Facts to Print vs Questions to Verify

This is less of a blog post as it is an effort to do something different with how I’ve been approaching the stories I investigate. I’m going to entail the difficulties I face by doing this while maintaining anonymity, and then I’m going to propose some questions and opinion based statements for you to use your own brain and reasoning to think about this subject for yourself.

I’m not going to waste your time telling you why I do what I do. I covered that in a previous blog, so feel free to give it a read if you’re wondering why I continue to do this thing that consumes way too much of my time and does nothing to put bread on the table. When I get information from people, 90% of the time it comes in as a “hey, this thing is taking place, it upsets me” type of format. My go to reply is usually something like, “man, that sucks; let me know if you can prove it somehow and I’d love to dig into it.” Rarely is there proof, so I don’t touch the subject and simply forget about it. It’s difficult to maintain focus when you’re getting bombarded with so many messages of alleged injustice, but it’s important to try. Without proof, or at least overwhelming corroborative statements, it’s very easy to wade into “slander” territory and either accuse someone of something falsely or publish false facts.

(On that note, let me make it clear: I put the time and effort in when making claims of misconduct against a unit, so if you’ve seen a feel good story or an update on something and say, “he got it wrong,” then I’ll tell you now I’m not referring to those. Sometimes I take direct messages and transpose them immediately just to get the information out to give people awareness. I’ll never do that with claims of misconduct.)

When people provide documentation and proof, I can start moving forward. If I get dozens of consistently themed messages from people in different units, as was the case with the 101st, I’ll also move forward. This is rarely the case, however. Besides the obvious lack of journalistic credentials and training, the most difficult part of what I do is gaining an unbiased narrative by interviewing both sides of the story. I can’t pick up the phone and simply call a 2 star general and say, “what do you have to say about this?” I once had ambitions to present completely unbiased information, but I’ve come to terms with my obvious bias, both from one sided reporting and the very reason I’m doing this in the first place, so I focus on getting the facts as correct as possible and don’t try to fool the readers with some notion of giving everyone a fair voice. Besides, the “other side” have newspapers and official media representatives to present their side of the story.

I’m left to ask questions in my stories and posts on social media and “hope” that someone comes forward with a document, a message that corroborates what I already know, or something to that effect.

(Side note, I don’t lead with questioning anymore; if someone has something to present, I let them present it and make sure I don’t ask leading questions that would allow them to fill the blanks. It’s either fact finding with integrity or it’s not, but lying to myself about the information I have wouldn’t leave me with anything I didn’t have before, which would be nothing.)

I also have to weigh the information against reason and logic and say, “is this feasible, is this possible, and does this coincide with a commonly shared understanding of our current reality?” If I can’t do that, then I leave it alone.

Now I’ll hit you with a series of leading statements (irony: that thing I just said I don’t do) and tell you how I’m going to start approaching information as it comes in. What do we say in the military about the weight of an officer’s word vs. that of an enlisted soldier? We say it holds more weight, hence the responsibility and authority given to an officer. There are many different scenarios we could use to dispute this, but generally speaking, an officer’s word holds more value. That’s what we’ve been taught from day one. What about multiple officers saying the same thing? Would that strengthen the narrative even more? I think so. I know I consider rank and time served, along with position, when receiving information from people. What if those officers were commanders? What if multiple commanders messaged me about the same thing, from different commands, because they were so overwhelmed with something and didn’t know who else to go to? Let’s say those officers had approached their own commanders, been yelled at and told to not bring it up again, and they were fearful of disobeying an order and having their career ended before they even made it out of wearing bars.

This is currently what I’m faced with on Fort Benning, and it’s growing like a plague on other installations where basic training is conducted.

30th AG at Fort Benning is laundering sick trainees with Covid-19, and they’re doing it by falsifying documents, sending the sick trainees along with the healthy ones to Sand Hill, and letting the training companies deal with the problem. I have pictures of the manifest, from multiple sources sending completely different manifests, and I have multiple commanders who have told me their privates stated they were logging their own temperatures after standing under the air conditioning to “fix” the test. I covered this in a previous story on The Landfill. I’ve also been told that the trainees in quarantine on Kelly Hill are sneaking out at night, both permanent party or trainees, by either hopping or cutting the fence to sneak out. CQ and Staff Duty aren’t doing their checks or patrolling, therefore it’s turned into a zoo there and no one is the wiser except the officers who receive the trainees when they finally ship to basic. I can’t prove the linkage though, so I can’t go to story, right? Isn’t that how it works?

How many officers have to send me information before something is done? There’s a brickwall at the 05/LTC level, and it prevents any information from moving further; that is, unless I say something. How many officers from these training sites have to give me their stories before someone does something? I guess the answer is always one more. I’m getting messages from Jackson, though nothing more specific than “we’re seeing the same thing here as well.” Now I find out that Fort Leonard Wood has trainees who were midway through basic sitting in quarantine for six weeks now, they can’t recycle them because new classes have started and they don’t have capacity, they can’t send them to Jackson because they’re full up as well, so they’re sitting in a constant state of quarantine after testing positive with no commander to approach to utilize that open door policy we’re so fond of preaching about and insisting every person in the Army has a right to.

This is all just hearsay though, right? I mean, what evidence have I presented? Besides, this doesn’t happen in our Army. You know how I know? Because it’s never happened to me. Therefore, these must all be lies. That could never happen with the structures we’ve put in place to prevent this stuff from happening.

I wrote all of this quickly to say that I won’t compromise my standards to get the facts right. I’m not a journalist, and simply saying “because my source said so” is not going to please the masses. There will always be those who believe something simply because it’s on the internet, but if my goal is to grind out tabloid journalism, then I might as well fold this up right now. It’s not worth risking my career and pension for. I will be seeking more information in a more open format from now on, however. It’s the only way to get after the truth behind an accusation or claim. I’ll make it very clear when I post that I’m “asking a question” or “putting out a verified story.” Either way, I’m not going to take this stuff at a snail’s pace any longer. The truth needs to be brought forward, so let’s get after it. Don’t forget, the story doesn’t exist unless you tell me. So tell me what’s going on, and let’s get it fixed.

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