Screening for Redeployment Passes Muster

Denver Post

March 6, 2008 – Fort Carson, CO — A month-long investigation by Fort Carson’s inspector general has found that screening processes for soldiers returning to war are sound, according to Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, commanding general at Fort Carson.

The investigation found that a lag in paperwork prompted Fort Carson in January to report that 79 soldiers who were deemed medical “no-gos” at a screening site were deployed, though the actual number was much lower.

The inspector general’s report focused on the base’s Soldier Readiness Processing (SRP) site and did not address decisions by commanders to send injured troops, called “borderline” by a brigade surgeon, into war zones.

“The process of the SRP works fine, and the commander is the one who makes the decision on whether the soldier deploys or not,” Graham said. “I’m convinced that the process is good.”

Graham said Wednesday that the actual number of soldiers who had medical “no-gos” at the SRP site is 36; six of those soldiers have returned to Fort Carson.

Of the 36 soldiers, 30 had “temporary” profiles, meaning they had injuries that were expected to heal within a few months or weeks. They were deployed and placed in light-duty jobs.

Five soldiers with permanent profiles — limitations that can mean a soldier doesn’t meet retention standards — also were sent overseas. Four of those soldiers had hearing problems, were cleared by doctors and deployed, and a soldier with a behavioral-health issue who was cleared by a psychiatrist also was sent.

A sixth soldier, who had gone through a medical evaluation board, should have been reclassified from a mechanic to an administrative specialist. That didn’t happen, and the soldier went to Iraq with orthopedic problems, according to the report.

Fort Carson said the brigade did not deploy 500 soldiers when it headed for Iraq in November and December because of medical issues.

Soldiers told The Denver Post in January that the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, sent people to the Middle East who should not have been sent.

E-mails obtained by The Post sent Jan. 3, 2007, by Capt. Scot Tebo, the brigade surgeon, say the 3rd Brigade Combat Team had “been having issues reaching deployable strength” and that some “borderline” soldiers were sent overseas.

In one case, a Dec. 14, 2007, e-mail from Tebo shows that a soldier who checked himself into Cedar Springs psychiatric hospital for alcohol abuse was deployed before he could finish a 28-day treatment program. The e-mail shows that the soldier was on psychiatric medications, pending a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, “but that information was not passed on” before he was discharged, the e-mail said.

In another case, Master Sgt. Denny Nelson, who has served 19 years in the Army, said he was a “no-go” at the SRP site but was deployed to Kuwait with a severe foot injury.

“Without a doubt, I know for a fact, they sent soldiers to Iraq that are a liability and not an asset to the mission. There’s nothing that anybody can tell me that is going to convince me that those soldiers that I saw deployed, that that was the right thing to do. Nobody can convince me of that.”

Graham said Fort Carson believed in January that 79 soldiers with medical issues had been deployed because a roster of soldiers who were given “no-go” status was not updated.

“Those issues that made them a ‘no-go’ were corrected, but the soldier never came back through the SRP site to update the document, the roster. So, those names stayed on there as ‘no-gos,’ but now we’ve got a way to solve that.”

Graham also said a representative from the inspector general’s office would be placed at the SRP site so soldiers with concerns can report directly to the inspector general.

Lt. Col. David Thompson, who is in charge of rear detachment for the 4th Infantry Division, said: “We constantly review our policies and procedures to ensure that soldiers get access to all the care they need for their particular maladies, but we’ve seen nothing that indicates that those policies and procedures are not being followed.”

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