Fort Polk: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire

The commander of a Fort Polk-based 10th Mountain Division brigade combat team has responded to published reports, first revealed here on USAWTFM, of recklessly endangering pregnant soldiers by deploying them under field conditions.

Col. Brian Sullivan, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, refuted reports from USAWTFM and other outlets claiming a soldier suffered a miscarriage this month after going to the Joint Readiness Training Center, one of the Army’s premiere training facilities, also located at Fort Polk.

Reading his statement, on the surface it looks like we got it wrong on this specific point. There’s a wider point that we need to address, however.  More on that in a second.

“We … had a soldier deploy to JRTC not knowing she was pregnant,” Sullivan said in the statement.  “When she presented to her PA in the field with nausea, the PA administered a pregnancy test which was positive. The PA placed the Soldier on light duty as we coordinated for her redeployment.  It was during this time that the Soldier experienced a threatened miscarriage, not an actual miscarriage.  Upon redeployment to Fort Polk, the Soldier has had several follow-on medical appointments that confirmed she is still pregnant.”

“The soldier is doing well,” Sullivan added.

While the unit provided this statement and a previous one issued by the brigade’s higher headquarters at Fort Drum, NY, they did not address the broader issue facing the brigade – and the rest of the Army, frankly – the need to bring at least 80% of assigned soldiers in the unit to achieve Army readiness requirements.

The unit’s medically available numbers were not available at press time, but the Army-wide numbers help to illustrate why the brigade was willing to bring anyone and everyone, including medically unavailable soldiers, to the training center to meet their percentage.  As of April 30th, the Army reported 119,000 soldiers, or approximately 12% of the Army, as non-deployable. More than 101,000 of those were due to a medical coding. Sources at Fort Polk, who asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak publicly, told us the push to bring every available soldier to JRTC was rooted in pressure from higher to meet numbers in spite of those on profile, emergency leave, and otherwise medically non-available.

One of those soldiers who, by virtue of his medical restrictions, should not have gone to the field was a private USAWTFM is not identifying. This soldier, according to multiple sources with firsthand knowledge, had a behavioral health profile recommending he not have a weapon.

The 710th BSB brought him in spite of this profile – and after a minor early-morning vehicle accident, he allegedly removed the blank firing adapter from the weapon he was not supposed to have and shot himself in the head with a blank round. The soldier was treated on the scene and suffered from first and second-degree burns. He was later admitted to an inpatient facility in Alexandria, LA. We’ll have more to come on this battalion in the next week, so stay tuned.

There’s an old saying about smoke and fire – in this case, there was enough smoke visible for us to call this a fire. While the miscarriage may have turned out to be a brief puff of smoke, that doesn’t diminish the real fire happening right now at Fort Polk connected to “making numbers” and medical readiness.

From our perspective and with having the amount of secondary and primary sources in our disposal, it’s only going to get worse.