Marysville private had a history of cognitive problems, but ended up
in Iraq; Dietrich met all the standards, Army says.
By Jason Scott, Sentinel Reporter
September 14, 2008
Stacey Dietrich still misses the laughs and jokes she used to share
with her younger brother. Growing up in Marysville, the two of them
did everything together.
They hung out at the park, shared adventures along the Susquehanna
River and even palled around with the same group of friends.
"When we were little, we were like two peas in a pod," said Stacey
Dietrich, who is now living in Mt. Holly Springs. "I was able to go
to him, talk to him about things people didn't understand. He relied
on me to talk about things."
David Dietrich was her best friend.
The Army cavalry scout was killed in December 2006 by a sniper while
conducting reconnaissance from an abandoned building in Ramadi, Iraq.
It was just the second mission for the 21-year-old. "It was something
he wanted to do since he was 9 years old," Stacey said about her
brother being in the military. "He just wanted to prove to (our
grandfather) and everyone that he could be something."
Their grandfather served in the Navy.
'Couldn't keep up'
David Dietrich was always a slow learner, according to his sister. He
had trouble processing new information and he also had anger
problems, she explained.
At 16, he spent two months at Philhaven, a facility in Mt. Gretna for
people with mental health problems. It was there that doctors
diagnosed him as having difficulty learning.
The cognitive issues didn't stop David from enlisting in the service.
He wanted to be a Marine, but reportedly failed the aptitude test.
He later passed the same standardized military recruitment test for
the Army a mystery to his family and was offered a $19,000 bonus
to be a scout when he showed up alone to sign his contract.
"I don't understand how he got in in the first place," said his
uncle, Dan Dietrich, of Halifax, referring to David's learning disabilities.
In basic training at Fort Knox, Ky., an Army spokesman admits that
Dietrich was behind his fellow soldiers in training most notably on
the rifle range and failed to graduate with his troop.
"He couldn't keep up and they sent him anyway," Dan Dietrich said,
referring his nephew's subsequent deployment to Germany and then on to Iraq.
Ryan Brus, a public affairs officer out of Fort Knox, acknowledged
that David was behind in training, but said he was recycled into
another unit and eventually met the basic rifle marksmanship to
complete the program.
"We want to help soldiers succeed," Brus said, noting that the
Marysville soldier was not the only one who needed additional time
training. "We want to make sure we send qualified soldiers on to
Dietrich met all the standards and was ready to go, Brus said.
During the one-station unit training program there, soldiers go
through nine weeks of basic training and about six weeks of advanced
individual training (AIT) as either armor crewmen or cavalry scouts,
The vast majority of those who complete the training end up in
Afghanistan and Iraq within two years, he said.
Despite these reassurances, the family still holds the Army partially
responsible for Dietrich's death.
"He should never have been in the position of an Army scout. He could
have probably done other jobs," Dan Dietrich said.
Stacey Dietrich argued, "They suckered him into being a cavalry scout
and pushed him through the training and initial test."
She wishes someone would have gone with him when he signed the
enlistment papers. Maybe he could have been dissuaded from the
cavalry, she said.
"If I knew he was going to enlist, I would have went with him," she
said. "I'm not saying he wasn't capable of serving, but he should
have been held back for more training. He shouldn't have been in the cavalry."
The military needs to be more aware of who they are sending to do
what job, Stacey Dietrich added.
"I want to prevent this from happening to other families," she said.
"I don't want it to happen anymore."
Things haven't changed in terms of scout preparedness and training at
Fort Knox, Brus said. However, in July, the Army decided to extend
boot camp to 10 weeks, beginning Oct. 1.
The extra week will be for drill sergeants to review, re-train and
retest skills and material with individual recruits, so they can
thoroughly master required tasks before moving to AIT, U.S. Army
Training and Doctrine Command leaders told the Army publication Stars
Bill Dietrich, David's father, who was forced out of the kids' lives
when they were very young, said he doesn't think his son should have
been allowed into the military at all.
"If he had all these learning disabilities and they knew about them,
they shouldn't have let him in the Army," he said.
Previously published reports, including a June story in Newsweek,
said David Dietrich never mentioned his mental health problems or
stay at Philhaven when he signed up to serve.
A spokeswoman for Army Medical Command told The Sentinel that his
medical file may not be released because it is considered protected
health information. Personal information is protected by the Privacy
Act, Army Regulation 360-1 and the Healthcare Insurance Portability &
Accountability Act (HIPAA).
According to Bill Dietrich, he and David's mother, Rose Dillman,
broke up when he was just a toddler.
Bill Dietrich married his wife, Mary, in 1991, when his son was about 6.
David Dietrich lived with his grandfather, Charles Dietrich, in
Marysville from the time he was about 10 until age 14.
His mother also lived there until that time. She and her boyfriend
moved out after an argument with the grandfather; David ended up in
the foster care system because he and his grandfather didn't get along.
Between the ages of 14 and 18, he lived in a series of foster homes.
Through his days at Susquenita, where he graduated in 2004, David
Dietrich periodically lived in his car, with friends or at the
firehall in Marysville, where he was a volunteer firefighter.
He signed up for the service at 20.
Telling their side
David Dietrich's family is still upset about media coverage earlier
this summer, detailing the fallen soldier's preparedness as a scout
and pressure on the military to send borderline troops over to Iraq
and Afghanistan to fight the War on Terror.
They say they were never contacted in either of those cases,
including the June 30 Newsweek article.
David may not have been completely ready to go overseas because of
his mental health history, they admit, but they also don't want to
see his service to this country tainted. He died a hero and that's
how the family wants to remember him.
Bill Dietrich said he and his son were hoping to reconnect before he
"We were planning to get together. That will never happen now," he said.
He didn't even know David Dietrich was in the military until he was
told he was killed in action.
"The last I knew, he was playing football for Susquenita," Bill
Dietrich said, adding it was still tough burying a son he barely knew.
Stacey Dietrich, who occasionally visits her father in Perry County,
continues to grieve over her brother's death.
"She keeps his dog tags with her no matter where she goes," said
Charlotte Inks, Stacey's advocate and roommate. "If anyone knew
Stacey, they knew David."
A picture of her brother sits beside Stacey Dietrich's bed.
"He was always looking out for everyone but himself," she said.
David Dietrich was promoted by the Army to private first class after
he was killed. He was also honored with the Bronze Star for
meritorious service and a Purple Heart.