Fort Bliss soldiers: 5 expected to be released after ingesting what may have been antifreeze

FORT BLISS, Texas — Fort Bliss officials said 11 of the Texas military base’s soldiers were injured Thursday after ingesting an unknown substance.

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The incident took place during a field training exercise, according to a statement made by the 1st Armored Division. Two of the injured soldiers were left in critical condition.

In an update Friday morning, authorities said the soldiers fell ill after consuming a substance acquired outside of authorized food supply distribution channels. It was unclear how the substance was obtained, or from where. An Army official told The Washington Post Friday that the substance was believed to have been antifreeze.

Update 5:20 p.m. ET Jan. 30: In a tweet Saturday afternoon, the 1st Armored Division stated that the soldiers were continuing to show improvement. Five of the soldiers were expected to be released from the noncritical ward later Saturday.

Original report: “We took immediate action to treat everyone involved with the best medical care available,” Major Gen. Sean C. Bernabe, senior mission commander of 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss, said in a statement. “Our leaders are engaged at every level to provide guidance, information and care for their teammates.

“Our commitment to our soldiers and families remains our number one priority as we work to understand what occurred Jan. 28.”

The injured personnel includes one warrant officer, two noncommissioned officers and eight enlisted members, the statement said.

The Army official, who spoke anonymously to the Post, said early signs pointed to antifreeze or something similar. Authorities believe the substance may have been mistaken for a drinkable liquid.

Thursday’s incident is the latest in a string of tragic events at Army bases across the U.S. that have made headlines. At Fort Bliss, Pfc. Asia Graham, 19, was found dead in her barracks on New Year’s Eve.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, which is probing Graham’s death, has said that foul play is not suspected. Her cause of death has not been revealed.

German food for the Win 🥰

Posted by Asia Graham on Sunday, September 29, 2019

Graham’s death has called attention to other problems at Fort Bliss, a 1,700-square-mile installation that stretches from El Paso into New Mexico. At least two Fort Bliss soldiers have been charged with murder in the past year, and a third is accused of firing on El Paso police officers responding to a domestic disturbance in June.

At the time of Graham’s death, military investigators had preferred charges against a soldier Graham had accused of raping her in December 2019, the month she arrived at Fort Bliss.

>> Related story: Fort Bliss soldier found dead in barracks had filed sex assault complaint months before death

Earlier this month, base officials said that the accused soldier, a private first class whose name has not been released, would still face a trial in the alleged sexual assault.

Fort Bliss is not the only base that has been plagued by scandals over the past year.

Last month, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced that 14 officers and enlisted soldiers at Fort Hood had been either fired or suspended following a review by an independent panel of civilians appointed to examine the command climate at the Texas base. The review was the result of the high-profile April 22 killing and disappearance of Spc. Vanessa Guillen.

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Guillen, 20, was bludgeoned to death with a hammer in an arms room on the base. Her dismembered remains were found months later in multiple shallow graves along a river about 30 miles from the base, which is located near Killeen.

The soldier suspected of killing her died by suicide as investigators closed in. Spc. Aaron Robinson’s civilian girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, faces federal charges for allegedly helping him dispose of Guillen’s body.

>> Related story: Special Forces soldier, Army veteran found dead on Fort Bragg were shot multiple times

Guillen was one of more than two dozen Fort Hood soldiers to die by homicide, suicide or accident in 2020. The Houston native’s claims to her family that she had been sexually harassed by superiors at Fort Hood also prompted authorities to examine how claims of sexual harassment were being handled by high-ranking officials there.

The same week that Graham died, Staff Sgt. Jessica Mitchell, a drill sergeant at the U.S. Army Medical Center for Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, was found shot to death in her car New Year’s Day in San Antonio.

Mitchell’s death remains unsolved.