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Post soldier's complaints heard at last

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Posted: Sunday, July 8, 2007 12:00 pm | Updated: 4:53 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Killeen Daily Herald

Fort Hood officials blamed an "unfortunate lack of communication" for complaints from an injured soldier about the post's barracks management team.

The soldier's complaints have since been resolved, another indication the Army is attempting to quickly address difficulties faced by its injured soldiers.

Spc. Charles Brawley, a soldier in the 13th Sustainment Command's 96th Transportation Company, 180th Transportation Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, contacted the Daily Herald in late June to say that he believed he was mistreated by barracks management employees, a staff of civil service and contracted workers. Brawley said he first injured his back in October 2005 during his first tour to the Middle East. The herniated disks turned into degenerative disk disease, he said.

He was cleared to deploy a second time and left again a year later. He was medevaced out of Kuwait in December and arrived at Fort Hood on Jan. 2.

Since then, he was given a wheelchair and assigned to Building 39006 to live in a two-man barracks room by himself. He also has a walker and back brace, and has to take more than 15 prescriptions, he said.

To ease the tension on his back, Brawley pushed the two beds together so he could settle his spine between the beds' gap. Brawley said he informed barracks manager Joseph Truelove about his sleeping arrangements.

The trouble started, Brawley said, when another barracks worker complained to his chain of command that he had rearranged a room designed for two soldiers.

Shortly after, Brawley said he and a fellow soldier came into his room to find two workers "snooping." They told him they were there to fix the bathroom, which Brawley claimed was working fine. He showed the workers a hole in the wall and asked them when it could be fixed. The workers then informed their barracks manager of the situation and she came to investigate, Brawley said.

When the manager came to the room, she told Brawley he needed to push the beds apart and reset the room for two soldiers. Brawley claimed the manager then questioned his injuries and said he was "faking it and getting high off the pills."

Brawley contacted the manager's supervisor and was told everything would be cleared up. The soldier was then contacted by his company, who said he had to get a doctor's note within 48 hours or push the beds apart. He was able to get a note, but said this was yet another case of soldiers not receiving the proper treatment.

"This unacceptable incident was the result of an unfortunate lack of communication among housing management officials," read a statement released by III Corps after the Daily Herald contacted its Public Affairs Office. "The soldier's command was contacted and they stated they were aware of the soldier's complaint and they had already resolved his living accommodation requirements."

Brawley's command later requested a meeting with the unit's barracks manager and him to discuss his allegations, the statement read.

"The soldier's account of the incident was supported by the housing management official," it went on to read.

Brawley was provided a formal apology by Truelove for the "unacceptable actions" from the staff. Truelove went on to reassure everyone at the meeting that housing management officials were working "very hard with their staff on customer-service relations and displaying positive attitudes."

"We require that our Barrack Management staff treat soldiers with courtesy and respect," said Rod Chisholm, Fort Hood director of public works.

The Barracks Management Team began taking over residence buildings on post in October 2004. By 2006, it had expanded the program to include all permanent-party barracks on Fort Hood, according to the III Corps Public Affairs Office.

The team is responsible for property management and apartment management, including assigning quarters, key management, property accountability, and minor maintenance and repairs.

Col. Tori Bruzese, the post's garrison commander, was made aware of the incident and called for key leaders to find out what happened and to take corrective steps to make sure nothing like that happens again, the statement read.

"Every soldier deserves to be treated with dignity, not suspiciously, and if that is the case here my staff was wrong," she said.

According to the statement, Brawley and his chain of command "felt satisfied at the closure of the meeting and optimistic that things will improve in the future."

Those involved are encouraged that lines of communication are now open and corrective policies and procedures have been established to preclude this situation from ever happening to another soldier, the statement read.

Since the Army found out that Brawley went to the press, it started making things happen, he said.

Brawley said on July 2 that he was moving into a wheelchair-accessible room that week that could better accommodate his medical needs.

"This seems to be working out for me now," he said.

The Army has taken steps to eliminate red tape for its wounded following media reports that outpatients were not receiving the immediate care they needed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Since then, the center has set up a 24-hour hotline to quickly get troops, veterans and their families the help they need, The Associated Press reported last week.

One patient had tried to get an appointment for a heart scan for weeks; within six hours of calling the hotline, he got an appointment and an apology from the colonel who leads the center's radiology department, the report said.

The hotline has received more than 3,500 calls since it was established three months ago.

After dilapidated conditions and substandard care were reported in February at Walter Reed, the Army dispatched a team of investigators to Army medical centers, including Fort Hood's Darnall Army Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and William Beaumont Army Medical Center at Fort Bliss.

Post officials, including Col. (promotable) Loree Sutton, Darnall commander; Bruzese; Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, 4th Infantry Division and acting Fort Hood commander; and Col. Philip Battaglia, III Corps deputy rear commander, conducted their own evaluation of Darnall in mid-March and said they found none of the problems reported at Walter Reed.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at astair@kdhnews.com or call (254) 501-7547

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