Information Warfare: October 25, 2003

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The competition for headlines in war time often leads the reader into a bewilderness of misinformation. Case in point is a recent United Press International (UPI) article on what happened to 600 reserve and National Guard troops who are in a status called "medical hold." These are troops who were activated, but found to have a medical condition that prevented their being sent overseas pending further medical examination. "Medical Hold" is an old military practice, and is often first encountered by troops in basic training. If you are injured during that training, you are put in "medical hold" status until you are well enough to resume your training. The UPI article made much of the dingy barracks the troops were being kept in, ignoring the fact that military housing is often rudimentary, at best. The 633 troops at Ft Stewart would normally be placed in the barracks used by units that were sent overseas. But the 3rd Infantry Division just returned from Iraq, so the troops on medical hold went to more Spartan (that is, older) barracks that were kept around for housing National Guard troops doing their two weeks of annual training. The barracks are OK for two weeks, but for longer periods the accommodations get uncomfortable. If more comfortable barracks were maintained for such infrequent use, the military would have a hard time justifying the expense to Congress. The UPI reporter apparently missed that point. Another item that was missed, and that is actually a bigger story, is the sorry state of the military medical system that treats active duty troops, their families and retirees. Like other medical insurance plans, the military system has been hit with rising costs and a Congress that is reluctant to pay for what the users are demanding. Most (over 75 percent) of the reservists called to active duty are for the army, and this has put an additional strain on army medical facilities. But the medical services have been a mess for some time. That's the real story. Even without over 700 troops in the Ft Stewart medical hold battalion, the troops and their families in the Ft Stewart area have long waits for medical attention. While the army denies it, there most likely was discrimination against the reserve troops in getting care. The reservists come and go, but the Ft Stewart medical personnel have to take care of their "regulars" year round. The big story, though, is that the military has been unable to get their medical care system working for over a decade. There's a lot of mismanagement involved, and the why's and wherefores of that would make a much more useful story.

 


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