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February 7, 2006 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Dear First Lieutenant Rebrook: Thank you for your service to your country. Here's your medical discharge, and here's a bill for $700 to cover the loss of the armor you ruined by bleeding all over it when you got shot.
posted by mr_crash_davis (63 comments total)

 
Whoops, "shot" shoud be "blown up". My mistake.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:41 AM on February 7, 2006


"They’re more concerned with process than product.”

Now that is a prescription for victory.
posted by caddis at 8:51 AM on February 7, 2006


That was not the only mistake mr_crash_davis...

A battalion supply officer had failed to document the loss of the vest in Iraq.

Of course you have to hold soldiers accoutable for the gear they are issued.. In this case, it seems the supply officer failed to note it was destroyed and so he was sent a bill. Surely one can't fault the Army for making clerical mistakes?
posted by three blind mice at 8:52 AM on February 7, 2006


Yes, this does happen, and it happens a lot. It's an arcane way to reduce pilfering, which is rampant in the services. He should've got a receipt, or made them pry the body armor from him.
posted by jsavimbi at 8:52 AM on February 7, 2006


Oh, and this is what congressman are for. They love nothing better than to ease the red tape for wounded vets. There is no downside in that.
posted by caddis at 8:53 AM on February 7, 2006


Yep, that sounds like the same military I was in. Critical thinking and personal judgement replaced entirely by paperwork. Upon seeing how stupidly this war has been handled, I'm very thankful I was in the first gulf war. At the time, i thought was a complete fuck up, but by comparison, was a efficient and well-oiled machine.
posted by doctor_negative at 8:54 AM on February 7, 2006


Well, if it's a mere clerical mistake, why wasn't it resolved as such. The article claims the solider in question paid the bill. That doesn't imply clerical error, it implies policy. This, overall, makes no sense, but neither does much of anything else these days. Any more world about that plan for victory?
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:10 AM on February 7, 2006


Those credit card applications don't come down through a chain of command whose members know the situation of the recipient. Doesn't this guy's CO have some leeway to say "hey - the kid got blown up, let's cut him some slack?"

Should it really be necessary to go to the papers or your congressman for this kind of thing?
posted by bashos_frog at 9:11 AM on February 7, 2006


world = word

(there, I'm getting all metaphysical on you.)
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:11 AM on February 7, 2006


To be fair, this is not unique to American military.

Bureaucracy takes precedence in most countries.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:11 AM on February 7, 2006


That the Army makes troops pay for gear like this isn't new. I remember seeing a Bill Mauldin cartoon from the period when he was drawing his infantryman characters Willie and Joe as they were transitioning from the Army to civilian life. Dressed in civvies, filling out paperwork, one comments to the other, "I never thought they'd get me for that rifle I lost."
posted by alumshubby at 9:16 AM on February 7, 2006


AMERICAblog -- Please donate to help repay an injured soldier for his lost body armor.
posted by ericb at 9:17 AM on February 7, 2006


No machine is perfect - and I suppose sometimes things like this are bound to happen. But... could the soldier not have gotten a statement from any of his fellow soldier's? Did he not have a commanding officer or field medic from his own company (not a unfamiliar battalion commander or desk-person back at home) who could have corroborated his story? Even in the field, email exists. In the military, a million people can say 'no' to you - all it takes is one to say 'yes' to make things happen. And yes - why not write your congressman? A medical discharge isn't halted for a bill being due - they simply reduce your pay (cold, but efficient).

Just playing devil's advocate here, since being military myself I can understand the guy's plight and DEFINATELY his frustration - but I don't think we're getting the entire story.
posted by matty at 9:18 AM on February 7, 2006


Well, if it's a mere clerical mistake, why wasn't it resolved as such. The article claims the solider in question paid the bill. That doesn't imply clerical error, it implies policy.

Sometimes it's easier to pay than to deal with the suck of getting someone to fix the clerical error. If you make $20/hour and it's going to take 40 hours of your time writing letters, standing in lines, making phone calls, and/or meeting with this guy or that guy, is it worth the $700?
posted by clearlynuts at 9:19 AM on February 7, 2006


In some perfect world GW will be talking to Kenny Boy Lay in the prison lunch line and say:

"I never thought they'd get me for that rifle war I lost."
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:20 AM on February 7, 2006


Somewhat similar.
posted by ND¢ at 9:21 AM on February 7, 2006


Excellent, ericb, thanks -- I just donated. Enough of this childish jabbering.
posted by digaman at 9:21 AM on February 7, 2006


Oh, but hopefully, a little press should help the situation.
posted by clearlynuts at 9:22 AM on February 7, 2006


Oh come on. Donate to pay for the armor? Why not help the guy get through the red tape instead. This can't be anything more than a clerical error; as much as I don't like Bush and friends, do you really think they had a cabinet meeting a few weeks ago and thought, "How are we going to fuck over a soldier today? I know, lets charge him for his body armor!"

Priceless blurb from the AMERICAblog thread:
I just contributed. There should be a big note on the donation that says "Paid for by LIBERAL DEMOCRATS."

Isn't this how Hamas won . . . helping the people while the government played politics?
posted by bbuda at 9:25 AM on February 7, 2006



Isn't this how Hamas won . . . helping the people while the government played politics?

Wow, Whoever wrote that. That's...insanely stupid on so very many levels.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 9:32 AM on February 7, 2006


The military is a lot more likely to address this if they perceive it as affecting recruiting.

Which is just one example of how a free press critical of the military and the war actually does support the troops, in precisely the way that closing your eyes and slapping a sticker on your car does not.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:34 AM on February 7, 2006


Actually, I'd rather see that bill go unpaid and the Army roundly denounced and mocked for sending it in the first place.
posted by fandango_matt at 9:40 AM on February 7, 2006


bbuda, I assume you're offline to help the guy through the red tape. No?

Sometimes doing something you can do is better than praising the virtues of doing something you can't.
posted by digaman at 9:49 AM on February 7, 2006


That's...insanely stupid on so very many levels.

Well, it is how Hamas won ... they weren't elected for their suicide bombings so much as their excellent health care plan.
Palestinians often trace the appeal of Hamas to its network of social services, which largely supplanted the crumbling and feeble institutions of the Palestinian Authority. A poor Palestinian family in the West Bank or Gaza might send a child to a Hamas school on a Hamas bus, use a low-cost Hamas medical clinic, play soccer at a Hamas sports club and perhaps rely on a ration of Hamas rice.
Most of these big terrorist networks are big on the charity. Everybody in the Middle East loves al-Qa'ida, but mostly because bin Ladin builds a lot of hospitals, schools and orphanages.

Kind of like the US--you can't always be at war with everybody. Eventually, you have to offer people something that makes them think you're OK. Do you really think we're the only ones after "hearts and minds"?
posted by jefgodesky at 9:52 AM on February 7, 2006


"Actually, I'd rather see that bill go unpaid..."

The problem is it wouldn't go unpaid. The military always gets it's money, they would either take it out of his pay or if he is out they would probably withhold all or part of his federal tax refund.
posted by MikeMc at 9:53 AM on February 7, 2006


here is a better link, to the 'print' page, which has the whole article. The other link didn't quite work for me.
posted by delmoi at 9:54 AM on February 7, 2006


Hey everybody, the comments here typify why I think mefi is on the decline. I see so many fewer posts by people I respect, and many more posts by idiots.
posted by e40 at 9:57 AM on February 7, 2006


Should it really be necessary to go to the papers or your congressman for this kind of thing?

The reason soldiers are now getting reimbursed for their own body armor purchases is because soldiers escalated the issue to public notice. The reason soldiers are getting payroll issues straightened out is due, in large part, to similar escalation. Yes, I think it's important and necessary that such mistakes are pointed out - if no one knows it's broke, how will they know to fix it?

Using this issue to sling mud about America, in isolation, would indeed be an overreaction. It's the aggregation of such issues that anger folks enough to gesticulate wildly and yell. This isn't a new issue; it's just another occurrence of the apparent incompetence demonstrated repeatedly throughout our miltary actions against Afghanistan and Iraq. I'd call it the proverbial last straw, except we know that there are others forthcoming.
posted by FormlessOne at 9:59 AM on February 7, 2006


I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you already paid for that armour.
posted by furtive at 9:59 AM on February 7, 2006


When did I suggest that I have no compassion for the guy?

I thought you didn't feel the need to feel compassion for anyone if they were in a different "class" then you. He was in the army, since he risked his life, etc, and you haven't, you and he are in a different class.

In your case specifically, it would make sense to assume you feel no compassion for him, based on your previous statements.
posted by delmoi at 10:00 AM on February 7, 2006


Its the action-replay of the march on moscow in summer gear.

Und ihr kleiner hund auch!
posted by isopraxis at 10:12 AM on February 7, 2006


matty writes "Did he not have a commanding officer or field medic from his own company (not a unfamiliar battalion commander or desk-person back at home) who could have corroborated his story? Even in the field, email exists. In the military, a million people can say 'no' to you - all it takes is one to say 'yes' to make things happen. And yes - why not write your congressman? A medical discharge isn't halted for a bill being due - they simply reduce your pay (cold, but efficient)."

This is the correct solution. The armed forces have to hold their soldiers responsible for personal equipment as a deterrent to rampant pilfering. This policy is standard in most if not all forces since at least WWI. <Old, thread worn joke> It's the reason a captain always goes down with his ship </Old, thread worn joke>
posted by Mitheral at 10:42 AM on February 7, 2006


Inquiring Minds Want to Know:

1. What happens when a soldier is captured? Does he have to reimburse the military for equipment confiscated by the enemy? Will he have to pay before or after he is released?

2. Do the families/estates of MIA soldiers need to reimburse the government?

3. When making a tactical retreat and needing to abandon equipment, who is responsible for the cost?
posted by JJ86 at 10:48 AM on February 7, 2006


JJ86 in all three of your cases the soldier would be able to produce documentation that verifies the equipment was lost in battle.
posted by Mitheral at 10:58 AM on February 7, 2006


The answer is not always, JJ86. Here is some information.

You may recommend liability against a person only if the evidence indicates that it is more likely than not that the negligence or willful misconduct of that person proximately caused the loss. Throughout this guide, the term "loss" includes a loss of, damage to, or destruction of government property, or a loss of accountability of such property.

Determining whether there has been a loss caused by a person's negligence or willful misconduct is the primary goal of the report of survey system. To accomplish this task, you must investigate the facts, analyze the evidence, and prepare the report of survey. After you have completed the report of survey, you should submit it for legal review and then forward it and the legal review to the appointing authority. The appointing authority will review your findings and recommendation and forward them to the approving authority. The approving authority ultimately decides whether to assess liability.

The problem here is with the Survey Officer. He is the one that screwed up. This is attributable to him.

Those who are acting as if this story has some implications beyond that are people who are taking the effort to understand what happened and instead are interested in confirming their biases.
posted by dios at 10:59 AM on February 7, 2006


(that second paragraph should be italicized as a quotation)
posted by dios at 11:00 AM on February 7, 2006


4. If you suddenly panic in battle and poop your pants, do you have to clean them?
posted by qvantamon at 11:00 AM on February 7, 2006


Better late than never: Meta.
posted by nkyad at 11:02 AM on February 7, 2006


JJ86: The answer(s) are no, no and the military, in each case asssuming that the proper forms are filled out. Shocking as it may be, the military is in fact a huge bureaucracy that is fueled by paper, not by righteous outrage. As such, these stories are not all that surprising - try to get something out of the SSA without the proper forms. Clearly, someone in the army should have helped this guy out, but the fact that he was forced to pay in this case because the proper forms weren't filed is not that surprising to anyone who has faced off against Leviathan.
posted by fochsenhirt at 11:04 AM on February 7, 2006


I did a couple reports of survey while I was in the Army. matty and dios, I agree, the survey officer should have made an effort to get statements from the combat medics, etc. who were involved with the lieutenant's evac. It's possible the survey officer made an effort to do this, but had other, more pressing duties. (Doing a report of survey in peacetime, CONUS, was a pain in the ass enoug for me. I can imagine that doing this during wartime is an order of magnitude more difficult.)
posted by cog_nate at 11:05 AM on February 7, 2006


AMERICAblog -- Please donate to help repay an injured soldier for his lost body armor.

Nope that would actually help that soldier, but harm all the others. When somebody is blackmailed, giving him money may seem to be
the most compassione act of rescuing, but that gives the blackmailer encouragement as well. The fact that the Army is asking for money doesn't change the situation, even if they are not blackmailers according to some law.

So I'd rather hand him whatever he needs (food/medical bill paid/whatever) then accept the notion that HE MUST pay for the tools he was given to fight. Don't want to give him tools to fight ? Send him barenaked and see how far any soldier will go...so don't fucking complain when the tools are broken.

Want to arrest him for not paying ? Go ahead, I'm looking forward seeing how politicians will handle this hot potato.
posted by elpapacito at 11:07 AM on February 7, 2006


He should've got a receipt, or made them pry the body armor from him.

Hard to do when only one of your arms is...well, ATTACHED.

1. What happens when a soldier is captured? Does he have to reimburse the military for equipment confiscated by the enemy? Will he have to pay before or after he is released?

2. Do the families/estates of MIA soldiers need to reimburse the government?

3. When making a tactical retreat and needing to abandon equipment, who is responsible for the cost?


Those are actually terrific questions, especially that third one. Can you imagine some young soldier who grew up poor and joined the army to raise money for his family, and he has to make a choice between a tactical retreat or saving a piece of equipment he's worried he might have to pay for? I shudder at the thought of that.
posted by davejay at 11:11 AM on February 7, 2006


As commander in chief, is Bush responsible for paying back all the money the Pentagon can't account for in Iraq?
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:20 AM on February 7, 2006


Just playing devil's advocate here, since being military myself I can understand the guy's plight and DEFINATELY his frustration - but I don't think we're getting the entire story.

I totally agree with Matty here. There's more to this story that we don't know. The clue for me was this statement in the article:

"Rebrook said he tried to get a battalion commander to sign a waiver on the battle armor, but the officer declined. "

I know it's not acceptable to criticize our brave heroes, but there *are* assholes, shirkers, idiots and cowards in the military and those guys will get you killed. I'm not saying Rebrook falls into one of those categories, but either he does or his commander does - one or the other.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 11:21 AM on February 7, 2006


How does a battalion commander fit into the chain of command? Would he be likely to have even heard this guy's name before?
posted by Mitheral at 11:40 AM on February 7, 2006


Support President Bush and the troops!

Get your bumper sticker today!
posted by nofundy at 11:42 AM on February 7, 2006


I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you already paid for that armour.
posted by furtive at 9:59 AM PST on February 7 [!]


Are you sure? Because my understanding is the armour was bought on credit.

Your grandkids will pay for that armour. Plus interest.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:48 AM on February 7, 2006


What?
Was there a fight in here and I missed it?
I'm going to metatalk and see wtf happened!
posted by nofundy at 11:48 AM on February 7, 2006


Mitheral, the battalion commander is at the top of the food chain. The lieutenant is at the bottom (officerwise). However, chances are that since this guy was an officer (probably a platoon leader), the battalion commander would at least have heard of him (three line platoons per company, three line companies per battalion). More than likely, the report of survey was conducted by a Captain or Major, then turned into the battalion supply officer. The battalion commander may have heard a report of survey would have to be initiated and may have received an update once it was completed, but probably didn't have anything to do with its execution.
posted by cog_nate at 11:52 AM on February 7, 2006


I don't know why some people in this thread are bashing the Army - other than that some people will take any reason.

Some poor slob who signed up for one weekend a month and two weeks a year active duty has been ripped away from his/her job, wife/husband and family, and sent off repeated tours for duty to some godforsaken shithole of a country, to continue for Allah knows how long, FOR NOTHING.

And you fault them them for not getting the paperwork right?
posted by three blind mice at 12:00 PM on February 7, 2006


From AMERICAblog:
"UPDATE: We've collected well over $5,000. So, I'm pulling the plug on the links to donate. Thanks so much guys. I'm contacting the service member now, have his phone number, to let him know. I'm going to suggest it might be nice to share the money with other service members he knows have faced the same problem."
posted by ericb at 12:06 PM on February 7, 2006


(Actually, I probably just underestimated the number of lieutenants in a battalion. In addition to the platoon leaders, there would be three or four lieutenant staff officers in each company. So, ~seven lieutenants per line company, plus perhaps three others in a support company, and maybe one or two on battalion staff. Somewhere between 25-30 lieutenants per battalion is probably a safe bet.)
posted by cog_nate at 12:07 PM on February 7, 2006


three blind mice writes "Some poor slob who signed up for one weekend a month and two weeks a year active duty has been ripped away from his/her job,"

Would a guy who "graduated with honors from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., spent more than four years on active duty. He served six months in Iraq." really have been doing the reservist thing unless it was an extension of his enlistment?


cog_nate writes "The battalion commander may have heard a report of survey would have to be initiated and may have received an update once it was completed, but probably didn't have anything to do with its execution."

That' what I'd guessed, I can understand why he might have gotten little satifaction if that's the only person he contacted.
posted by Mitheral at 12:09 PM on February 7, 2006


That's great, ericb!
posted by digaman at 12:55 PM on February 7, 2006


"Hey everybody, the comments here typify why I think mefi is on the decline. I see so many fewer posts by people I respect, and many more posts by idiots."


Freedom isn't free.
posted by hatchetjack at 1:20 PM on February 7, 2006


Rebrook was told he’d have to supply statements from witnesses to verify the body armor was taken from him and burned.

I feel bad for the guy, and obviously it was a rotten field oversight with unexpected snowballing consequences, but he couldn't call up some of his buddies and get them to sign a quick "He was blown up; it was burned" statement?
posted by booksandlibretti at 1:25 PM on February 7, 2006


Would a guy who "graduated with honors from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., spent more than four years on active duty. He served six months in Iraq." really have been doing the reservist thing unless it was an extension of his enlistment?

Well, you're talking about the poor slob who got the bill Mithreal.

I'm talking about the poor slobs in the back office who are responsible for checking all the boxes and who messed this one up.

You seem to have all the empathy in the world for the West Point grad and zero understanding for the guy who went to community college with the money he got from the recruiter.

From my point of view, both deserve better, but I wouldn't blame either if they did as little as possible for their goverment salary and their miserable commander in chief.
posted by three blind mice at 1:52 PM on February 7, 2006


Newspaper Story on Soldier Forced to Pay for Body Armor Sparks Fundraising.
posted by ericb at 4:00 PM on February 7, 2006


So does this mean Dubya has to pay for New Orleans?
posted by orthogonality at 5:16 PM on February 7, 2006


I heard the fellow interviewed on the CBC. He didn't seem particularly pissed at the Army, just thankful that he still has his life and his limbs.
posted by greatgefilte at 5:42 PM on February 7, 2006


Further update from AMERICAblog:
"I just mailed a check for $5400 to 1st Lt. William “Eddie” Rebrook IV in West Virginia. That's the total amount of money you guys donated over 2 hours yesterday...

According to the latest from Editor & Publisher, Rebrook has said he's going to donate the money to the mother of a soldier who saved his life in Iraq - she lost her home in New Orleans to Katrina - and he may also give some to charity..."
posted by ericb at 3:18 PM on February 8, 2006


From the E&P article referenced by AMERICAblog:
"West Virginia's two U.S. senators, Jay Rockefeller and Robert Byrd, asked top military leaders Tuesday to explain why 1st Lt. William 'Eddie' Rebrook IV apparently had to reimburse the U.S. Army $700 last week for body armor and other gear damaged after he was seriously wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq. The military officials said it sounded like an unusual case, but they would look into it."
posted by ericb at 3:20 PM on February 8, 2006


Hurt soldier billed for gear to be repaid.
posted by ericb at 8:28 PM on February 8, 2006


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