By Spc. Ben Hutto, 3rd HBCT Public AffairsApril 9, 2009
FORT BENNING, Ga. - When Spc. Jared Alberico, a paralegal for the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, hurt his toe during physical training in December 2007, he assumed it would be a temporary injury.
A month later, during a training exercise, he injured the toe further and was told to go to sick call by his noncommissioned officer.
Unfortunately, it was not the last time he would go back to the 3rd HBCT's medics for the same injury. He estimates that he has been back to the brigade's medical center at least 10 times since then.
"It's frustrating because I've been given profiles, but all I really want is to get it fixed," he said. "I've been given anti-inflammatory medications, inserts and medicines to help me manage pain, but nothing has worked."
After initially trying to push through the injury, Alberico found his efforts were making it worse.
Sergeant Major Gregory Proft, noncommissioned officer in charge of operations for the 3rd HBCT, admires the efforts of Soldiers like Alberico but wants them to take care of themselves.
"Pain is the body's way of telling you that something isn't right," he said. "If a Soldier is hurt, he should get himself taken care of. There are times where you have to look at the big picture and step back and give your body time to heal."
Proft said Soldiers shouldn't let other Soldiers' perceptions deter them from getting medical help.
According to Proft, many Soldiers worry that having a profile will make them look like someone who is trying to avoid PT or just lazy.
Sergeant Joshua Atkins, a combat medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, said while this is not an uncommon sentiment, it is not what a profile is intended to do.
"A physical profile is simply a set of limitations placed on a Soldier, due to sickness or injury, to protect them," he said. "While there are several types, most have a time limit and are designed to allow Soldiers to heal and get back to full strength without further hurting themselves. It isn't a dig on a Soldier. It just says what your limitations are."
Atkins said that Soldiers should go to sick call if they are injured. He suggested that many problems can be fixed before they reach the point that they call for a profile.
Another point he stressed was for Soldiers to follow their profiles and work to get off of them.
"As medics, we don't have a magic wand that we can wave over Soldiers and fix them," he said. "If a Soldier does what the profile says and is still in pain after it expires, we will keep working with the (physician's assistants), other medical clinics on post, and even civilian doctors, to get the problem corrected. If Soldiers are trying to get better, we will do everything we can to help them."
Unfortunately for Soldiers like Alberico, there are Soldiers that use the profile system to get out of physical training.
"There is a fine line between a Soldier that is trying to get off of a profile and a Soldier who is using one to get out of PT," said Capt. Chaz Cannon, commander of Battery A, 1/10 FA. "It's a tough situation, because, as a leader, you have to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. To be realistic, however, there are Soldiers that are abusing the profile system on a daily basis."
Cannon said he relies on his NCOs to help him discern which Soldiers are genuinely injured or sick, and those who are abusing the system.
Alberico knows the reputation that Soldiers who abuse the system have placed on Soldiers like him.
"It's hard, because a lot of times NCOs have to take the word of the Soldier and rely on their knowledge of that Soldier's character," he said. "Not every injury is visible. To be honest, there will still be Soldiers who are skeptical about you, no matter what your profile says. It's Soldiers who take advantage of the system that ruin it for everyone."
Proft said that as a leader, he has never held a Soldier back from promotion due to a profile.
"As long as a Soldier has a passing record (on the Army Physical Fitness Test) within 90 days of their promotion board and has qualified with their weapon within that year, I have always taken their first sergeant and front line supervisor's word that they were ready," he said. "Whether they were on profile or not was never an issue."
Alberico continues to do what his profile will allow, going to the Kelley Hill gym when it opens at 5 a.m. to do PT. While most of his fellow Soldiers are just getting up, he is working to improve his physical fitness and get off his profile.
"I do the right thing, regardless," he said. "Your work ethic and who you are define how your NCOs see you when you are on profile."