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Getting Smoked

May 24, 2009 | Lieutenant Colonel Kendall Mower

“Getting smoked” is a term that anyone that has been enlisted in the Army is familiar with. Although it has been quite awhile since I was enlisted, this brought back memories of many times I was “smoked”. Getting smoked is a physical way to help “send a message” and make sure someone remembers the message or instructions given next time.

These were some guys from our platoon. They said it was OK to post this.


platoon, efmb


  • Kathy Suydam
    12/3/2009 2:04 AM
    To : Major (MAJ)
    Kendall Mower
    Army Medical Department

    Major Mower,
    I am a proud, caring grandmother of a 17 yr old soldier {whom I have been raising} who has recently been assigned to Ft Carson, Co.
    Today he had to be trasported to the ER once again after getting "Smoked" at Ft. Carson, Co.
    Seems the DS carries things way too far.
    When is enough, enough?
    I can understand the 200 sit-ups thing,
    but not when the last 100 of them are done while holding the drive shaft of a large military vehicle.
    According to him, the Platoon Sgt & 1st Sgt were there during the whole thing and did nothing to stop this or to help him in any way.
    He was bleeding profusely thru his clothing and in severe pain.
    After calling me, and being left there with no offer of help of any kind, he eventually phoned his bunkmate to come pick him up and drive him to the ER.
    After the exam, the ER doctor said he had a Pilonidal Cyst Fistula.
    Gave him pain meds and sent him back to the barracks.
    Now, tomorrow they are scheduled for a Ruck March.
    After a 10 mile Ruck March in boot {Ft. Benning, Ga.} he ended up in the ER with a pressure fracture if the shin and many in his feet.
    His knees are bothering him so much, he has to take pain meds to be able to fulful his requirements as a soldier.
    I ask again, How Much Is Too Much?
    I appreciate your patient concideration in this matter.
    Thanks and God bless you,
    kat Suydam
  • Lt. Col. Andre Dean
    12/4/2009 12:33 PM
    Dear Kat,
    I read your blog about your soldier-grandson experiencing some "smoke-sessions" in his military training, and thought I might be able to shed some light for you and for him.
    Let me say right up front, that if a soldier is bleeding (like you described his bleeding through his clothing from his pilonidal cyst fistula, which should mean "a cyst or abscess near or on the natal cleft of the buttocks"), we talk to the soldier and see if it is a simple popped blister or an arm scrape...or more serious. If it is more serious, and it is brought to the attention of any sergeant or officer on sight, we stop their training and send them immediately to a medic and off to the appropriate level of medical care that we are very, very good at providing. If it is deemed by the medical staff to be minor, they send the soldier back to continue training with just having applied a band aid or minor medical assistance. If it is a major injury (doctors and physician assistants determine this, not our trainers) then the soldier is given appropriate, professional, immediate medical care and healed before returning him to duty, and he returns to duty with what we call a "profile", describing to his training sergeants and officers exactly what he can and cannot do, to allow him to fully heal. No officer or sergeant will knowingly violate that soldier's profile. We follow exactly what the independent medical doctor has directed for that soldier's rapid recovery; because we want him/her back to us healed and ready to train again.
    When a sergeant sees a soldier needs medical attention, or a solider identifies to his sergeant that he needs medical attention we start him through our medical care cycle and we get them healed. With over 17 years as an Army officer, I have never seen this medical care system fail us. We provide GREAT medical care, analysis and recovery/healing; always.

    As to your grandsons particular case, it is very difficult to judge what really occurred in his military training until you or I could have a detailed statement from him AND a detailed statement from his sergeant (and platoon sergeant and first sergeant who you said were on site), and then we could much more quickly deduce what occurred on those two mornings of "getting smoked" doing Army training, and make sure you and I both could give him good counsel on how to make sure his physical health and well being are always immediately taken care of (many, many times a young soldier will not ever tell his sergeant, even of excessive these remarkable, patriotic young men and women who voluntarily enlist today while we are a nation-at-war, desperately want to "tough it out" and show their soldierly toughness).

    Throughout the Army, Kat, we have to train all of our remarkable new soldiers to be warriors and to have them internalize and live by our "Warrior Ethos". It is a hard and dangerous world, being a warrior-soldier in today's Army, where we ask young people to take an enemies' life and risk their own to be taken as we enter into our 9th year of the Global War on Terror and have suffered over 5100 American Soldiers killed now in Iraq and Afghanistan. We want your grandson, in his choice to be an American Soldier, to discover his limits, take great care of his health, and win on the battlefield with Al Qaeda and the Taliban terrorists. He signed up to serve, and now has entrusted us to train him on how to live, and to win on the battlefield, and how to come home to those he loves. We have to push him to get in the best possible mental, physical and emotional condition of his life, and that is what we do; day-in and day-out.

    None of us who do this herculean work day in and day out, want to see your grandson fail. We want him to succeed and become a confident, highly-skilled soldier and member of our Army family. To get him there, we ask our sergeants to push him and all new recruits, safely, professionally, to their absolute limits, and then just a little more. And so they do, and under close supervision as you have described with the Platoon Sergeant and First Sergeant present...both of whom will have had individually over 16-17 years of very professional military training experience behind them. They are the best trainers of the best Soldiers in this modern world, and they and the Soldiers they turn out are what make America the most respected and lethal Army in the world. The result of this kind of "smoke session", always, is a few soldiers who will need medical attention (and they GET THAT MEDICAL ATTENTION if they tell their sergeant they think they need to see a medic and he can see any indication in their voice, eyes, walk, bleeding, pain...that their request is bona fide). But the larger part of why we do these continuous "smoke sessions" is to build what we call "esprit de corps", which means in a rough translation, "inspirational team bonding". And it works; powerfully. Young people universally love to volunteer for a challenge and then see that challenge delivered to confront them, and then be given the keys of training to overcome that challenge and WIN.

    That is what we do.

    Sometimes 1-2% of our trainees require medical assistance and time to heal, so they can again take on that Goliath (10 mile foot march or 200 sit-ups with a truck axel across their chests) and beat him. But the other 98% immediately soar to new heights of self confidence and capacity and discover to their amazement, that they have fire, passion and soldierly-ability far beyond what they ever knew they had inside them, and they become the American Soldier that America loves and respects beyond any other polled or ranked organization in the world today.

    Kat, tell your grandson to always, immediately identify whatever he believes to be serious bleeding or bone fractures to his Army trainers (his sergeants) and get medical attention, care and healing. Across the board, I am very, very confident that we, the American Army, do this better than any other military organization in the world. We take care of our own and have the best medical care providers in the world to help us with that critical mission.

    Has any of this been helpful Kat? Tell him to get medical help and get healed, and follow exactly what his doctor tells him to do to fully recover. We know how to follow orders in the Army, and that is exaclty what all of our trainers do: they will follow the doctor's orders.

    If it is of use to you, Kat, I looked on-line to better understand some of your grandson's condition. I am not a medical doctor, but I did read some historical information on your grandsons' medical condition. Here is what Wikipedia says about Pilonidal Cyst Fistula: "the condition was widespread in the United States Army during World War II. More than eighty thousand soldiers having the condition required hospitalization".

    So, if we sent 80,000 soldiers for hospitalization to heal from a similar medical situation back in 1945, then I am very, very confident our medical doctors today will not hesitate to hospitalize your grandson if they determine his particular condition needs this level of care to be able to fully heal. I assure you, Kat, we want him 100% healed.

    Ask your grandson to call you from the doctor's office on his next visit for follow-up care, and you can ask the doctor (with your grandson's permission) whatever you need to ask to be assured that the right medical care is being given. We have some awesome doctors, so I'll trust you into their very competent hands.

    I'll wait to hear from you. Keep me posted of his progress as he pursues his dream of becoming an American Soldier. If that is still his dream, we'll all help him get there with flying colors. Especially in today's reality of upcoming combat, Kat, our lives depend on him being 100% trained, healthy and heads-up, we take intensive care of our you send him out on loan to us.

    Army Strong,

    Lieutenant Colonel Andre Dean
    Active Duty blogger
  • kat suydam
    1/10/2010 1:45 AM
    My randon has just returned to Ft Carson following 2 wk leave for the hoidays.
    The more I ponder over all he contines to go thru at the hands of the powers that be, the more questions I continue to have.
    More and more this 'getting smoked' reminds me of 'Hazing' in College Fraternities, which to the best of my knowledge has now been baned and declared against the law.
    BTW~Alot of what goes on is "in the back" as he refes to it, and nothing leaves that back room.
    Is this too SOP?
    Again, I appreciate your patient concideration in this matter.
    Thanks and God bless you, kat Suydam

  • Aguirre
    12/10/2011 11:08 PM
    I just got out of basic and a few things in this story dont make sense. First of all all we got was letters as far as communication. Second, the 1SG would always stop the excessiveness of our drill sergeants. BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, he's not even in the army yet, he's trying to be. I was 17 too during basic and i got in trouble a lot because i wasnt very mature. Thats probably whats going on. The Army teaches us how to kill. Thats our job, and our job is hard. People arent born being able to do what we do, being a soldier. Thats why it is the job of the drill sergeant to make soldiers. American soldiers are meant to be precision instruments of war, and the drill sergeant is the craftsman that creates them and to do this soldiers must be put through fire.
  • Sarita
    10/12/2014 10:30 PM
    Like Kat Suydam's grandson, my son enlisted at 17. I thought it was a big mistake but he would have turned 18 the following month and the recruiter was promising him everything he wanted if he enlisted before he was 18. He had trained for 9 months before basic training and initially the letters home were positive and happy. The in a matter of two weeks he quit. He wasn't allowed to call home, only send the letters that took a week to receive. I finally spoke to him because his grandmother who helped raise him is gravely ill. He didn't sound like himself and had a hard time controlling his emotions. I don't know what happened but I suspect something went very wrong. I'm concerned for his mental well being and his physical well being until he's sent home. I don't understand what happened and I wish I had more information.
  • SSgt Sharon M. Wood USAF Ret.
    8/23/2015 7:57 PM
    Dear Lt. Col. Andre Dean,
    Sir I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to explain everything to Ms Suydam. I know I am writing this almost a year later - I was looking up the term "getting smoked" for a translation on Military terms for my daughter who posted a joke on Facebook, and came across this blog in the results of a Google search. Even though I am in the middle of that (translating some terms) I wanted to stop and take the time to offer you my sincere thanks for explaining the way things are supposed to be done. I have worked Army support so I have had the best of both worlds so to speak, and thoroughly enjoyed the 2 years I worked with the Army, and I would also like to reassure Ms Suydam that everything you had told her is true. Working with the Army was an amazing experience, the professionalism within your branch of the service is something I hope you are proud of.
    As I stated in my "title" I am a retired AF SSgt, who was medically retired 6 years ago. Being "Air Force" I was unfamiliar with the term "getting smoked" because we do not use that term. That was (things have gotten stricter) a problem with the Air Force of the past. When I enlisted 18 years ago our PT test that allowed us to complete and graduate BMT (basic military training) was 1.5 miles (I cannot remember the max time limit, but it wasn't hard to do at all) a minimum of 14 push ups and 40 sit ups. That was the requirement for women, and it was in my opinion a sham. I was older when I enlisted - two weeks before my 28th birthday and I was able to complete it with no struggles, but watching some of the rest of my squadron - mostly 18-21 year old kids - falling out because they weren't fit enough was disgusting and embarrassing to say the least. It is no wonder that the other branches of the military have nicknamed us "the Chair Force". Thankfully though things have changed with all aspects of AF BMT, it is longer, more war fare tactics are taught, hand to hand combat, field experience is a week now instead of firing on the range one day and sleeping in a tent that night. So things have seriously changed within the Air Force, we are stronger, tougher and far fitter then before, as it should have been since Sept 18 1947 when the Air Force became it's own entity. Hu-ah sir, and thank you again,
    SSgt Sharon Wood, USAF Ret.
  • SSgt Sharon M. Wood USAF Ret.
    8/23/2015 8:00 PM
    I just rechecked the time that your comment was written sir, and I am not sure why I thought you wrote it 1 year ago! This thread is actually 6 years old, however my thanks remain the same!!
  • Angel Hernandez
    5/13/2016 5:05 PM
    I did 8 yrs in Army National Guard, I went in @ 32. The Military isn't for everyone, some can't handle the physical, but that's the easy part, the hardest is the mental strain, if you are mentally weak, you ain't gonna make it, like manny. Like the Colonel said, we are trained as we fight, we not gonna train baby's & have a weak army. Basic training is the way to root out the weak from the strong! Hooah!

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