Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Follow-up: Can senior officers be trusted to lead PT in the Army’s 82nd Airborne?

A brigade-sized run at steamy Fort Bragg, N.C., on Thursday ended with 23 soldiers being seen by medical personnel, mainly for heat-related problems. Eleven were sent to the hospital for examination, and one remains hospitalized in intensive care. In total, I am told, some 598 soldiers dropped out of the run. This news, which follows ...

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A brigade-sized run at steamy Fort Bragg, N.C., on Thursday ended with 23 soldiers being seen by medical personnel, mainly for heat-related problems. Eleven were sent to the hospital for examination, and one remains hospitalized in intensive care. In total, I am told, some 598 soldiers dropped out of the run.

This news, which follows on our recent discussion of PT in the 82nd Airborne, arrived over the weekend. When I checked it out I got some disputes on time and numbers, but there seems little doubt that there was a big run at Bragg last Thursday morning that led to some unnecessary heat casualties.

Here's the first note:

A brigade-sized run at steamy Fort Bragg, N.C., on Thursday ended with 23 soldiers being seen by medical personnel, mainly for heat-related problems. Eleven were sent to the hospital for examination, and one remains hospitalized in intensive care. In total, I am told, some 598 soldiers dropped out of the run.

This news, which follows on our recent discussion of PT in the 82nd Airborne, arrived over the weekend. When I checked it out I got some disputes on time and numbers, but there seems little doubt that there was a big run at Bragg last Thursday morning that led to some unnecessary heat casualties.

Here’s the first note:

The heat casualties were recorded by the medics between 0700 and 0830. This data was in the SDR (Staff Duty Report) which goes to division…The run was led by the 3rd BDE Commander, COL Carl A. Alex. He began the run at a suitable pace, “but after a while started jacking-up the pace.” Of the 598 drop-outs, 20 required medical treatment that was officially recorded. Of those, 8 were admitted to the hospital. The 8 all had temperatures of between 105 and 106F.

Lt. Col. Dave Connolly, a spokesman for the 82nd Airborne, wrote to me last night that of the 3,500 soldiers running, 23 were seen by medical personnel, and of those, 11 were sent to the hospital — 10 for heat injuries and one for an ankle problem. Three soldiers were admitted, and of those, one remains in the hospital, in intensive care. He said he couldn’t confirm that there were 598 dropouts — a very large number — but didn’t contest the number. He did dispute that Col. Alex jacked up the pace, and instead, he said, ran it at “a suitable and consistent pace.”

I’d love to hear from someone who was there. Was the heat/humidity index notably bad as the run began? Did the colonel set out to smoke the brigade? If so, what’s the back story? Bottom line: Was this thing a disaster with nearly 600 soldiers dropping out?

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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