TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Oregon National Guard soldiers returning from Iraq received poor treatment as they were processed through Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a military official said.
An investigation found failures, errors and deficiencies last May when the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team came home, Defense Undersecretary Clifford Stanley said in a letter Wednesday regarding the probe sought by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.
National Guard members complained they were treated as second-rate soldiers, The News Tribune reported Friday. Slights included a slide in a training presentation that showed a trucker's cap with the words "Weekend Warrior" to represent reserve soldiers.
Such complaints triggered five separate investigations. Stanley declined to release all of those reports to Wyden, but pledged to answer specific questions.
"The training failures, benefits counseling errors, and systemic deficiencies that arose during the demobilization of the 41st IBCT were unacceptable," Stanley wrote. "We have learned many lessons as a result of these incidents, and the department is doing everything it can to ensure they do not happen again."
Wyden welcomed the letter as progress and is looking for more clear answers on whether reserve and National Guard soldiers are subjected to systemic discrimination in the military, said Tom Towslee, a spokesman for the senator.
"None of the information we received from the military suggests that they even looked into the problem," Towslee said. "You can't fix what you don't acknowledge."
The Army finished its investigations in October and has declined to disclose all of its findings. It has said the reports led to some improvements in how soldiers are processed through hospitals as they come home from deployments.
Memos obtained by The News Tribune through a Freedom of Information Act request shows the Army views the mistakes as part of a broader problem in how soldiers move through soldier readiness processing, or SRP, sites at hospitals when they return from combat.
"I am convinced many of the ... issues are systemic issues affecting SRP sites generally, which suffer from a lack of effective leadership, definitive training and guidance" involving the availability of treatment and benefits and other issues, wrote Maj. Gen. Philip Volpe, commander of the Western Regional Army Medical Command in an Oct. 5 memo.
Information from: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com
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