Decade at war; that long for Army data?

Executive editorApril 1, 2012 

You may have noticed a tagline on Friday’s Page One above the story about soldier “dwell time” between deployments. The tagline read: “When duty keeps calling: A decade at war.”

Expect to see more of that tagline as we continue to cover the war in Afghanistan and its effects on soldiers in our own community.

In the weeks since events in Afghanistan have escalated, we’ve organized our war coverage into three parts.

First is our exclusive, on-the-ground coverage of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from Joint Base Lewis-McChord by reporter Adam Ashton and photographer Peter Haley. (See today’s Page One.)

The second leg of coverage is more specifically about the case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the alleged shooter in the massacre of 17 Afghan civilians. Some of that coverage comes from news partners and wire services, but we’ve also assigned TNT courts reporter Adam Lynn to be our point man on the case.

Our third leg of coverage is more generally about soldiers at JBLM and the toll a decade of war has taken on them and their families. We’ll run those stories as an occasional series and label them with the tagline.

With so much conjecture about the stresses on our soldiers, we’re seeking hard data and have asked the Army for it. We can get Army-wide data in a number of categories, but had no success getting data more specifically for JBLM.

Two weeks ago, we narrowed our request to data for the 3rd Stryker Brigade. As JBLM’s most-deployed Stryker brigade, it represents the full sweep of combat operations since the Iraq war began. It also is Bales’ brigade.

We asked how many soldiers in the brigade are on their first, second, third or more deployment. We asked how many have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and/or traumatic brain injury. And we asked how many have deployed again after those diagnoses.

Finally on Friday, we got the answer to the first question but not the others. That’s after requesting the data from the JBLM public affairs office, an I Corps spokesman, records custodians at the Pentagon, and officials in Kandahar, Afghanistan. We’re told that our request also was forwarded to Madigan Army Medical Center. Now we’re asking for help from our congressional delegation.

We’ve also asked for documents regarding Bales, including his medical record and disciplinary record. We haven’t received those, either.

“It’s understandable – to a point – that officials use discretion in what they will release in a criminal case,” said our military editor, Matt Misterek, “but there should be nothing to stop them from releasing raw numerical data about the brigade as a whole, with no names or personal identifying information attached.”

Bales is but one soldier in a brigade of 4,000. We owe it to the others to tell the story of their service using a full range of accurate data.


The News Tribune’s features team has launched its own Facebook page at

“The purpose is to draw more attention to the newspaper’s upbeat lifestyles content that sometimes gets upstaged by crime, politics and other weightier matters,” said features editor Dusti Demarest. That’s right – this is the purely fun page.

The new page will fill you with ideas about how to spend your leisure time in the South Sound. It will link you to stories, blog posts and columns on food and dining, entertainment and the arts, outdoors, travel, fitness, and home and garden.

Facebook members should “like” the page to have those links appear regularly in their Facebook news feeds.

We hope you’ll still “like” the TNT’s main Facebook page as well. It’s at It includes some features content, but also posts about local news, business and sports items. We also have pages specifically for TNT Prep Sports and News Tribune Photo.

We had a particularly hot conversation on the main page Friday after we posted the story about the Puyallup mom who left her toddler in the car while she ran into the day-care center. The car was stolen with the toddler in it and later abandoned. The child was OK, but prosecutors are considering charges against the mother.

We asked our Facebook friends: “Is it ever OK to leave a little one in the car?” By 3 p.m., the story had 34 comments. The conversation was so rich, we printed part of it in Saturday’s paper. We’ll look for more opportunities to do that when a story strikes a chord with readers.

Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434

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