The Inspector General’s Office of the Department of Defense will be taking a closer look at basic trainee deaths across the military, according to a news report this week.
Military Times reported this week, the Inspector General’s study is aimed at the effectiveness of medical protocols.
Earlier this year, News 3 reported the plight of an Army basic trainee who contracted necrotizing fasciitis while at Fort Benning. Now, it appears the Strep outbreak during basic training that nearly killed Dez Del Barba will be under closer military scrutiny.
About the time Del Barba contracted the illness and collapsed in his barracks, another soldier in basic training died. The Army has not released that soldier’s cause of death.
Fort Benning is the center of Basic Training for the U.S. Army. More than 22,000 troops have come through this year, according to a Fort Benning spokesperson.
In January, 21-year-old, Del Barba of Stockton, Calif., was one of those soldiers.
He tested positive for Strep, but it went untreated and developed into the flesh-eating bacteria. He lost a leg and has had 22 surgeries in 10 months. The California National Guardsman is still being treated in San Antonio.
Del Barba’s father, Mark, welcomes the Inspector General’s look at the matter.
“It makes us feel a little better that they are actually looking into stuff,” he said via phone on Wednesday. “Hopefully, they are going to look into Dez’s situation. I am sure they know about Dez if they are going to investigate a death that happened there around the same time. Hopefully, his case will come up. And if they ever want to us, they are more than welcome.”
The Army Surgeon General’s office says Army Medicine conducted an investigation regarding Del Barba’s medical treatment. They declined to release the results.
A brigade-level investigation was conducted.
“The Brigade conducted a thorough investigation to determine the facts and
circumstances surrounding the unit’s actions before, during and after his
admission for medical treatment,” Fort Benning Spokesman Ben Garrett said in an email to News 3. “The investigation revealed that none of
Pvt. 1st Class Del Barba’s Drill Sergeants or training cadre impeded his
access to medical care. The investigation did reveal that the protocols for
reviewing and receiving Initial Entry Training Soldiers who present
themselves for sick- call treatment needs to be improved.”
News 3 asked for an interview with Fort Benning commander Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, but he was not available.
“The Commanding General and Fort Benning’s leaders express our deepest
sympathy to Pvt. 1st Class Dez Del Barba and his family,” Garrett went on to say in the email. “We understand that this has been a very difficult time for all involved. We remain fully committed to supporting Pvt. 1st Class Del Barba throughout his recovery.”
Brito has reviewed the investigation, Garrett said.
“He has directed the Command to make the necessary changes to improve its processes and procedures to ensure the dignity and respect for all trainees who present themselves for medical evaluation and treatment,” Garrett said.
Those changes were not identified.
There have been multiple deaths across all braches in recent years. The Inspector General’s study will focus on 2014-2019, according to Military Times.
“There needs to be a higher visibility on what’s going on at the training sites,” Del Barba’s mother Kamni said.
“This all started with Strep A,” Kamini Del Barba told News 3. “It was as simple as that. Strep throat.
“He was a healthy, productive go-getter. I couldn’t keep him at home. He was always at the gym. He was always at the school. He was doing the right thing. That’s all he wanted to do. He wanted to do the right thing. And he sought medical attention multiple times. He tried his best to get help. And he didn’t get it.”