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Dozens of Bragg soldiers injured in training exercise

Posted September 23, 2011
Updated September 26, 2011

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— Forty-three soldiers suffered heat-related injuries Friday morning during a training exercise at Fort Bragg, authorities said.

The soldiers were among 56 taking part in a 12-mile "ruck march" at about 6 a.m. to earn their Expert Field Medical Badge, Fort Bragg spokeswoman Jackie Thomas said. The soldiers, who were from various units, were walking with backpacks, helmets and weapons as if they were in combat, she said.

Eighteen soldiers were taken to Womack Army Medical Center for treatment, and 13 were admitted, she said. One was in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

The other 25 soldiers were treated in the field and released, she said.

The Expert Field Medical Badge qualification involves a series of hands-on tests over two weeks, Thomas said. The tests cover communications, emergency medical treatment, evacuation of the sick and wounded, day and night land navigation courses, CPR and weapons qualification.

Most of the troops taking the test have been front-line medics in the battlefield, said Col. Scott Putzier, commander of the 28th Combat Support Hospital. Close to 200 started in the training two weeks ago, and the class was down to the final 56 by Friday.

"It's a very physical, very grueling test," Putzier said. "The Army average over this past year has been a been a 12 percent pass rate. Due to our results today, we had a 4 percent pass rate."

Fort Bragg spokesman Ben Able said the troops have been training hard in the classroom and the field and were pushing themselves to finish the ruck march within the three-hour time limit when some of them collapsed.

Less than 3 percent of U.S. soldiers have the Expert Field Medical Badge, officials said.

"It is a mark of excellence," Putzier said. "The first word is 'expert,' so it truly marks you as an expert in your craft and in your field."

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  • carrboroyouth Sep 26, 2011

    Sounds like something else is going on ... an illness of some sort?

    also a 12 mile run is intense... I have to laugh at some of you accusing these soldiers of not being tough enough. Why don't you all get up off from behind your computers and go for a casual (nearly) half-marathon with a bunch of heavy equipment strapped to your body?

  • johnprutter Sep 26, 2011

    "When was the last time you served in combat?"
    -The last time I served was 2006-2007 in Baghdad. I have also served in 04 in Baghdad and 03 in Afghanistan. Yes it is humid this time of year at Fort Bragg, but these soldiers need to do what it takes. It is on them to hydrate before this event. As an infantry soldier, I did a similar 12mi "Ruck" march for my Expert Infantryman's Badge. Same time of year. Was it hot? Yes. Was it unbearable? No. They don't have real "water points" on these either. Unfortunately, because it is weight, on a walk like this most soldiers dump their water to lighten their load. Sounds like these soldiers need to be made to force hydrate. And as someone who has been in similar instances IN COMBAT, if they can't survive this, then these medics don't need to be on a line unit helping us grunts cause they can't hack it...especially not in combat..

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Sep 23, 2011

    "When was the last time you served in combat?? - RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman"

    82nd airborne in Gulf War I. The desert was much hotter than Fayetteville the entire time we were there and we did more work everyday outside than the guys who passed out trying to hike 12 miles today.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Sep 23, 2011

    readme - "The heat injury rate is unusually high here though. Even unfit soldiers in 100 degree heat would not fallout at this rate as long as they drank enough. They might not finish in time, but they'd stil be sweating at the end of it. Something else is going on, like maybe not enough water resupply points."

    I agree, and said something similar earlier on in the comments for this article.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Sep 23, 2011

    DontLike - "If these soldiers can't survive a 12 mile training exercise, how do we expect them to serve their country without passing out. Combat is much more physically challenging than a training exercise. Our Army continues to go down hill."

    Just wondering, when was the last time you did a timed 12-mile walk in full combat gear?

    When was the last time you served in combat??

  • Commenter Sep 23, 2011

    Well then, the problem is with WRAL editing the article and not clearly indicating the editing.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Sep 23, 2011

    If these soldiers can't survive a 12 mile training exercise, how do we expect them to serve their country without passing out.

    Combat is much more physically challenging than a training exercise.

    Our Army continues to go down hill.

  • readme Sep 23, 2011

    Don't insult our troops, folks. Especially those competing for an award they aren't required to earn. I was a commanding officer in the army, and most heat related injuries have nothing to do with the fitness level, they are individual mental errors (soldier did not drink enough - a mistake you don't repeat) or the commander's error (water not provided). Either way, these are the guys that put their lives on the line for less than you make sitting at your computer screen all day.

  • readme Sep 23, 2011

    I've been on many of these 12-mile, timed ruck marches in the army. They do them in Basic, EFMB, unit cohesion exercises, Air Assault School, GEB tests, etc. To say someone who had heat stroke is unfit to defend our country is inaccurate and insulting. But to relax the standard is also unacceptable. That's why it's called training. The heat injury rate is unusually high here though. Even unfit soldiers in 100 degree heat would not fallout at this rate as long as they drank enough. They might not finish in time, but they'd stil be sweating at the end of it. Something else is going on, like maybe not enough water resupply points.

  • dsalter Sep 23, 2011

    I think this hot weather kinda creeped in unexpectedly. I know it got hot early yesterday in Fayetteville. Like said, heat exhaustion affects a lot of folks, especially when it hits all of a sudden. It was nothing to see one or two start weaving and fall during my basic days at Ft. Jackson, in June, July and August 1964. These young guys are just as tough as we were. No difference. They always talk about the "old army" and how it was, but guess what? They talked about the "old army" when I was there too. lol

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