FORT STEWART, Ga. (WSAV) — A little over a week ago, a group of Fort Stewart soldiers returning to the barracks say they discovered two of their fellow soldiers unconscious in their rooms, one without a pulse.
Soldiers who were present during the incident tell me it was one of the most terrifying moments of their lives.
They didn’t want to be identified, but they shared their experience.
They tell me they suspected the two soldiers had taken what was believed to be Percocet, but it actually turned out to be something else entirely — something with a deadly reputation.
“Finding someone that you know, that you work with, just laying there dead, and uh, it can be a pretty crazy experience,” one soldier said.
Describing the incident in detail, another said, “Two soldiers, one of them originally, had a drug overdose, on what he thought was perc-30 and he was found by another soldier, and the only reason that either of them is okay now is because somebody happened to have Narcan, and that was administered by several other service members in our unit. And that’s the only reason these two people are alive today.”
The soldiers I spoke with said that after rushing both victims to the hospital, they were told the drug was a man-made substance.
However, they say the Criminal Investigations Division of the military later told them it was Fentanyl.
I reached out to CID for confirmation but haven’t heard back.
The soldiers who shared their stories tell me drug use is common in the barracks. They say substance abuse is a coping mechanism for mental health struggles and substandard housing conditions.
“It has a lot to do with the desperation and the depression that’s caused by the barracks and the housing,” a soldier said.
They say many servicemembers don’t take advantage of substance abuse resources available to them.
“The substance abuse program…it needs to be taken more seriously,” a Fort Stewart soldier said.
I’m told one of the soldiers who overdosed last weekend had previously failed a drug test and should have been in the substance abuse program. He had postponed it due to field training.
Fellow soldiers say before he could make another appointment, he overdosed.
Another obstacle to treatment is the fear of harsh punishment.
“The first reaction from the first soldier to OD…his reaction was ‘I don’t want to go to the hospital because of the consequences of doing drugs.’ He was more afraid of what the company was going to do to him administratively instead of his own life,” a third soldier said.
According to a report published by the U.S. Undersecretary of Defense in February, Fort Stewart ranked among military bases with the most deaths due to drug overdose, with 4 in that time period.
We reached out to Fort Stewart leadership for comment but have not heard back.