Substandard Care for Wounded U.S. Troops Returning From Iraq

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, October 30, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Earlier this month, we told you about the spartan condition that some troops are living in at Fort Stewart (search), many in need of medical care.

Well, now the same problem is plaguing sick and injured soldiers at Fort Knox (search) in Kentucky.

Joining us from the Senate gallery is Missouri Sen. Kit Bond (search). He sent a team to Fort Knox to get an inside look at what is really going on.

That is today's big question, Senator. Are U.S. troops getting lousy care at our military bases?

SENATOR KIT BOND (R) MISSOURI: Apparently, they're not getting the kind of care they deserve and we think they ought to have. Last week, when I heard about the Fort Stewart situation, I sent my military team there. And we decided to check because of the number of people going into Fort Knox and Fort Campbell (search) to check there.

And we found the same problem. Basically, there are not enough medical specialists, doctors, clinicians, to handle the sick and injured. And in too many instances, they are being housed for too a long time in facilities that are just not appropriate for somebody who has been wounded or who is ill, returning from battle.

GIBSON: We're talking about people who have been wounded in Iraq and are getting this kind of lousy treatment?

BOND: That is correct.

BOND: Some of them were housed in what are temporary barracks that are used for troops there just on summer maneuvers. And that's not adequate. I talked with the acting secretary of the army today, Les Brownlee (search), who went to Fort Stewart, and ordered that all medical hold personnel, all people there with medical conditions immediately be moved to housing that has climate control, that has air conditioning in the summer, heating in the winter, with indoor plumbing facilities, latrines, clean and well scrubbed. And the Army has been responding very quickly to it and I've talked with the leaders of the Guard and the Reserve and we're seeing some action, but clearly there needed to be action.

GIBSON: You know, senator, I was looking at your report, and it seemed what had happened is Army responsible parties, commanders at both of these facilities, or all three of them, knew something was going to happen.

They knew they had more people coming back than they had facilities for. They put in requests. The requests either sat on somebody's desk, or were ignored or somebody dribbled the ball. What is going on that people stateside don't realize, hey, we've got people who are sick and injured from this war and we have to take care of them? We can't just let them sit warehoused in World War II barracks?

BOND: Well, that's precisely right and I've talked — for example, I talked to the head of the National Guard bureau. I talked to... the head of the Reserve, and they may have both been working on it.

We've raised it to the level of the acting secretary of the Army. The people at Fort Stewart knew they had a problem. They wanted help, and we're now moving to get that help to them as quickly as they can.

GIBSON: Okay, senator. But why didn't they say, “Look, we've got people coming back. We can't handle them. We don't have the facilities. Send them to their homes. They can go to VA facilities. They can be taken care of there. There's big hospitals, there's medical personnel, indoor toilets?”

BOND: John, that is — you must have read our report.

GIBSON: I did indeed, senator.

BOND: That's exactly what we said. And that is what Secretary Brownlee and the Guard Reserve generals told me today is happening. They are going to be sending them to their home facilities.

GIBSON: Senator Kit Bond, getting to the bottom of it. Good work, senator. Appreciate it. And I am sure all of those soldiers appreciate it too.

BOND: Those returning troops certainly deserve sit.

GIBSON: Yes, they sure do. We don't want to hear anything about this bad stuff. Senator Kit Bond, thanks very much.

BOND: Thank you, sir.

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