If history is any indication, military service is in Spc. Jason Hawkens’ blood: “My dad is military, my grandfather was a colonel in the Pentagon.”
During his one deployment to Afghanistan he organized missions for his medivac team. In one moment-- that all changed.
On August 25, 2010, the day Spc. Hawkens' 4-year army career would come to an end, “A bunch of lumber fell down on top of me—crushed some discs in my back, took my skull and twisted it on my spine.”
From Walter Reed Medical Center the Army then transferred Hawken to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Soldiers look after fellow soldiers with serious injuries. But Hawken believes those in charge were out of their league.
“Piss poor. They have no professional training,” said Hawken.
It’s a charge that was addressed in a recent inspection of the WTB by the Department of Defense Inspector General. Among the findings, the cadre, those overseeing wounded soldiers, "did not consistently receive training prior to assuming duties.” And those who did receive training lacked "in-depth information to help deal with the full range of Soldiers' medical and management needs."
Hawken recalls an incident during physical fitness training with his squad leader: “I’m a spinal injury. I can barely walk and you want me to run? And they say, ‘well it doesn’t say it here, you need to get going.’”
Another soldier interviewed in the report takes it a step further, saying the WTB “steals your soul and puts you in a deeper depression."
“I don’t know whether they are just doing it to try to get under our skin or they just flat don’t know,” said Hawken. “But they do it so consistently, after awhile you think they’re just completely ignorant of the situation.”
The Army Warrior Transition Unit Command actually commissioned the inspection, and says it welcomes feedback as it continues to enhance and modify cadre courses and training. Many of the positions are volunteer, and say command staff carefully consider leadership qualities and experience.