A contingent of high-ranking Army officials will speak to the news media at Joint Base Lewis-McChord today to address concerns raised by Oregon politicians that National Guard soldiers have been treated unfairly and disrespectfully compared to active-duty soldiers returning from a war zone.
The 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team from the Oregon National Guard returned this spring from a one-year deployment to Iraq, where they served under the command of Lewis-McChord’s I Corps. Some soldiers complained about their medical processing after coming home, and voiced their concerns to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, both Oregon Democrats. The politicians, in turn, brought the concerns to the attention of Army officials.
Wyden and Schrader wrote a letter to the secretary of the Army this week saying Oregon reservists were “systematically denied their benefits,” according to a an article in The Oregonian published Monday. One sergeant told the newspaper he believed as many as 185 injured soldiers from the 41st Brigade were wrongly forced off active duty.
Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., Lewis-McChord’s senior commander and I Corps commanding general, said he launched an inquiry to investigate the complaints, and later met with Wyden.
“This past year, I Corps was deployed to Iraq and fought side by side
with the 41st IBCT,” Jacoby said in a statement this morning. “We have a shared combat experience and consider the 41st one of our own. It’s simply not reflective of our culture to treat one unit differently from another – Active or Reserve. Anything we find during our inquiry, we will fix. We will keep faith with our fellow Soldiers.”
Joining Jacoby at a 2 p.m. press conference today will be Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff; Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the surgeon general; Maj. Gen. Philip Volpe, commanding general of the Western Regional Medical Command; and Brig. Gen. Jeff Mathis, the National Guard officer who served as acting commander of the local installation while I Corps was deployed in 2009 and early 2010.
Look for more coverage later today and in Wednesday’s News Tribune.