Boulevard of Broken Toys

Posted by lex, on June 17, 2010


Surprisingly, given the kind of economy that usually increases the quality of personnel recruited for military service, the vaunted Warrior Transition Units – developed to help wounded troops return to service or prepare for civilian life – have become something of a dumping ground for non-deployables, according to Noel Koch:

To meet their quotas people who are physically unfit; mentally unfit; emotionally unstable; or, who have criminal histories and disciplinary problems are recruited. Commanders refuse to deploy with these people. So, commonly, they are put in the Warrior Transition Units, which is why these are called “warehouses” and “dumping grounds.”

Here’s a snapshot: I am in a room with 35 soldiers. The one first in front of me is glassy-eyed, staring into the middle distance, and I have to raise my voice to get his attention.

Wilson, what are you doing here? “I’m schizophrenic, sir.” How old are you? “Nineteen, sir.” You haven’t been downrange, have you, son? “No, sir.”

Smith, why are you here? “I’m bi-polar, sir.” How old are you? “Twenty, sir.” Have you deployed? “No, sir.” Same glassy-eyed look.

The next youngster is also twenty. He suffers from depression. He can’t be deployed.

And so on. Some are physically unfit. Some exhibit mental health problems. Others are disciplinary cases. All dumped in the WTUs. Oddly enough, many tend to get quite comfortable in these units and are adept at finding ways to remain in them for months reaching into years, as they dream up new complaints. Meanwhile, the limited numbers of personnel who actually arecombat-wounded feel stigmatized by being lumped together with people they consider malingerers; they don’t want to be in the WTUs, but would rather be sent back to their regular units to heal. So, in the end, the entire purpose of the WTUs is defeated.

We do not recruit exclusively from the ranks of the Vienna Boys Choir, and not everyone we access will eventually meet standards: I once had to get rid of a sailor who had been serially molested through her childhood – she was bulimic, bi-polar, acted out in bizarre ways and was absolutely toxic to the well-being of the squadron. I have seen many pattern of misconduct boards that led to administrative separation – sometimes you get bodies, sometimes you get burdens. So I get that the recruiting process has some attrition built into it.

But it’s a travesty that those who have given so much of them selves in the service of their country are forced to share space with those chronically unable to give anything. The wounded deserve better.

House the misfits elsewhere.

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, GWOT, Lex

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