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Some Military Perspective On The Walter Reed Hospital Situation

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Dana Priest and Anne Hull of the Washington Post wrote a series of articles last month exposing poor maintenance, bad hygiene and neglect of facilities and post-hospital care wounded U.S. soldiers. This essay provides some additional information of the background of this scandal which cost the Secretary of the Army, a three star general and a two star general….

By John E. Carey
Commander, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Many officers in the U.S. Army believe themselves the victim of yellow journalism here in the Walter Reed Army Medical Center situation.

Army officers take great pride in how they treat their most important asset: their soldiers. So any implication that the U.S. Army neglects its soldiers, the men and women now fighting and dying in war, cuts to the quick.

And it goes even deeper when the Army seems to be neglecting the wounded. Those wearing the Purple Heart are in a unique group that have achieved a kind of sainted status in all U.S. military services.

Whenever I see a Purple Heart on a uniform I stop the wearer to salute him and ask about his story. Many are embarassed by this…..but I tell them they are among the sainted few.

Most of my Naval Officer and retired Navy friends feel the same way as their Army fellows do about the Washington Post and the Walter Reed situation.

My heart goes out to those fired and all the military men and women, active and retired, that feel they were wronged. But my heart also goes out to the soldiers that experienced neglect, sadness, confusion, depression and unusual circumstances at Walter Reed.

Many military men hate the Washington Post and consider it a communist newspaper bent on destroying all the good things American. AND they think this was an anti-war hit job.

I think it a very complex and complicated situation.

Walter Reed was on the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list: slated for closing in a few years. Thus the commander was seeing less and less in the way of money. This was the result of decisions made by the U.S. Congress that bears more than a little responsibility here.

The medical services at Walter Reed are terrific. Really first rate. I’ve been in and out of the hospital visiting the wounded. I have also spent time at the Bethesda Naval Hospital facility and at the Veterans Administration hospital in Washington D.C. All are top notch.

I think the commander at Walter Reed began to cut corners in after care and housing: and his staff is almost criminally negligent for allowing the true condition of his facility to go unreported back to him via the chain of command.

As a former Naval Officer and warship Commanding Officer I believe in “Management by Walking Around.” The boss sees things he’ll not always like when he walks around. He discovers where the holes in his organization are and where he himself has shortcomings.

At Walter Reed the boss stayed put in his office too much, I think, probably, and didn’t know the true conditions on his ship. Those that got fired deserved it in my opinion: both because they allowed after care and housing to slip and because they didn’t know the true condition of the physical plant they were responsible for.

Because he viewed himself as a Hospital Director he apparently didn’t get around his facility and didn’t know what was going on beyond the walls of the hospital. He was in fact a Base and Troop Commander as well as a Hospital Director. He didn’t get it, I believe, because he is a DOCTOR first and a soldier second. Being a Doc got in the way of his being a soldier and Commander!

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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