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Series a disservice

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011

The Trib's Wounded Warriors series on the U.S. Army's Warrior Transition units (WTUs) -- " Documents show Army's disservice to broken soldiers ," " Transition staff for military wounded poorly trained, stigmatized, fatigued " and "Lieutenant colonel finds success treating 'soldier as a person '" (Feb. 6, 7, 8 and -- grossly misrepresents the Army's commitment and success in caring for wounded, ill and injured warriors.

The stories did a disservice not only to the hardworking and dedicated caregivers who are caring for our soldiers, but also to the thousands who are working to recover and transition to the next phase of their lives.

Not only did the stories offer questionable facts and figures, but much was presented out of context. Reporter Carl Prine's claim that WTUs are a "dumping ground" is offensive and inaccurate. In fact, in a recent inspector general survey of almost 800 WTU soldiers, 91 percent indicated that the WTU is the best place to heal and reintegrate back into the Army or transition to care in the Veterans Administration.

We acknowledge that our Warrior Care and Transition Program has had some growing pains since it was created in 2007. The inspector general recently completed an extensive review that identified a number of recommendations for improvement; many are completed and we are working on the rest. The Army is absolutely committed to providing our warriors the best available care and treatment.

I am sure most, if not all, of our wounded, ill and injured warriors would rather be somewhere else -- such as back in their units, doing their jobs with their buddies. However, we continue to improve how we care for our wounded warriors every day. To not recognize that effort, and the professionals who lead it, does a disservice to every American.

Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker

The writer is surgeon general of the Army and commanding general of the Army Medical Command.

Editor's Note: Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker and other Army officials were offered more than a dozen opportunities to comment for the Wounded Warriors series, but declined. Schoomaker walked away when approached directly by a Trib reporter. On Thursday, he and Army officials declined to speak directly with the Trib or to answer submitted written questions. Schoomaker, who was to travel to Afghanistan, indicated through a spokesman that he would speak to the newspaper late this month.

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