JOHN YDSTIE, host:
Six months ago, NPR's Daniel Zwerdling reported that officers at Fort Carson in Colorado were punishing soldiers who came back from the war suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. The reports prompted investigations by U.S. senators and the Pentagon. And soon afterward, commanders at the base launched a training program that they say teaches leaders to help every soldier in trouble.
Danny went back to Fort Carson recently to see the training in action. Here's a page from his Reporter's Notebook.
DANIEL ZWERDLING: The moment I walked on to Fort Carson, I was caught off guard. Think about this, NPR stories have brought teams of investigators breathing down their necks, but nobody at the base got angry at me. The way I had expected, it was the opposite.
Everybody from the general on down kept calling me Dan. I told them I like coffee so they kept brewing fresh pots, and the officers kept thanking me for showing them that soldiers were mistreated especially the head of the medical center, Dr. John Cho.
Dr. JOHN CHO (Head, Medical Center, Fort Carson): I sincerely want to thank you, though, for bringing to light the fact that we have some soldiers on this post - to do I want to thank you though for bringing to light…
ZWERDLING: In fact, when Cho kicked off a training session on PTSD, he asked the crowd full of officers to thank me.
Dr. CHO: Hey, I want to give this man credit. Let's give him a round of applause here.
(Soundbite of applause)
ZWERDLING: And I have to admit that it's so nice to hear all that praise, and I started thinking, this is good news here at Fort Carson. Listen to their Command Sergeant Major Terrance McWilliams.
Sergeant Major TERRANCE McWILLIAMS (7th Infantry Division, Fort Carson): We are a caring organization and we're going to do what's right for our soldiers.
ZWERDLING: But then another officer thanked me again for showing them the light, and that's when I thought of a line from Hamlet: the lady doth protest too much, me thinks. And I thought, hmm, maybe the commander doth thank me too much. And that brought me back to reality.
I started asking tougher questions and caught officers contradicting each other. I started meeting with soldiers and they told heartbreaking stories about how their lives are falling apart from PTSD. And their officers are punishing them, still, after all that new training.
Speaking of which, I had recorded the entire training session of the base and I sent copies to four mental health specialists. One's a retired brigadier general. Another is a psychiatrist who works with troops and their families. And they all said this training program at Fort Carson is terrible. It won't change anybody's mind. In fact, they said the training might actually reinforce some officers who think that soldiers with PTSD deserved to be punished. And I realized, ha, I had almost let my ego cloud my reporting.
YDSTIE: You can hear Daniel Zwerdling's other stories on Fort Carson at npr.org.
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