Friday, February 18, 2005

Two Guys Who Need to Lose a Star

It’s only right . . . do the right stuff and get promoted, screw up and get pulled a grade or two . . . works for enlisted men and (presumably) officers as well. But maybe not for those officers up there in the stratosphere of rank and a couple of Lt. Generals (three-star) come to mind.


Consider Lt. General Kevin C. Kiley, who is surgeon general of the Army. That’s the top guy in the medical field, where I once served as a medic and never even saw anyone higher than full colonel. Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers have been called up, sent to Afghanistan or Iraq and (surprise!) are coming home wounded. The story by Ann Scott Tyson of the Washington Post is absolutely chilling, as more than a third of these wounded soldiers are ‘removed’ from active duty by bureaucratic snarl on the part of the Army. Lost benefits, lost wages, lost medical care and appointments . . .  “thanks for getting wounded, you’re on your own.” Under General Kiley, the Army doesn’t even track reservists suffering gaps in pay, benefits and medical care.


The numbers just exploded on us,” says the dysfunctional Surgeon General. Well gosh, general, we seem to have gone to war in two Middle East nations and the number one thing in your charge is to see that medical care is given. My verdict? Loss of a star and early retirement.


The main source of the problem is an Army program called Active Duty Medical Extension, acronym ADME, although its main affect on the wounded has been to SUBTRACTME. Lt. General Franklin L. Hagenbeck (another three-star), the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel said, “the ADME program was not staffed to accommodate a large number of mobilized Reserve Component soldiers.”


Excuse me? Was not staffed?  Deputy chief for personnel didn’t see a large number of mobilized soldiers coming?  My verdict? Loss of a star and early retirement.


The horrors of going to war are not all that well documented on a continuing basis for American consumption, but take my word that they are akin to no other distresses that come one’s way in life. They are shared by families and leave a lifetime mark. That these predictable and known consequences could be so badly administered by two generals at the three-star level is beyond belief. Had these lapses occurred under battlefield conditions in the stress of constant bombardment, they would be understandable, if still not permissible. That they occurred under the command of desk-duty officers with no other overriding concerns is dereliction of duty at the highest levels.


Turn your face to the wall, soldier . . . this story will run its course and nothing will change.  Generals Kiley and Hagenbeck, how do you guys sleep at night?