One in five Army generals could not deploy for medical reasons in 2016, data show

WASHINGTON – One in five Army generals could not deploy in 2016 for medical reasons, according to data obtained by USA TODAY, a troubling finding regarding the military’s readiness to fight that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has vowed to fix.

Overdue medical and dental exams were the primary reasons for what the Army refers to as medical readiness in 2016. The medical readiness rate for generals has improved to nearly 85 percent, according to Brig. Gen. Omar Jones, the Army’s top spokesman. Almost all generals, 97.4 percent, can now deploy after taking care of minor issues such as having updated blood tests and dental exams.

“The Army’s top priority is readiness and soldiers are expected to be world-wide deployable to ensure our Army is ready to fight today and in the future,” Jones said. “The data from 2016 does not reflect recent improvements in medical readiness for the Army as a whole and for the general officer corps specifically.”

The data were contained in a June 2017 report on the state of the Army’s general officer corps that was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The study was commissioned after a series of high-profile scandals involving generals and admirals came to light. In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel created an office to investigate ethical problems among senior leaders. An investigation by USA TODAY last year found that military investigators had documented at least 500 cases of serious misconduct among its generals, admirals and senior civilians, almost half of those instances involving personal or ethical lapses.

One of the most recent cases involved Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets, who was fired for making sexually suggestive comments to women and failing to report suicide attempts among airmen in his command.

Most of the Army’s 2017 report released to USA TODAY was redacted. However, sections that included data on deployability for generals and programs to improve their mental and physical health were included. It noted “Points of Stress” for generals that include combat, deployment, family separation, loss and uncertainty. Another category termed, “Complicators,” listed aging, caring for parents, disease risk and teenagers.

Data for 2016 showed that 83.5 percent of Army soldiers were deemed medically ready to deploy, the lowest rate among the services. The Marine Corps led with 90.2 percent followed by the Navy at 90.1 percent and the Air Force at 88.8 percent. The rate for active-duty, ready-to-deploy generals, not including the Reserve or National Guard, was 79.6 percent. For active-duty soldiers overall, the figure was 84 percent, and the Army’s goal is 85 percent.

The top factors for failing to meet the standard was being overdue for an annual physical or dental exam, a relatively easy fix. The report included a recommendation to “Enforce Wellness” that enables generals to receive the evaluations and treatment they needed and “ensure that they do so.”

To that end, the Army has sent 62 generals to its executive health program at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, Jones said. Over a three-day period, generals receive health-care services and assessments. By the end of 2019, 234 more generals will have been through the program.

Jones noted that gains had been made and are reflected in the medical readiness for generals, which is now 84.7 percent.

Mattis took office in January 2017, and this year served notice that he was making readiness to fight a top priority for the Pentagon.

If troops can’t deploy, Mattis said, others must take their place. The burden of combat and time away from family falls unevenly, he said. Exceptions are made for those wounded in combat or injured in accidents.

“But this is a deployable military,” Mattis told reporters in February. “It’s a lethal military that aligns with our allies and partners. If you can’t go overseas in your combat load – carry a combat load, then obviously someone else has got to go. I want this spread fairly and equitably across the force.”

The report also recommends that generals look after their own “wellness.” It encourages them to take at least one 10-day vacation away from their posts and to get enough sleep.

There’s advice from Gen. John Nicholson, at the time the top commander of troops in Afghanistan. Nicholson uses the “2/3/7” rule. He asks each of his leaders to spend two hours a day alone, eat three meals and sleep for at least seven hours a night.

Police officer among 4 dead in ‘horrific’ Chicago hospital shooting

CHICAGO – A Chicago police officer and two hospital workers were killed Monday by a gunman who carried out a grisly assault at a city hospital.

The shooter, who has not been identified, also was killed in the incident. An emergency room doctor, Tamara O’Neal, and a pharmacy tech, Dayna Less, were the other victims in the afternoon shooting at Mercy Hospital on the city’s South Side.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel called it a devastating moment for a city that for years has endured daunting levels of gun violence. It was a bleak end to a day that started with the city celebrating the graduation of the newest class of 88 police officers and the promotion of 275 newly-minted detectives, sergeants, lieutenants, evidence technicians and field training officers.

“The city of Chicago lost a doctor, a pharmaceutical assistant, and a police officer all going about their day, all doing what they love,” Emanuel said. “This tears at the soul of our city.”

The top prosecutor for the Chicago area, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, called the violence at the hospital senseless.

“The violence that occurred today at Mercy Hospital is horrific,” Foxx said on Twitter. “The County mourns the victims who lost their lives, including CPD Officer Samuel Jimenez for making the ultimate sacrifice to save the lives of others. May we uplift the families of those harmed and our city.”

Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the incident was spurred by a domestic altercation that started outside the hospital between the gunman and O’Neal.

An acquaintance of O’Neal arrived at the scene, and the gunman lifted his shirt, displaying a handgun. The acquaintance ran into the hospital and the gunman fired shots at the doctor, Johnson said.

Johnson said the gunman, who was armed with a lone handgun, fired shots at Jimenez and another officer who had arrived at the scene before running into the hospital. Additional officers arrived at the scene and engaged the gunman for several minutes inside the hospital.

“During the exchange of gunfire, a female staff member was struck by gunfire,” Johnson said, referring to the pharmacy tech. “During that exchange, one of our officers … was also fatally wounded by the offender.

Johnson said it was not clear if the gunman was killed by police gunfire or a self-inflicted wound.

Steven Mixon, an emergency room clerk, told the Chicago Tribune that he was waiting outside the hospital for an Uber when he saw the doctor “being harassed by some gentleman.” He said she waved to him to come to her.

Mixon said he didn’t make it to her before the gunman began shooting.

“I guess it wasn’t my time to go because if I had made it to her, I would have been dead too,” Mixon said.

Jimenez, a father of three, joined the department in February 2016 and had just ended his required probationary term.

Another officer was hit by a bullet in his holster during the chaotic exchange but was not seriously injured, police said.

Kevin Graham, president of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police union, praised the fallen officer.

“Today, the Fraternal Order of Police lost a valued brother — a courageous police officer who got up this morning, went to work and wanted to protect the city of Chicago,” Graham said. “He did just that, but he did so with his life.”

Johnson said he was certain the police’s quick response saved many lives. Jimenez and his partner were not assigned to the call but responded anyway.

“There is no doubt in my mind that all those officers who responded are heroes,” Johnson said.

Steven White, a patient at the hospital who had been waiting to be discharged, said the shooting started near the emergency room entrance.

“It was, ‘Pow, pow, pow,’ ” said White, who was treated for dehydration at the hospital.

White said he could see through the window the woman lying on the ground.