‘I thought he was going to kill me’: Soldier suffers traumatic brain injury following hazing incident during training

The White House has initiated a President Inquiry to address the hazing accusations

‘I thought he was going to kill me’: Soldier suffers traumatic brain injury following hazing incident during training

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - From the time he was a little boy living in Medina, Tanner Frederick wanted to grow up and be just like his dad - a career military solider.

But a Cleveland 19 Investigation revealed how Tanner’s dream turned into a nightmare.

Ohio soldier says he thought he was going to die during training exercises

Not on the battlefield, but at a training facility here in the U.S.

Six months into his training with the Army’s 1st Infantry in Ft. Riley, Kansas, Tanner and his troop were sent to an urban combat training mission at Ft. Polk, Louisiana.

It was there that the 23-year old says he witnessed one of his training officers, a Corporal from Ft. Riley, and others vandalizing vehicles and other government property used in the exercise.

When Tanner threatened to report the incident, he says the Corporal retaliated.

During a time honored disciplinary practice called “getting smoked,” Tanner says the Corporal took it too far. He says, at the encouragement of his Sergeant, the Corporal drove him beyond exhaustion, forcing him to perform exercises for hours.

When Tanner begged him to stop, he says the Corporal grabbed him by the back of the head and slammed his head into the ground three times.

“I thought he was going to kill me,” said Tanner.

Bloodied, in and out of consciousness, Tanner says his superior officers waited more than an hour to take him to a military hospital, all the while trying to convince him to lie about what happened. He said he was told to say he was injured in a fall.

Hospital records obtained by Cleveland 19 confirm that Tanner suffered a traumatic brain injury, complicating another injury he received days earlier when a tree branch fell on his head during training.

Injuries Tanner Frederick says he received when a training officer slammed his head into the ground during a hazing incident
Injuries Tanner Frederick says he received when a training officer slammed his head into the ground during a hazing incident

The same medical report says C.I.D., the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, called the Corporal’s Actions not a “Hazing” incident but an outright assault.

But records show the Corporal was never charged and was allowed to leave the military with benefits.

“He should have been arrested and put in jail,” said Tanner’s mom, Pamela Frederick, who still lives in Medina. “He should have been court-martialed and charged with assault. I believe attempted murder,” she said.

Cleveland 19 reached out to the U.S. Army, the media spokesperson at Ft. Riley, as well as the Corporal and Sergeant involved. We have yet to receive a response.

As for Tanner, he was expecting an Honorary Discharge from Ft. Riley in the coming weeks. Instead, he’ll receive a “General Discharge” for vocally protesting what he claims was mistreatment of his superiors.

He will lose some of his military benefits as a result.

When Tanner does re-enter civilian life and returns to Ohio, doctors say he’ll also be dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Studies show military personnel can suffer from PTSD, even if they weren’t in combat situations.

Just this year, a dozen people have died in non-combat deaths at Ft. Riley alone. Many of them confirmed or suspected suicides, according to news reports.

Tanner thought about becoming a police officer when military career officially ends, but he doubts he would qualify because of his brain injury and PTSD diagnosis.

With the support of his mom, his wife and two young children, Tanner hopes to rebuild his life, and leave behind the military career he says was stolen from him.

“I just wanted to be here, do my job, serve my country honorably," said Tanner. “Dishonorable men made that impossible.”

Tanner’s mother isn’t giving up, either. She wrote a letter to the White House, demanding an investigation.

In an email response, the White House Liaison Specialist for the Army assured her that “this office will initiate a Presidential Inquiry to address your accusations.”

Cleveland 19 will track the progress of that investigation and update the case when we hear more.

Early next month, the Pentagon is expected to release an important update of its own. All branches of the military have a December 1st deadline, to show how they are tracking and dealing with harassment in the armed forces, including sexual harassment, bullying and hazing.

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