Ossoff seeks answers about brawl in youth program at Fort Gordon

Sen. Jon Ossoff spoke with News 12's Meredith Anderson. Here's the full interview.
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 3:43 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff confirmed Tuesday his office is looking into multiple fights that canceled the Youth ChalleNGe academy at Fort Gordon late last year.

The brawl took place in October between 70 cadets at the academy that’s run by the National Guard at Fort Gordon.

New reports show the fight broke out due to leaders of the academy rushing to meet quotas and failing to do all the screening they could have for mental health and behavioral problems.

“I understand there was a violent incident at this program,” Ossoff said. “My office has pursued some specific requests for information from constituents related to this matter, because those are confidential services we’re providing the constituents and in particular. Because they involve children, I cant get into those details. We want young people in Georgia to have access to programs that give them an opportunity to access skills and turn their life around if they’re struggling, but those programs need to be run in a way that is safe.”

The academy was created back in 2000 at Fort Gordon. It uses a military model to educate and shape 16- to 18-year-olds from across Georgia. You’re even able to complete your high school diploma through this program. The Georgia National Guard has had more than 15,000 cadets.

The brawl happened after leaders of the academy rushed to meet a new enrollment quota and didn’t properly screen recruits for behavioral and mental health problems, records show. The small staff failed to control uncooperative and violent youths, an investigation found.

Besides the failure to screen students, a draft report also identified staff shortages and other problems. But Guard officials mostly emphasized the high-risk students involved.

After the brawl, Fort Gordon’s acting garrison commander ordered the program shut down and barred every cadet from the fort for a year, citing “the safety of the installation.” Program administrators were told they had 24 hours to get all 170 teens off base.

It’s not the only time something like this has happened.

Just a week ago, a similar riot – but not as widespread – broke out at the Robert L. McCrady Training Center at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.