Last week, a fellow Soldier approached me and informed me of a deeply disturbing situation. The Soldier had an appointment with behavioral health (mental) at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina this week. Friday, the Soldier got a call from the hospital saying that due to "schedule adjustments" her appointment had be cancelled and that they would be "unable to reschedule anytime soon". She was given no window for when to expect to hear from them again and no referral to any other DoD or civilian agency or service.
The Soldier is a Noncommissioned Officer and will be fine; she knows how to navigate the various systems out there to get help for herself. However, this worries me about the Fort Bragg and Army community as a whole. We are talking about Fort Bragg, NC here. The post is home to 30,000 Soldiers and their families, Including the 82nd Airborne Division. The remaining deployed elements of the 82nd Airborne will return later this year, and the entire division will be home for the first time since spring of 2006. Since then, every unit in the division has been deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan, most for 15 months. What worries me most is the 20 year old single paratrooper sitting in his barracks room downing a fifth of Jack a night who is experiencing severe PTSD, who is at the end of his rope, thinking that if he can just make it to his mental health appointment next week he'll be okay. He then gets a call saying there is no chance of him getting help within the foreseeable future. Also, what about the military spouse who is trying to take care of three kids while worrying about her husband patrolling the streets of Baghdad day-to-day and seeing the news of increased violence.
And where does it stop? If this problem is occurring at Fort Bragg, where is else in the military are similar problems happening at other behavioral health clinics? And what is the issue that led to the “schedule adjustments”? Is this a symptom of Army mental health professionals over burdened and under manned due to nearly seven years of mostly unnecessary war? Or just a poorly trained incompetent and uncompassionate staff at the Womack AMC behavioral health clinic? Regardless, the consequences of these so-called “schedule adjustments” could be dire.
I’d like to invite everyone to help me investigate the source of the problems at Fort Bragg’s behavioral health clinic. You’ll find below the relevant contact information for the local Fayetteville newspaper, the Chairs of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee, and the Representatives and Senators who represent Fort Bragg and the surrounding community. Let’s ensure all these folks understand there is a problem with way our Soldiers are being treated at Womack Army Medical Center.
Editor, Fayetteville Observer
458 Whitfield St.
Fayetteville, NC 28306
Congressman Ike Skelton
Chairman, House Armed Services Committee
Senator Carl Levin
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee
Congressman Bob Etheridge (NC-02)
Phone: (202) 225-4531
Congressman Robin Hayes (NC-08)
Congressman Mike McIntyre (NC-07)