Fort Sill trainees who stopped a suicide attempt receive promotions in basic

| September 23, 2020

Privates Fontanez and Till

I saw this article yesterday, but I’ve been too busy to post something up on it sooner. ninja, as always, also helped tip us off on it. Ignore for the moment that someone writing for the ARMY Times doesn’t know Army enlisted ranks.

Two 22-year-old trainees at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, were promoted to private 2nd class after they stopped a fellow trainee from hanging himself Sept. 3, one week into basic combat training, post officials said in an Army news release.

Carlos Fontanez and Ari Till, of A Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery, were promoted outside their battalion headquarters in front of 230 of their fellow trainees Friday, the release stated.

The two men had only been in basic combat training for a week when the incident occurred, according to their battery commander, Capt. Bianca Huntsman.

The incident occurred on a Thursday morning, as both men found their fellow trainee attempting suicide with a PT belt inside the latrines.

Fontanez began to suspect the trainee intended to hurt himself in the first week of training, but did not detail the exact events that led him to that conclusion.

“He slept to the right of me. … With previous events that had happened, I kind of realized maybe I should talk to him,” said Fontanez, in a video released by the Army. “In the latrine I saw what was going down and I was just telling him, ‘C’mon, think about what you’re about to do.’”

Fontanez first found the fellow trainee attempting to fashion his PT belt into a noose and quickly grabbed him. Till, who was busy cleaning, heard the commotion and came in to help.

“I lifted him up so he could breathe, and Till unclipped the PT belt, and we just got him down and stayed by him until he got help,” Fontanez explained in the video.

The two trainees brought the situation to their cadre after addressing the immediate danger.

I always said those PT belts could kill you. BZ to to the two new PV2’s for quick thinking and lifesaving of their battle buddy! The men also got a challenge coin from the battalion commander. Then, there’s this little nugget;

Huntsman said in the release that the trainee whose life Fontanez and Till saved is currently in a medical facility, but is anticipated to eventually restart basic training.

ninja and others took issue with this. I hope this is just for the press release. That they didn’t want to sound mean that the guy is chaptering out on an ELS. I hope.

Category: Army, Bravo Zulu, F*** Yeah!, Feel Good Stories, Guest Link, ninja

Comments (49)

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  1. Sapper3307 says:

    Good job and congrats.
    The promotion form E1 to E2 is is the largest pay raise in the Army.

  2. ninja says:

    Thank You, Mason, for posting the article.

    I hesitated on making a comment about “Private 2nd Class” and reached out to others if they ever heard of that rank. Thank You for catching it.

    The other item that caught me off guard was the writeup on the Reporter:

    “About Kyle Rempfer”

    “Kyle is a staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the U.S. Army. He served an enlistment as an Air Force Special Tactics CCT and JTAC.”

    And of course, I am STILL dumbfounded at this:

    “Huntsman said in the release that the trainee whose life Fontanez and Till saved is currently in a medical facility, but is anticipated to eventually restart basic training.”

    I always thought articles such as this had to go through a Public Affairs Staff before being released to ensure accuracy as well as Security issues.

    I guess times have changed.

  3. ninja says:

    I also thought Soldiers who attemped to end their life were Chaptered (5-13) from the US Army for Personality Disorder.

    Army Regulation 635-200, Chapter 5-13.

    Something is not right.

    • Top W Kone says:

      In 1999 I had a private who made three “attempts”* on their life in a two week time. Each time the medical and behavioral health sent them back to us after they signed a contract to not hurt themselves while they were training and going to therapy.

      A sister unit at the same time was ordered to remove the suicide watch from a Solider who two hours later jumped from the third story.

      There was a point when the Army wanted to keep anyone they could no matter what. It could be that way again.

      *the first attempt was overdosing by taking all the one-a-day vitamins they had snuck in, second was trying to drink bleach, the third was “refusing to breath” – they held their breath till they became woozy. The Doc said after seeing that “do you realize how much willpower that takes? They could do anything if they put that effort into it”

      • ninja says:

        “There was a point when the Army wanted to keep anyone they could no matter what. It could be that way again.”

        Because of $$$$???

  4. FuzeVT says:

    Congrats to the two trainees on their quick action.

    Trying to off yourself ONE WEEK into training? Maybe he had been there for longer – it doesn’t say – but if it had just been one week, that’s pretty week sauce, right there.

    • ninja says:

      Does the Army do Rec Stationing anymore before the Soldier reports to his or her Basic Training Company?

      I spent almost 2 weeks at a Rec Station and saw 3 Soldiers “gone” before we reported to our Company.

      One was a suicide attempt (A “Dear John” via telephone conversation versus letter).

      The second was fraudulent enlistment (to this day, I am thinking “Huh?”)

      The third just simply did not do diddley squat and told a Drill SGT to *F-O* when we were being trained for D&C.

      • FuzeVT says:

        I’m not familiar with Rec Stationing, but I do know that they pretty much all do 2 weeks quarantine prior to the start of any sort of training. My nephew just made it up to Rhode Island for Navy OCS and has spent 1.5 weeks (so far) only being let out of the room for PT twice a day. Other than that, he is a prisoner in his room.

        So that is a fair point. 2 weeks in training means 4 away. Still pretty frigging weak.

        • ninja says:

          Congrats to your Nephew, FuzeVT!

          • FuzeVT says:

            Thanks! Seems like he’s been trying for a long time. He was originally interested in the Nuke program and got through all the gates up to the interview with the Nuke Program Admiral. His physics and other science courses were several years in the past, however, so they said he didn’t make the cut. He gave it some thought and decided to just go into the Navy in any case. Thinking originally about going SWO, he will now go in as an NFO (Naval flight officer or as we called them in the USMC, a non-flying officer). So now there are a lot of ribbing about Goose from Top Gun. He still has 9 days of quarantine prior to pick up. Seems they are making use of the time and aside from PT, they are issue gear and some going over some basic drill movements.

            • ninja says:

              FuzeVT:

              For your Nephew to be selected for Navy OCS…What an accomplishment!

              Am very impressed!

              Have to admit I am chuckling…don’t know if KoB or Ed or Mick caught what you wrote…😆😅🤣😂😉😎

              “Danger Zone”…

              Congrats again to your Nephew with his future outstanding career in the Best Navy in the World (EXCEPT on that Special Day…you all know the Drill: “gabn”)

              • 5th/77th FA says:

                ninja, I read that NFO as a Non Frying Officer, so I can assume his Goose is cooked another way. All he can do is put his career on ice, man, until the quarantine is up. He should be able to grease his way thru basic and just have a ball till he hits the beach. A volley will be delivered by Army on that “Special Day!” (gabn)

    • sj says:

      Grandson reported to Denver MEPS on day one at about 1500. He stayed in a hotel paid for by Uncle Sam and the next day he boarded a Southwest flight to San Antonio at about 1600 and checked in at the Lackland desk in the airport at about 1800. It was rumored that Lackland wanted the recruits arriving in the dark to enhance the infamous bus ride from the civ airport to the base to meet their their “Military Training Instructors” in AF parlance. He got off the bus and the fun began. No downtime. He’s in week 2.

      • FuzeVT says:

        Congrats! Now is about the time he is cursing everyone who ever said doing boot camp was a good idea. He’ll get over that in a couple of weeks!

  5. 26Limabeans says:

    E-2 in one week.
    Their career path is wide open at this point.
    Signal would be a good choice.

    Had a guy (Company Clerk) in Viet of the Nam try to shoot himself
    with a M-16 but missed and put a hole in the Motor Pool roof.
    His friend grabbed the weapon from him just in time but
    did not get a promotion for his lifesaving effort.
    The Clerk was gone the next day. Probably LBJ.

  6. sj says:

    Grandson is in AF basic at Lackland so I peruse the web blog some “Moms” run on the training. A Mom wrote that during a medical screen near the end of the 1st week he was asked if he ever contemplated suicide. He said it crossed his mind but not serious and was doing good. He was sent back home the same day.

    • 26Limabeans says:

      When I entered college many years after DEROS I had to answer a mental questionaire.
      “do you ever feel like you are being controlled?”
      Yes!
      That did not sit well with them and required a follow up interview.
      Who the Hell isn’t controlled by rules, regulations and laws?
      I guess the person that wrote the question never went thru Basic.
      Or ever had someone tell them no.

    • ninja says:

      In todays age of the Internet, some things should never be shared with Mom…

      🤔

      • sj says:

        You should see some of the whining that the Mom’s (and Dad’s) do about missing poor little Johnny and so worried about him because he’s never been anywhere, yada, yada. I, his dad, and several other prior service types inject unsympathetic reality in the discussions like, “it doesn’t matter how many letters you send Johnny, the MTI is going to smoke him anyway so it might as well be for this”. I put all kinds of Army stuff on the envelopes to Grandson so he’ll get the full gusto of basic.

  7. Skippy says:

    GREAT JOB SOLDIERS !!!!!
    I’m a alumni of D 1-19 same Starr ship
    Crazy memories all good

    HOOAH !!!!!!
    HOOAH. !!!!!
    🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

  8. Ex-PH2 says:

    I’m just curious about something: this leafless twig spent one week in the Army, didn’t have to scrub garbage cans (see Beetle Bailey for comment) and really didn’t have to do anything except get up at reveille, get dressed, get breakfast and go to training, and he tried to off himself?

    Was that done to get an audience, or was he hoping for some cash compensation of some kind?

    Just being cynical about it, that’s all.

  9. sj says:

    Ex, re “…except get up at reveille, get dressed, get breakfast and go to training…”.

    Reading Mommy’s comments, many Johnny’s these days never did any of those things without Mommy holding their little hands. Son and I were shocked reading the whining parents. It is a culture shock when mean Sgt Jones raises his/her voice to them. And, to make matters worse, their phones are confiscated and there are no computer games! The good news is they all volunteered.

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      My mother never wrote to me once in boot camp.

      My Dad sent me two letters, funny ones, too, and I still have those.

    • waltusaf says:

      Before I left for Air Force basic, Dad told me “I never want to hear you complain. You weren’t drafted, you volunteered, you asked for it.” (Dad was a draftee, 2 years AD & 2 years National guard in the late 50’s.)

  10. Roh-Dog says:

    Any idiot that tries to hang themselves with a PT belt should immediately go under investigation for cheating on the ASVAB.

  11. ninja says:

    I am positive and convinced this is NOT the first time a Soldier tried to end their life during Basic Training.

    Was taken back that this went out as an approved US Army News article…a “feel good” story..

    Again, based on personal experience and talking to other Soldiers, Soldiers who tried to end their lives while attending Basic somehow “Disappeared”, Chaptered Out, i.e. not even recycled, never to be seen again.

    Suicide of a Soldier under one’s Command is challenging to a Chain of Command, especially when the Chain has to notify the Family as well as keep the matter of death hidden from the news media to protect the Family.

  12. Thunderstixx says:

    We had one at E-3-3 in Ft Leonard Wood in 1974 that tried to slit his wrists.
    Drill SSgt Forbis put him in front of the formation and offered a demonstration using the poor puke on the proper method of slitting your wrists…..
    Talk about a hissy fit !!!!
    He was returned to our unit as there was no harm done, but it is one of those great memories I have from BCT !!!
    He stayed in BCT and went to Ft Polk with me for AIT.
    He turned out to be a great friend and a lot of fun to be around.
    I know that when Drill SSGT Forbis ground my face in the range dirt it did me a world of good on my attitude.
    Nobody gave a shit about us trainee’s back then, so we all just shut up and did what they told us to do.

  13. Graybeard says:

    I hope the trainee gets the help he needs.

    Glad the now-E2’s had their eyes open and their buddy’s back. They’ve learned what may be the biggest lesson – always take care of the soldier beside you.

  14. Ex Coelis says:

    Obviously, these are two very clear-thinking and prescient individuals who deserved the consideration of promotion and will probably adapt very well into their respective leadership roles. BZ to both

  15. Sparks says:

    I am glad they did what they did for a fellow soldier and I hope the young man gets some help.

    True story. When I went through boot camp. The Sergeant told us that if we wanted to kill ourselves, please cut lengthwise on our arms and not across because if we cut across we would clot up and most likely not die and that would be a hell of a lot more paperwork for him.

  16. ninja says:

    Mason:

    Please forgive me for stealing your site for about 2 minutes with this video..

    For those of us old enough to remember this movie…there is a reason why I am posting it:

    • Devtun says:

      Gale Sayers passed away yesterday at 77.

      • ninja says:

        Devtun:

        Yes.

        For those of us who are old enough to remember the Book and the Movie…And the Song…

        • Claw says:

          As well as those of us old enough to have met him in person, along with Butkus and Ditka and some of the older Bears way back when Da Bears did their pre-season training camp at St. Josephs College in Rensselaer, Indiana. As young-uns, we would slip Double Colas and Snickers bars through the fence for them when the coaches weren’t looking.

          RIP, Gale

          • ninja says:

            Claw:

            WOW….Your story…You got to meet Gale…

            Thank You For Sharing…

            How can one explain or relate “Brian’s Song” to those who don’t know the history or read the book or saw the Movie?

            As soon as I read about Gale’s passing, the eyes instantly were tearing up.

            Rest In Peace, Gale Sayers.

            The movie “Brian’s Song” is FREE on YouTube if anyone wants to watch it…

  17. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    Kudos to the Troops for saving their Buddy, but WTF is tha US Army thinking when it decided to recycle one who has attempted suicide? In my day that got someone an instant RFT and ELS!

    • ninja says:

      API:

      EXACTLY!!!!!!!

      You and Mason and others nailed it!!!

      Something is just not right about this story…if that Dude is allowed to continue, what type of Security Clearance will he have as well as Promotion potential, etc. etc..???

      Have always believe in giving folks 2nd chances.

      We all make mistakes.

      However, in this case, No Thank You for the good of the Army.

      You & I and others have had our fair share of these Problem Children…talk about an Admin nightmare when one is trying to Chapter a Soldier out (repeated PT Failures, Weight Issues, Drug and Alcohol Issues, Suicidal Issues, Attitude Issues with Authority, the list goes on and on and on).

  18. Green Thumb says:

    Knowing the Army Times, surprised it would not say “chaptering out on an LES.”

    Remember those?