Two new Commando recruits ‘collapse’ during ‘prova zero’ training course

One remains on ventilator; other discharged following reanimation

Two new Commando recruits have suffered life-threatening collapses during a ‘prova zero’ training course.

One remains sedated and ventilated at São Francisco Xavier Hospital; the other was reanimated and later discharged from hospital, albeit he remains under the accompaniment of the Commando regiment.

There is no inference that either recruit was subjected to the kind of bullying referenced in previous incidents.

Defence minister Helena Carreiras has already stressed she is accompanying developments, and that both young soldiers were afforded prompt medical care.

That said, they both nearly died on a course notorious for its rigor. The percentage of recruits that fail to complete these ‘prova zeros’ is around 50. As CM explains, they have various names: “prova de choque, prova da sede, prova de aptidão Comando”. Everything involves taking recruits ‘to the limit’, physical and mental, over a period of around 14 weeks.

In these latest incidents, one of the young men identified as João N. collapsed 2.7 kms into a run known as Marcor. He was rushed to the barracks’ infirmary in Sintra, reanimated and transported to hospital where he was admitted into intensive care.

Later the same day, during dinner, recruit Ricardo A., became ‘indisposed’. He was taken to the same infirmary where he was found to have suffered “a sudden interruption of cardiac and respiratory functions”. This diagnosis was later corrected to a “respiratory interruption (…) promptly reverted by the medical team present”.

Ricard A’s case was much less serious than that of João N. He has since left hospital. Now the investigative work has to go ahead into what lay behind these two potentially life threatening incidents.

The Army has added that it is available to give all necessary support to family members of the young men, as well as explain their clinical situations.

The Commandos unit in Portugal – considered the elite of the Army – is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, but not without some very rough patches. Hospitalisations during training, and deaths, have marked various courses over the years, leading to the regiment actually being disbanded in 1993, before being reactivated in 2002.

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