fakers,” “lady men,” “shitsacks,” “malingerers.” During occasional visits outsiders could see the injured moving on crutches, wearing casts.

Weakness is despised. 15 to 37 percent of men and the 38 to 67 percent of women who sustain at least one injury during training at Fort Sill, Fort Knox, Fort Jackson, Fort Leonard Wood or Fort Benning are in trouble.

Those injured are consigned to the physical training and rehabilitation program. PTRP is a limbo of sorts. While basic training takes nine weeks; PTRP can warehouse soldiers for months, in anticipation of the time they manage to recuperate, pass the grueling PT (physical training) test and go on to battle-readiness.

They could also fail the test, try again, stumble through the bureaucratic labyrinth until the point at which they are chaptered out or medically discharged. As trainees, all have yet to be granted “permanent party” status in the Army. In the military hierarchy, this makes them lower life forms, which is how they were being treated at Fort Sill

In March last year Matthew Scarano, 21, in the PTRP was found dead in his bunk. He had been recuperating for more than a year with a shoulder injury and suffering excruciating pain. It was unlikely he would ever be fit for battle, but he could not get out. Over the months of Scarano's confinement to the program, his shoulder got worse, and so did he. “The Army has me on Ambien, seroquel, tylox and oxycontins. I also get trazadone to take the edge off,” he wrote his family.

At the time of death he was on Fentanyl, described in medical literature as an analgesic patch 80 times more potent than morphine. The Army said an overdose had killed him, and then, although his injured comrades said that dispensing drugs was as strictly controlled as every other aspect of life in PTRP, it essentially blamed the dead man as a doper and the others as slackers for not reporting his drug problem.

After Scarano's death, the Army initiated an investigation and issued policy changes. It had done something similar two years earlier when another PTRP inmate, Pvt. Jason Poirier, 22, died in the same Fort Sill barracks from acute methadone intoxication. It's doubtful that the adjustments since Scarano's death will do any more than those after Poirier's to alter fundamentally the treatment of injured soldiers.

“Ft. Sill still doing it,” read the subject line of a February letter from a woman who said her nephew was sick with pneumonia and asthma and had been kicked in the chest by a drill sergeant.

"There was a kid that got shipped to basic with two of the four valves of his heart closed. … I talked to a kid at the TMC – troop medical clinic – who had one of his instructors jump on his back and injure him, and it was done twice not just once. … There was a drill sergeant who kicked a kid in the ribs while he was trying to do pushups,“ writes an activist.

A soldier came into PTRP with a broken finger. It didn't heal properly for some reason and ended up deformed, his hand at less than 100 percent and his ability to do pushups impaired. He was in PTRP for about nine months trying, and failing, to pass the PT test. One day, he cut himself all over with a razor, smeared himself with excrement, marched naked out of the barracks and was put in a psych ward on suicide watch. Afterwards, no doubt pumped with antidepressants, he was made to try the test one more time, and to fail one more time, before officials moved to discharge him. He didn't die, though.

The Washington Post's expose of the Walter Reed scam included the story of Cpl. Jeremy Harper, 19, who had seen three of his buddies die in Iraq and was a victim of severe post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He refused his medals and kept to his room in the dark, heavily medicated, which everyone noticed.

On New Year's Eve 2004 he was seen wandering in the lobby of one of the Walter Reed buildings, looking for a ride home to West Virginia. The next morning he was found dead in his bed of alcohol poisoning. ”At the military's upper levels, abuse is widely believed to be not only desirable but absolutely necessary to have a disciplined, effective military and keep everyone in line,“ a former Army enlisted man, Tim Moriarty, wrote.

In Walter Reed, for instance, every morning, regardless of weather, the injured assemble. Umbrellas are forbidden, uniforms required. Some soldiers ”are so gorked out on pills that they seem on the verge of nodding off."

Before he was cashiered as commander of Walter Reed, Gen. George Weightman told the Post that the reason injured soldiers stay so long in the military/medical limbo is that the Army needs to hold on to as many soldiers as it can.

It patches up the damaged to send them back into battle, as Mark Benjamin reported in Salon from Fort Benning in March, redeploying troops who, doctors say, are medically unfit, altering medical profiles so that they can kill again. It pushes antidepressants on the psychically damaged in the field to keep up the numbers, as Lisa Chedekel and Matthew Kauffman stunningly detailed in the Hartford Courant last May

After the Post's story came out, a familiar sequence of firings, testimony and reform commenced. In April the House passed the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act to streamline administrative processes, create a toll-free hotline for complaints, increase the number of Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors, etc. In March it passed the Veterans Suicide Prevention Act (suicide is epidemic, and psychological services are grossly strained). The Senate initiated similar measures. About nine congressional investigations are under way; the president has appointed a special committee, and his 2008 budget increases VA health spending by 9 percent.

But the problem is far more deep rooted to be tackled with such tentative efforts, it is pointed out. Perhaps the trainers have to be trained first, it is felt.

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In a way, I agree a bit with brutal military training because how can you train soldiers to do their job properly in combat?

Do you agree with brutalizing soldiers to train them? Or should you just train them on combat skills and let them workout constantly?


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last edited on July 14, 2011 1:25PM
imshard at 4:42PM, Dec. 17, 2007
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there is limit to how far you can go with beating trainees. After a point you start reducing their effectiveness by causing injury and thats counter productive. Also beatings can reduce survival aggressiveness and make soldiers overly submissive as well as having other undesirable psychological consequences.

So yeah, practical training is ok, but “brutality”… no I don' think so.
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kyupol at 4:55PM, Dec. 17, 2007
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reduce survival aggressiveness and make soldiers overly submissive

Interesting viewpoint. But how is that possible?

Isnt it also true that people (and animals) who have been beaten are the ones who are aggressive (sometimes overly aggressive)?

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imshard at 4:58PM, Dec. 17, 2007
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Depends on the dog. Many beating victims go cataonic in the face of violence as a protective measure. Though you are correct, many people become more violent as an outlet.
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bobhhh at 5:32PM, Dec. 17, 2007
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I have said this before in other threads, i believ the classic training is a bit of a relic designed to train people to lunge at each other in open combat without hesitation or question to orders.

I believe modern combat is more skillfull and less reliant on a beserker ethic. The army is fond of that Army Of One slogan, so why this emphasis on beating recruits into submission, should we be encouraging adaptive thought? Shouldn't we encourage thinking soldiers instead of robots? personally i believe this military hazing ritual is just that, a ritual. And its hard to break the cycle, the beaten will always want to rise up and beat the next generation, its part of the covenant. It's tradition.

I'mn ot suggesting we mollycoddle recruits either, after all they have potentially fatal responsibilities to perform, but this overly oppressive cruelty seems to be a bit unjustified.
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ozoneocean at 4:34AM, Dec. 18, 2007
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I should have known it'd be Kyupol on this topic :)
…Also, it's usually better to post your own piece and just link to long articles, quoting the relevant bits because a lot of us don't like to read long quoted stuff. ;)

As to brutality, yeah, it's a shit idea. What the Russians do make that stuff look like high school. Seriously; there's been inquires about it, videos shown, even protest movements stared against it. And what does it do? It produces crappy, useless, meat-head, moron, soldiers.

If an ordinary Russian battalion were to fight one from the US, using equivalent equipment and on neutral terrain, the Americans would fair way better due to superior training. The Russians simply focus far too much on brutality… as well as STILL using conscripts… Always a dumb idea. (unless you're stuck in a war of attrition or something).
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What Bob said is exactly right too, all that stuff is mostly ritual and passed down: “It was done to me, now I get to do it to them!”
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The French Foreign Legion also have a big focus on brutality these days, more so than in the past, and from everything I hear they've lost a lot of their former respect as one of the world's elite units.
 
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TH89 at 11:54AM, Dec. 20, 2007
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I haven't seen our basic training in action and don't have anything to compare it to, so it's hard to comment. But the Iraq & Afghanistan vets I've talked to have never talked as though boot camp was over-the-top or brutal.

It seems odd that anyone would be shocked that “weakness is despised” in the military. It's not like it's a day-care class or something, it's the military. For fighting people, nahmean
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:13PM
TitanOne at 10:57AM, Dec. 21, 2007
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On the other hand, the Army field manual does not allow waterboarding, which our Government-News Media Complex still refuses to call “torture”.

Ironic isn't it?
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:30PM
YoungNastyMan at 12:00AM, Dec. 25, 2007
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I suppose the brutality is fairly necessary. The battlefield will not pick favorites. One needs to know what level of fear to expect from missions, even if you have to beat it into them(The enemy won't hesitate to, anyway.) One must know what kind of terror can ensue just from fighting in unfamiliar territory.

Take Stalingrad for example. It was unfamiliar territory for German troops.(I will empathize with German troops. Not all of them fought for Hitler's ideals, and most of them fought to protect their homeland, just as we do. That is brave and honorable.) The sheer terror and unfamiliarity were the reasons why they lost that battle. The German troops had far more numbers, and sufficient supplies and weaponry. Fear does something to a soldier's mind. They spent days just waiting in the buildings, knowing that turning just one wrong corner could mean being sniped, or having your head bashed in by an angry, disgruntled Russian and his trusty brick. The Russian troops also had to deal with a similar amount of fear, because of their prominent disadvantages.

Many situations and circumstances are possible. One must be as well prepared as possible, or else they will not last seconds on the battlefield.
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bobhhh at 1:28AM, Dec. 25, 2007
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I suppose the brutality is fairly necessary. The battlefield will not pick favorites. One needs to know what level of fear to expect from missions, even if you have to beat it into them(The enemy won't hesitate to, anyway.) One must know what kind of terror can ensue just from fighting in unfamiliar territory.

Take Stalingrad for example. It was unfamiliar territory for German troops.(I will empathize with German troops. Not all of them fought for Hitler's ideals, and most of them fought to protect their homeland, just as we do. That is brave and honorable.) The sheer terror and unfamiliarity were the reasons why they lost that battle. The German troops had far more numbers, and sufficient supplies and weaponry. Fear does something to a soldier's mind. They spent days just waiting in the buildings, knowing that turning just one wrong corner could mean being sniped, or having your head bashed in by an angry, disgruntled Russian and his trusty brick. The Russian troops also had to deal with a similar amount of fear, because of their prominent disadvantages.

One must be as well prepared as possible, or else they will not last seconds on the battlefield.

I can't help but feel that inflicting brutality on recruits to explain the severity of battle insinuattes that they are idiots. It's like forcing them to stick their finger in a light socket to show them electricty will electroctue them.

Call me crazy, but I would like to think that soldiers we recruit are smart enough to realize the stakes they are signing up for., Sure physical endurance is neccessary, but beating and berating them, how does that make them better??? I just don't understand, and would appreciate it if someone could articulate the reasons, because from where I sit, it would be better to make them independant thinkers, capable of strategic thought and adaptablility in the battlefield. Sure make it clear the stakes involved and the sanctity of the chain of command, the importance of following orders without question, but make them thinkers, commandos….an army of one!!
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YoungNastyMan at 1:45AM, Dec. 25, 2007
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That makes perfect sense, too. I forgot to and should've mentioned in my passage that I believe that such brutality should only be used as a last resort technique. I'm just saying that some of the recruits are not smart enough to realize the danger of their endeavors. Bravery is one thing, but impulse and stupidity are another. But, yeah. Those who are obedient, and smart enough to realize their own limitations should be treated with respect by the trainers, and even rewarded, for they can set examples and be a positive influence on the other recruits. Then, if all other techniques have failed, and you've just got one stubborn, terrible bastard, then you can beat him up. But, of course, not to the point of serious injury. Nothing good can come out of crippling a soldier.

Also, I'm just playing devil's advocate. One must always explore both sides to descrutinize the right solution to any problem. I may believe it is right, and yet I may not. Varying situations and circumstances add complication, so it is a tough decision to make. So, it all just depends on situation.
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ozoneocean at 3:30AM, Dec. 25, 2007
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Take Stalingrad for example.
They weren't well equipt to deal with the winter conditions, and not a single one was fighting to protect his homeland in Stalingrad; that was all down to the Soviet troops, brave and desperate bastards that they were. ;)

I don't think that was a good example of where brutality in training might have helped.

In fact I can't see it serving much of a useful purpose outside training violent attack dogs or people of severely diminished mental capacity, if such was your aim: using them as “soldiers”.

The very name “brute” is evocative… it indicates something sub-human. “Brutality” talks about a culture of the sub-human. Soldiers are actually thinking people, they have to think to live. Unthinking thugs aren't effective troops.

The brutality talked about by Kyupol isn't a training method, it doesn't serve any official, or useful purpose, it's simply about a male subculture of control and dominance; the kind of antics the less intelligent among us get up to and rationalise away with terms “Practical jokes”, “initiation”, and “Hazing”.

Sad really.
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:29PM
KomradeDave at 7:20PM, Dec. 25, 2007
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I want to adress a few things here that haven't been brought up, maybe for lack of knowledge or for some other reason, I don't know.

Number 1- The Physical Fitness Test, regardless of branch of service, is hardly gruelling. It's tough on some, yes, my fat ass was wheezing the first time I had to run my three mile, but it in itself isn't set very high above the Presidential Fitness Test for American grade and high schoolers.

Number 2- Hazing is illegal in the US Uniformed Services. Many of the events described quilfy as hazing. While some choose to try and tough these events out, they are reportable to the chain of command, and above the chain should your chain be involved (there are also the chaplain and JAG offices for those that fear staying in their chain at all). A Marine drill instructor was recently sent to the brig for what was deemed physical abuse of his recruits. As service members many of us recieve a slight “high” from knowing that we can withstand this sort of thing, but if it ever crosses the line to where it could impair us as warriors, we have an obligation to see that it is taken care of.

Number 3- There are shitty doctors everywhere. I have an extreme distrust of all medical practicioners because outside of bootcamp I have recieved lousy care from almost every doctor to treat me.


As warfighters we are expected to be able to keep our cool when under extreme mental and physical strain. Nothing can adequately prepare someone for combat, but a man that fires randomly into the dark as the slightest provocation is as useless behind a rifle as one that freezes up when they lives of his or her comrades are on the line. Theres a line between toughness and brutality that drill instructors and drill seargeants have to walk, but when that line is crossed the person who was wronged needs to man up and do something about it. If a service member lets those infractions slide he's essentially failing avery recruit that will come after him under that instructor.
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bobhhh at 1:43AM, Dec. 26, 2007
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As warfighters we are expected to be able to keep our cool when under extreme mental and physical strain. Nothing can adequately prepare someone for combat, but a man that fires randomly into the dark as the slightest provocation is as useless behind a rifle as one that freezes up when they lives of his or her comrades are on the line. Theres a line between toughness and brutality that drill instructors and drill seargeants have to walk, but when that line is crossed the person who was wronged needs to man up and do something about it. If a service member lets those infractions slide he's essentially failing avery recruit that will come after him under that instructor.

Thanks Dave, you're insight is invaluable. I will have to take at face value your experience, since mine is prechewed by Hollywood and the news media, and they are about as trustworthy at doling out truth from my perspective, as doctors are at doling out medical care from yours.

In a way your post makes me feel a bit silly about my soapbox since I never have and never will endure boot camp and active service. I must say I am relieved to find out that things aren't so bad and am even happier to be wrong in my assertions.
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last edited on July 14, 2011 11:29AM

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