Walter Reed Haunts Army Handoff Of Command

Walter Reed Haunts Army Handoff Of Command
December 14th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Walter Reed Haunts Army Handoff Of Command

Walter Reed Haunts Army Handoff Of Command
San Antonio Express-News
December 14, 2007 By Sig Christenson, Express-News
It had all the pomp and circumstance of any command-change ceremony, down to the marching band that led 500 soldiers past a reviewing stand, a 19-gun salute from four 75 mm howitzers and a final troop inspection headlined by the Army's No. 2 general.
But as Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock passed the blue flag of the Army Medical Command to Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army's vice chief of staff, the service also did its best to put a troubled era to rest.
A whirlwind year of change, often under the media microscope, ended Thursday for Pollock, who led the Medical Command for nine months and also served as acting Army surgeon general in the wake of the scandal over poor care for veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
"The last few months have tested our mettle," Pollock told 700 people at Fort Sam Houston. "We were strong enough to weather the accusations and disappointments of the American people, and the warriors and families who depend upon us."
The Walter Reed scandal claimed three high-level jobs. Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey was fired March 2. Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, who left as Fort Sam's commander in the summer of 2006 to run Walter Reed, was relieved March 1.
Ten days later, yet another one-time Fort Sam commander, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, abruptly resigned as the Army's surgeon general, setting the stage for Pollock's entrance.
"The events of late failures by some, failures in our system have tarnished the reputation of us all," the Associated Press quoted the Army's acting secretary at the time Pete Geren, now the secretary as telling Walter Reed workers the day after Kiley submitted his resignation.
The scandal broke early this year when the Washington Post reported that hundreds of troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan had lived in squalor, one residence soiled by rat droppings and dead cockroaches.
The paper said more than 700 soldiers and Marines, some suffering amputations, brain injuries, organ damage and post-traumatic stress, had been released from Walter Reed despite needing continued treatment.
Those taking the podium on a cloudy, chilly day sidestepped the scandal's particulars, neither specifically referring to the Post's stories nor conceding that any military leader failed to care for those troops a commander's fundamental duty.
Cody, though, praised Pollock for providing "strategic leadership" after stepping into the job temporarily. Pollock, in her speech and in an interview, said the military's problems were rooted in a system that had shifted from inpatient treatment during the early 1990s to ambulatory care. She now takes the job of deputy surgeon general for forced management and continues to serve as chief of the Army Nurse Corps.
"It did not address the needs of severely injured patients undergoing rehabilitation," she told the crowd, adding that the Army Medical Department Center and School at Fort Sam has since "led the nation in correcting that gap in our health care system."
Kiley was conspicuously absent, but Weightman, commander of the U.S. Army Medical Readiness and Materiel Command, received the longest of three standing ovations. Cody did not give an interview.
New Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker said in an interview that the Army has confronted its problems at Walter Reed and other facilities. He said the service has "stepped up and told the American public and the soldier and the Army as a whole that we need to do better about that, and we've made deliberate efforts to change every problem we've had."

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