Body Dump

You may have heard of the Warrior Transition Units at various installations. Originally these were conceived as holding units for soldiers with career ending wounds where they could receive treatment, therapy and counseling while preparing for medical retirement. But the best laid plans of mice and men

While often presented to America as special wards for the wounded, only 11 percent of the soldiers in the medical units have Purple Hearts or fell ill in a war zone, according to the Pentagon files. They’re outnumbered by the estimated 16 percent of the patient population that never deployed to combat and never will, but this tally varies by base.

A February 2010 report estimated that one-third of the 450 soldiers assigned to the Warrior Transition barracks at Washington state’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord had never seen combat. They were “high risk soldiers who are not ready to deploy and may display high risk tendencies” such as drug addiction, suicide and criminal conduct, the report said.

I can’t really say I’m surprised. Anyone who has lead a large team or organization (or been a school teacher) knows the 90/10 rule. You spend 90% of your time dealing with 10% of your people. They suck up time and resources. They give commanders grey hair. They are not a value added proposition for the team. Not unsurprisingly, after going through basic training and advanced individual training, a certain percentage of enlistees find the bloom off the patriotic rose and start thinking the Army isn’t exactly what they might have hoped it would be. And they quickly learn to game the system. And their commanders, frustrated enough trying to either recover from a deployment, or train up for the next one, are more than happy to wash their hands of them.  The Army being the huge bureaucracy that it is, it can’t just fire the malcontents. But if a commander has an opportunity to dump the problem in someone else’s lap, that’s mighty tempting.

I’d love to preach here about how scurrilous it is that the troops for whom the Warrior Transition Units were formed are being crowded out. But I have to admit, I understand why some commanders do what they feel they have to. First, if a soldier claims to be suicidal in an attempt to avoid deployment, the commander has little choice to take them at their word. Secondly, in balancing the need to care for the majority of their unit, or worry about shortchanging some other soldiers they don’t see on a daily basis, they’re naturally going to be biased toward their own soldiers.

Maintaining the end strength of the Army in time of a two front war is a real challenge. The Army is reluctant to administratively discharge those soldiers that fail to meet standards or adapt to military life. But it is precisely because of this reluctance that WTUs are being used as body dumps. Maybe it is time to rethink some policy here…

1 thought on “Body Dump”

  1. It’sd long past time to do so. We had the same type of problem at the end of the Vietnam War. By 1975 the Navy was General Discharges to guys who had gone AWOL and reported to another Naval Station voluntarily. One guy I knew went AWOL for 60 days, then went to Great Lakes. They gave him a General. I don’t don’t know the conditions, but it shouldn’t have been honorable. Later I met him at Church and he was married to a girl I thought had more sense.

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