AWOL soldier cries foul about commanders’ treatment
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (AP) ” A 10th Mountain Division soldier who went AWOL claiming his commanding officers threatened to send him back to Iraq despite his listing as medically unfit for combat planned to surrender Friday to Fort Drum authorities and ask for an investigation into his treatment.
Spec. Bryan Currie, 21, of Charleston, S.C., will ask U.S. Secretary of the Army Pete Geren to convene a Court of Inquiry ” a rarely used administrative fact-finding process ” to investigate top generals at Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; and Fort Hood, Texas, said Tod Ensign of the New York City-based veterans’ advocacy group CitizenSoldier.
The request calls for convening a panel to investigate the case of Currie and four other soldiers at Fort Carson and Fort Hood who also were set to be deployed despite medical holds.
A Court of Inquiry includes at least three high-ranking military officers and can subpoena civilians, Ensign said. Geren can refuse the request.
The court should “investigate the extent to which the (generals) have been derelict in failing to provide for the health and welfare of wounded soldiers,” according to the request.
Army spokesman Paul Boyce said the secretary’s office had not yet received the request, but would examine it once it arrived.
“The U.S. Army recognizes the complexities of the personal-readiness system and understands that individuals sometimes may dispute their status,” Boyce said.
“Caring leaders and competent commanders make difficult decisions every day to balance soldiers’ personal physical limitations with the mission requirements of national defense for America and its citizens,” he said. “We would not knowingly deploy a soldier into combat who should not be deployed.”
Currie, joined by his attorney and his mother, held a news conference Friday near Fort Drum in Watertown before surrendering.
He said he has been absent without leave from the Army for about a month and a half. He said he left the division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Polk, La., because his commanding officers threatened to send him to Iraq despite a medical profile listing him as unfit for deployment because of combat injuries.
Although he could be charged with desertion, Currie said he turned himself in for a medical evaluation to prove that he is unfit for active duty and that he should receive a medical or honorable discharge.
Currie said he was injured during his 2006 deployment to Afghanistan when the Humvee he was driving hit a roadside bomb. He spent a month in a hospital in Kandahar recovering from a broken jaw, burns, shrapnel wounds, and knee, back, and other injuries, but he managed to complete his tour. He was awarded a Purple Heart and Army Commendation Medal of Valor, he said.
When Currie returned to Fort Polk, he was given a medical evaluation by a doctor that said he could not run, use a weapon, or carry a military pack.
However, commanding officers “disregarded and ridiculed the medical finding” and told him they wanted to send him overseas, according to the request for an inquiry.
Currie said he was also recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by a private psychiatrist. At Fort Polk, Currie said he was rebuffed in his attempts to seek help for his anxiety, depression, nightmares and insomnia. Doctors wanted to treat him only with drugs.
“Instead of prescribing one medication for PTSD, I was given a bag of medication and just told to take them all until I found one that works and just stick to that,” he said.
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