FORT SAM HOUSTON, TX – With the drawdown in Afghanistan approaching, the Army is experiencing an unexpected surge in soldiers being declared medically ineligible for redeployment to garrison, the Army Medical Command announced.
“It’s a disturbing trend,” said Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, U.S. Army Surgeon General. “We need to be able to maintain our uprange force posture, and now we’re seeing large numbers of soldiers who are either unable or unwilling to redeploy in support of garrison operations.”
Medical symptoms and conditions vary from case to case, but in each instance, said Horoho, “the result is the same – we’re seeing an awful lot of soldiers being taken out of the non-fight.”
For example, one soldier was found to have developed an extremely severe allergic reaction to the specific type of fabrics and dyes used in the Army Combat Uniform's Universal Camouflage Pattern, after spending his entire deployment wearing the MultiCam uniform. Another soldier was placed on a permanent medically non-redeployable profile after a mental-health evaluation linked his severe psychotic episodes, which he suffered whenever he was subjected to any sort of group-formation environment, to post-retarded stupidity disorder, or PRSD — a growing condition among redeployed soldiers.
Another notable case was published in "Sick Call Ranger," a quarterly military medical journal.
"These things are happening at an alarming rate," said Horoho to reporters. "The piece in Ranger highlighted a soldier that was placed on permanent profile after it was determined that the notes of 'Reveille' created a harmonic vibration in the soldier's knee joints, causing painful inflammation."
Many Army physicians say they worry that the rise in the number of medically non-redeployable soldiers may adversely affect the Army’s uprange capabilities. There is suspicion among senior military leadership that some soldiers may be abusing a medically non-redeployable profile to stay downrange and avoid being redeployed to a garrison environment. After all, many soldiers say they find life in a downrange environment liberating, free of much of the stultifying, structured aspects of life in the rear. For these soldiers, especially those with multiple deployments, the prospect of redeploying to what author Sebastian Junger called "the petty tyrannies of garrison life" is a nerve-wracking one.
“I’ll be honest, it scares the hell out of me,” said Specialist Brandon Kaiser, of 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division. “I mean, getting shot at and blown up I can deal with. I mean, here I get to live like an actual adult, not some idiot kid who needs his hand held all the time. Now they want me to go to a place where people tell me when to wake up, when to eat, when to shower, I’d have to do organized PT, and they’d make me do pushups for not shaving or having my trousers unbloused? I still get panic attacks and flashbacks from my last 24-month redeployment whenever anyone calls drill and ceremony commands.”
One soldier, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained that he sought to be placed on a medically non-redeployable profile because, “I felt like there was no other way I could justify myself to my battle buddies when they asked why I wasn’t redeploying with them. I felt like such a dirtbag, watching everyone else redeploy while I stayed behind on forward-D, but I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t go back there again, I couldn’t deal with all the uprange B.S. anymore."
“We can’t afford to have dead weight in the ranks these days,” said Horoho. “The Army’s looking to cut, and the first place they’re gonna look is soldiers who we can’t take uprange with us. It’s like a boat anchor on our non-readiness."