Assault at Fort Benning

Updated: May 29, 2020

Guest Author: Maija Barretto

I went to Basic Training in Ft Jackson, South Carolina in January 1988.

On completing Basic Training, I went to AIT at Ft Huachuca, Arizona.

After graduation I went on to Jump School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

I cannot remember the exact date. It was likely August or September of 1988. It was a weekend, probably Saturday. That morning I had gone to the day room to get a snack and drink from the vending machines. There, by the vending machine was a Staff Sergeant I was acquainted with. (He had the same surname, Nieves, as a roommate from AIT. She didn't know him before AIT. They were both from Puerto Rico. They occasionally spoke. Because I spent a lot of time with Arlene, I knew who he was.)

He recognized me from Fort Huachuca. He greeted me and started a conversation. He said he was planning to stay off base in a hotel that night to get away. I don't recall commenting on that. He continued that after he checked in to the hotel, he and the guys that were with him at the moment were going to the mall. He asked if I would like to go. I was hesitant. But, he assured me it was ok.

I got in the car with the group and we went to the hotel, off base. The group went to the lobby to get him checked in. I opted to wait in the car. I waited, and waited. Finally, after drinking the soda I had bought from the vending machine before leaving, I needed to pee. I got out of the car to go to the office. They saw me from the open door of the room. They called out to me and asked where I was going. I pointed to the office and said I needed to go to the latrine. They encouraged me to go to the room. I went to the office. There was no restroom in that little motel lobby. So, I went up to the room. By now I had an urgent need. I hurried to do my business as fast as I could. When I exited the bathroom, the guys were all gone, except the Staff Sergeant. I asked where they went. He said they went on without us. I knew something was very wrong.

I started toward the door. He forcefully stopped me. I was the strongest then as I have been in my life. That wasn’t enough to fight him off. Most of it is a blur. I remember at one point my hands were held. So, I fought with my legs. Having been a dancer, my legs were very strong. But again, I was not a match for this man. He hooked his arm under my knee and jerked my leg up with extreme force. Pain radiated through my body. That was all the fight I had.

I’m not sure how I got back to base. I remember being in the shower for what seemed like hours. I couldn't get clean enough. The water couldn't get hot enough to wash away the violation. The pain was immense. I thought the hot water might help. It didn't. I took a handful of whatever pain reliever my bunk mate had and went to bed. I stayed under the covers as long as I could.

The next day (Likely a Sunday) the pain in my hip was excruciating. I went to the NCO on duty and told him I wanted to file a complaint. I was given so many reason that I should not.

· I would be labeled as “one of those” women.

· If he was not found guilty, I would serve the time for whatever I accused him of.

· My Father, a retired Air Force Command Chief Master Sergeant would be told.

· No one would ever trust me, to partner with me to do my job. (Counter Intelligence Agent)

· It was my fault as I had been dressing provocatively – my Army issued PT shorts were TOO short.

· I actually wanted it, I am just feeling remorse after the fact.

· I will destroy a promising NCOs career.

I knew it was a man’s world that I had joined. I knew that if I pressed to file a complaint/charges in an infantry unit I would never win. I knew that if I went off base to file charges, I would be met with resistance to have the Army handle its own. The chain of command would have been informed and I would have to face the backlash. My military career would be over.

Monday, I went to the morning formation as required. Walking was so very painful. PT was near impossible. Somehow I made it through the day. That evening, I phoned my mother. I remembered crying and telling her that somehow I hurt myself in training. I described the pain and asked if she thought I broke something. She was working in Physical Therapy, and had knowledge of these things. I remember standing in the hall on the payphone, lifting my leg this way and that at her direction. She determined that my hip may have a fracture. She told me to get seen.

Tuesday morning, I went to Sick Call to be seen. I remember is was a male PFC that saw me. I told him I was in extreme pain and walking was a challenge. He has a flip chart he was using to complete the forms. I guessed he was very new to the job. He asked me bluntly, if I was trying to get out of training. I assured him that I was really injured but I did want to finish the school that I had started. He sent me back to training with no x-ray. I was given a bottle of ibuprofen pills. They were huge. I began taking them right away. I popped them often, like they were candy.

I managed to get back to training. I was participating the best I could. The runs were easier than walking/marching. Walking and marching requires extension. I could run with less extension on my hip, and my dancing training allowed me to run with minimal impact. I ran nearly eight miles on that fractured hip. The last run, someone 2 up from me dropped a pace. The man in front of me dropped a pace, so I had to drop a pace. The man behind me did not drop a pace and stepped on my ankle of the leg with the injury. Pain shot threw my entire body and I went down. I was carried off the road and sent to the hospital.

At the hospital X-rays were taken and I was told that I did have a hairline fracture in my hip. I was issued crutches and taken out of training. (The record of this NEVER showed up at my permanent duty station.)

When I arrived at my duty station – Fort Monmouth, New Jersey I was on profile (exempt from PT due to injury) and crutches. The pain in my hip continued. My back began to hurt. I could not walk without a limp. Walking out of alignment would cause me pain all over. I was seen regularly for the pain. I was even sent for a bone scan at a civilian hospital. I was told they could not see the fracture. But the pain persisted. I continued to pop the 900mg ibuprofen pills like candy. I was diagnosed with Chronic Bursitis.

For PT, I learned to modify the exercises, within guide lines, to take the pressure off my hip. Push-ups I did with one foot crossed over the other. The modification put more stress on my wrist causing Chronic Tendinitis. Sit-ups I did with one leg extended. I would only do them properly for the PT test. And when I did it caused the chronic pain to peak for up to 3 months. I was able to run on my hip. Running was tolerable as I could with minimal impact. Marching was a different story. To march with the rucksacks added weight caused immense pain. I sucked it up and did the best I could, but at times it was simply too much.

My stomach and GI tract began to suffer. At least once I was seen at the ED for pains in my abdomen. I was diagnosed with Chronic Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I would have abdominal pain, chronic constipation or diarrhea. At times both.

I stayed on profile a long time. Going to the field was depressing. The Company would have activities such as repelling. I could not participate. I often volunteered for KP duty to save myself from having to go, and just stand and watch. (All while being ridiculed about not participating.). I made the best of KP. I tried to make it fun… serve the lunch and dinner with a smile. However, somehow things like cleaning the latrine of the Senior NCOs became part of KP. I have no idea how a Sergeant Major can get so much urine OUTSIDE the urinal. This was a very special form of punishment. Punishment for what? For being injured.

I had withdrawn from family and friends.

While at Fort Monmouth I was assigned a room with a lesbian. I was constantly harassed and had to listen to comments about my breasts. I often woke-up with the lesbian sitting on my bed, staring at me. She would try to pull the covers down while I slept.

In the fall of 1989, I went on Special Duty to CENTCOM. I was working as a liaison providing pre and de-briefings to senior officers. The officers were happy to have a 19-year-old girl there, in civilian clothes to provide these interviews. Most of them were respectful, but not all. I was grabbed and pulled onto a lap, grouped and flirted with in an extreme way. My assignment was extended because I was gathering great intelligence information. But, when one of the married officer’s advances became too strong I requested to be returned to my regular duty – even though I had enrolled in college classes at Mc Dill AFB.

I started getting migraines that would last 3 to 6 months. At first I would get seen for them after some time, I didn’t want to go to the doctor because they couldn’t seem to help. I just took large doses of ibuprofen or Excedrin.

In August of 1990 I got married to a man that I never dated. It seemed like a good way to get out of the barracks. The decision to marry him would prove to be one of the biggest mistakes of my life. He was highly narcissistic and abusive. But, I became pregnant the first week of marriage. I was trapped. My pregnancy was miserable. We had already deployed to South West Asia (Cairo, Egypt) when I found out I was pregnant. I was assigned to the Embassy in Cairo. I suffered from Hyperemesis. On my 21st birthday, the day I found out I was pregnant, I weighed 121 pounds. I was so sick and could not keep food down. At 5 months pregnant I weighed only 105 pounds. I had to be returned to CONUS as I too sick to work and didn't have access to the medical care that I needed.

I continued to work at a reduced schedule once I was back to the 164th MI Unit at Fort Monmouth. I remember once I was in the latrine vomiting. When I exited, the company commander- Captain Richardson was waiting for me. He accused me of faking. (The Captain had not deployed with our Unit. Rather he took leave to get married and go on a Honeymoon.)

The harassment was too much to deal with while being pregnant and sick. I opted to take a medical discharge. (Due to stress)

Maija's group Going Public - PTSD/MST

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