Convoys routinely came under small weapons or rocket fire. And they routinely got lost. Goodrum remembers harrowing encounters that plunged him into bouts of private panic.
He'd talk himself out of them by repeating his mantra: "Command and control. I got to keep command and control. Command my soldiers, implement plans and control the situation and get the hell out of here."
First Lt. Jullian Goodrum could be court-martialed because he did not request leave before checking into a psychiatric hospital during a mental breakdown.
(Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
Once he was a breath away from killing or being killed. A wrong turn left his convoy looking for a place to turn around. Goodrum and two other soldiers got out of their Humvee and stopped local traffic so the PLSs could move.
He noticed several men in a white car, from which an AK-47 was pointed right at him, The car was two feet away. He too had his M-16 ready to fire. He just stood there, eyes trained on the gunman's fingers, which weren't near the trigger. One slight movement of the trigger finger, and Goodrum would have blasted him. After a couple of minutes, the car moved on.
And so it went -- the threat of death lurking all around, he says, "360 degrees, 24 hours a day."
One day he dropped his M-16. In fact, he dropped everything. Suddenly, he could not grasp objects. Army doctors weren't sure what was wrong. But clearly he could not remain in Iraq. In July, three months into his deployment, Goodrum was medevaced home.
He would need surgery. The diagnosis was bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. But there was a tangle of Army red tape to navigate, between two separate military bases -- Camp Atterbury, Ind., his mobilization site, and Fort Knox, where the region's Medical Hold Company was based -- and between various commanders.
Then, in August, he got word. Back in Iraq, Sgt. Kenneth Harris, 23, a much-loved member of the 212th, had been killed in a PLS accident. The truck in which Harris was riding broke down several times on a convoy. In trying to catch up, the driver somehow crashed into the back of another PLS. Harris was sheared in half, and his death was so traumatic to his fellow soldiers on the convoy that seven went to counseling, says Staff Sgt. Reginal Coleman, a passenger in the vehicle that was struck.
Goodrum had been especially fond of Harris. He viewed him as a natural leader who would rise in the military hierarchy. Goodrum felt he'd been kicked in the gut. And he felt that someone must be held responsible.
He filed another complaint -- once he learned details of the accident -- about the preparedness of the 212th and its command.
"And it saddened me because I knew it was coming and I had done everything in my power to prevent a death," Goodrum says.
Hold in Abeyance
Back at Fort Knox that September, Goodrum had surgery on his left hand. But he had to wait weeks to begin physical therapy. And weeks more passed before he could iron out the red tape for surgery on his right hand.
Conditions for soldiers on medical hold at Fort Knox and elsewhere were poor. There were too few doctors. Soldiers faced lengthy waits for processing and treatment. Many soldiers were sent to civilian physicians. And the base accommodations often were poor. Congress ultimately would investigate and recommend changes.
Goodrum filed more official complaints. And he made his "treated like dirt" comment to UPI. It made him a bit infamous on base. He felt it put a bull's-eye on his back.
Goodrum's treatment situation was becoming even more maddening. Suddenly, there were confusing complications in his quest to get surgery for his right hand. On Oct. 29, oddly, he was dropped from "medical hold" at Fort Knox, though he still needed care.
On Nov. 5, at a base clinic, he says, snide comments were made to his face about his outspokenness in the press. He claims a clinic attendant told him he would not be getting his second surgery.
He was so angry, so unnerved, he began to cry. He called a medical case manager. He called a commander he knew. He received assurances that of course he would receive his surgery.
So on Nov. 7, he reported to the Fort Knox hospital to begin the process. He would have to be readmitted to medical hold. And he also asked for help with the emotionalism and anxiety that seemed to keep overwhelming him. He wouldn't get very far.
Lt. Col. Ronald Stevens, then the deputy chief of clinical services at Fort Knox, had been checking up on Goodrum. Stevens had looked at Goodrum's records after the UPI article, Stevens testified at the Article 32 hearing. Stevens thought Goodrum had exaggerated. The UPI article, said Stevens, contained "untruths."
In his testimony, Stevens claimed he wanted to meet Goodrum. He had instructed medical staff to not readmit Goodrum into the medical hold company, but to send him to see Stevens instead.
The physician's assistant who handled Goodrum that day testified that he remembered few details about the encounter. What Goodrum remembers is this: being told that Stevens did not want him to be treated. And a note on a page of Goodrum's records from Ireland Army Community Hospital at Fort Knox reads, "Colonel Stevens do not [sic] want this pt. to be in med. hold."