US Army veteran, NCO, Infantry, three deployments
Editor’s Note: Oscar* is a Latino NCO who has gone on three deployments and is in the MEB process.
I am a former NCO in an infantry unit. I had three deployments. I got an MEB for my back, my shoulder, my knees and my ankle.
I am on profile for my shoulder and my back, from injuries in Iraq. My profile says no bending, no stooping with my shoulders. I have to just put my right hand at my side when I pray or rest. No overhead activities.
My unit makes me break my profile, on occasion, when they want us to pick weeds and stuff. They want me to bend down. They told me to do it without questioning. Even though they know what about my conditions. And I’ve seen others forced to break their profiles many times.
At SRP, people are just pushed through and get deployed no matter what. Mainly with PTSD problems, TBI.
There’s stigma for soldiers who go to sick call. They get called like, “sick call ranger.” Or they just get told, “Aww, you’re fine, you’re not sick,” or, “You’re not hurt.” On occasion, I have not gone to sick call because that’s how they treat you.
The stigma comes from bad leadership, at every level. And it goes for mental health too. So I won’t go, because they’ll be saying, “You’re a shitbag,” or, “You don’t need to be seen, you’re fine.” It’s Army-wide. And the leadership doesn’t care if people are getting in trouble because of PTSD or mental health issues.
All they do is just give the soldiers drugs for their problems, and nothing else. No help. It’s happened to me many times. I’ve been hurt for a couple years now. I’ve had one surgery, just on my right shoulder. But that’s it, and I had to get a second opinion in order to get it. All the Army doctors did was hand me narcotics. And they sent me to physical therapy.
When I had soldiers under me, whenever they came back from sick call, I was told to give them a call and have them come back to work. They make me make people work even though they have a profile. And there’s pressure on battalion commanders to deploy soldier who are non-deployable. They’re just about the numbers. They just trying to deploy as many people as they can. It’s not about if you’re injured or not, it’s about whether they need people.
As an NCO, if you try and stand up to it, you get turned down.
And the trainings we get, they’re a waste of time. Because we get nothing out of it. Soldiers don’t take it seriously, and its not very in-depth. If they want to make it more effective, they should have actual trainers come and do it, instead of doing it through the unit through a PowerPoint presentation.
The unit never talks about PTSD or TBI. You’d only find out about the symptoms or if you have them if you’re seen or admitted by R&R. I’ve also never heard of MEDCEN-01 until it was mentioned by this campaign, and other NCOs in my unit don’t know about it either. I don’t think every unit in the Army understands the command policy