Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Relocate These Troops to Fort Gordon

Instead of complaining, we offer a solution today. With regards to this issue at Fort Benning, Georgia:

Across the street from their assigned housing, about 200 yards away, are some of the Army infantry's main firing ranges, and day and night, several days each week, barrages from rifles and machine guns echo around Strickland's building. The noise makes the wounded cringe, startle in their formations, and stay awake and on edge, according to several soldiers interviewed at the barracks last month. The gunfire recently sent one soldier to the emergency room with an anxiety attack, they said.

"You hear a lot of shots, it puts you in a defensive mode," said [Army Sgt. Jonathan]Strickland, who spent a year with an infantry platoon in Baghdad and has since received a diagnosis of [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] PTSD from the military. He now takes medicine for anxiety and insomnia. "My heart starts racing and I get all excited and irritable," he said, adding that the adrenaline surge "puts me back in that mind frame that I am actually there."

Soldiers interviewed said complaints to medical personnel at Fort Benning's Martin Army Community Hospital and officers in their chain of command have brought no relief, prompting one soldier's father to contact The Washington Post. Fort Benning officials said that they were unaware of specific complaints but that decisions about housing and treatment for soldiers with PTSD depend on the severity of each case. They said day and night training must continue as new soldiers arrive and the Army grows.

The solution? MOVE these troops to Fort Gordon, Georgia. Spend the money to relocate them immediately. Determine, regionally, which posts offer the best environment for treating PTSD troops and put them there. Here's a hint--Fort Riley and Fort Hood probably aren't good candidates for this type of unit, either. They can be moved to facilities at Gordon, receive treatment at Eisenhower Medical Center, and there is virtually no way to "hear" the rifle ranges while on the main post at Fort Gordon--they are located miles away.

The Army is not at fault for this--Fort Benning is the home of Infantry training. This is an unfortunate co-mingling of two things. While Fort Gordon is also a TRADOC post in some respects, it is also home to several other units. As stated, the firing ranges at Gordon are NOT co-located where the troops would be housed and cared for. The Army is only at fault if it does nothing.

Contact the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee if you want to advocate on behalf of this issue.


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