On Monday, USA Today reported that barracks for wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan at the Army’s Fort Sill were infested with mold. In addition, soldiers living in the units said that “their complaints about mold and other problems” have been ignored for months and that they were told to keep quiet about the problems:
Twenty soldiers, who spoke to USA Today early last week, said their complaints about mold and other problems went unheeded for months. They also said they had been ordered not speak about the conditions at Fort Sill.
The base commander, Maj. Gen. Peter Vangjel, said in response to inquiries about the ongoing problems, “We’re going in and we’re going to take care of this for these guys.” In a later Associated Press report, Vangjel acknowledged that soldiers who knew about the mold were ordered to “remain silent,” but added that suggestions that the complaints were ignored are “simply not true.”
But now the Army appears to have retaliated against the Army social services official, Chuck Roeder, who first reported the poor conditions at Fort Sill — and their neglect — to the media. USA Today reports that Roeder has been forced out of his job:
An Army social services coordinator…who told USA Today about poor conditions at Fort Sill’s unit for wounded soldiers has been forced out of his job, the employee and base officials said Tuesday.
Soldiers meeting with Army Secretary Pete Geren…on Tuesday said Chuck Roeder, 54, was a strong advocate for their problems and should not have been forced to leave. […]
Roeder, a retired soldier, said he was told to resign or he would be fired.
An executive officer at Fort Sill said Roeder’s departure is “purely coincidental.”
The episode at Fort Sill is reminiscent of the handling of the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed uncovered by the Washington Post last year. In the aftermath of the Post’s report, CQ Today revealed that Walter Reed’s problems were long-known to officials in the Army and Congress, the Army accused the media of propagating “misinformation,” and the Pentagon tried to quiet criticisms by blocking the congressional testimony of the former Walter Reed Chief.