Colorado Springs made the national news again Sunday — at least this time it wasn't about turning off streetlights — and our fast-reacting local media operations couldn't wait to pounce.
They saw what the New York Times reported, in a front-page story, about problems in Fort Carson's Warrior Transition Unit, the Army's local setup for dealing with injured and psychologically afflicted soldiers.
As the story spread, Fort Carson called a news conference Monday with its top commander, Maj. Gen. David Perkins, offering this assurance as quoted by Channel 5: "If somebody has a valid concern, that in their mind it's an issue, quite honestly is something that we have to take a look at." Along with a direct video link from the Pentagon echoing the message, Perkins added that stories such as this "energize you to take an in-depth look at your systems to see if in fact there's anything you missed."
Really? Nobody was saying that back in December when the Indy reported basically the same story. Yet now, our breathless local media, from the Gazette to the TV stations, have been all over it with gusto. We've seen this before: Jump on the story, do their version and call it breaking news. Real hometown journalism.
So what if they're all five months late?
While we're at it, we have to direct equal criticism to U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, who issued a statement expressing his shock at the revelations about Fort Carson. Some excerpts: "I am extremely troubled by the media reports concerning conditions in the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Carson. ... If the conditions in WTUs are exacerbating soldiers' conditions, as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will do everything I can to find immediate solutions ... I will be following up in person and through the Committee to learn more of the facts. I plan a visit to Fort Carson as soon as possible to talk to military leaders there. I also expect the Army to report on what it is doing to address the specific allegations raised about Fort Carson."
Crap. Every bit of it.
And many faithful Independent followers, among our 125,000 regular readers, should know exactly why. You surely remember our cover story from last Dec. 10. The headline was "SCREWED," and the cover image depicted a G.I. Joe with a screw through his upper body. Anthony Lane's story went into great detail describing the Fort Carson situation, with mistreatment and poor decision-making in the shrinking Warrior Transition Unit, and how soldiers were being pushed out of the military instead of getting sufficient treatment.
You can re-read it online now (here), but you won't find much of a follow-up, because Fort Carson didn't react to our story. If the Army had responded in December, it wouldn't be as big a deal today. But everyone ignored that first story, including the same local media who leaped into action after the Times report.
Same with Udall. He can claim surprise, but the truth is that our reporter e-mailed and talked to his press office repeatedly last December, asking to speak with the senator because of his status on the Senate Armed Services Committee. We even sent Udall's office specific questions about points in the story. But we were told that the senator didn't care to comment.
Now he's acting as if it's all news to him.
That story last December was widely circulated through military channels (all such stories are), and it generated 28 comments online, representing both sides. One soldier wrote:
I was a Wounded Warrior at Ft. Carson. My experiences mirror those reported in the story. Unfortunately, it is true. ... I can say the WTU doesn't do everything wrong, but they do enough wrong that an overhaul is needed. Certain key leaders need to be replaced. Intimidation and retribution needs to stop. The Army needs to be true to its pledge to take care of soldiers.
But nothing happened.
It shouldn't take a national headline to awaken the Army, the media or Sen. Udall. We handed everyone the same story last December, so they should be accountable now for why they ignored it then.
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