Report: Growing mental health problems in military

Mental problems send more men in the U.S. military to the hospital than any other cause, according to a new Pentagon report.

And they are the second highest reason for hospitalization of women military personnel, behind conditions related to pregnancy.

The Defense Department’s Medical Surveillance report from November examines “a large, widespread, and growing mental health problem among U.S. military members.”

The 31-page report says mental disorders are a problem for the entire U.S. population, but that sharp increases for active duty military reflect the psychological toll of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Ex-soldier found guilty of Barstow woman’s murder

VICTORVILLE • A jury found a former Fort Irwin soldier guilty of the murder and robbery of a fellow ex-soldier from Barstow.

Melvin Lee Satcher, 24, was found guilty of first degree murder, robbery, and a special firearms allegation in the killing of Sandi Duncan, 29, who was also a former Fort Irwin soldier. The jury returned the verdict after deliberating for five hours.

Ex-Fort Irwin soldier Phillip Ryan Franke, 27, of Las Vegas, is also charged with Duncan’s murder and robbery. Judge John M. Tomberlin separated their trials before jury selection. Franke’s trial is expected to begin in January.

Duncan’s body was found in a remote desert area in Apple Valley on Sept. 21, 2009. Authorities determined that Duncan was strangled — and likely unconscious — before she was shot twice.

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Rep. Lewis passed over for powerful chairmanship

Republicans passed over  Rep. Jerry Lewis in favor of a veteran Kentucky lawmaker Wednesday to chair the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

The party’s steering committee rejected Lewis’s request to waive term limits that bar him from reclaiming the post he held when Republicans last held the majority.

The decision deprives Lewis of a position that would have given him control over the federal government’s purse strings and a heightened ability to direct millions of dollars to his home district, which includes some of the Pass area.

See also: CREW’s Most Corrupt: Rep. Jerry Lewis

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Protest at White House: No New Korean War!

Washington, November 27 (RHC)– Protesters gathered Saturday in front of the White House in Washington to call for an end to the provocations against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The emergency anti-war rally was called in response to the latest escalation of hostilities in the Korean Peninsula.

Organizers of the anti-war protest said the provocations could lead to a new Korean War — “one that could expand to wider regional, and potentially nuclear, conflict.”

In a statement released just before Saturday’s protest rally began, organizers said that the biggest provocation in the region is the massive presence of U.S. military bases, troop, nuclear and conventional weapons. “In 2010, 65 years after the end of World War II, there are scores of U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine bases in the Republic of Korea, Okinawa, and all across Japan. This vast deployment of military power halfway around the world far exceeds that of any other country.”

The anti-war protesters said that the real purpose of this military machine “is to secure and further the interests of the U.S. corporate power and strategic domination in Asia and around the world. It is the enemy of the people of Korea, China, Japan and the people of the United States.”

Wainwright GI told to remove Facebook video

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Alaska-based soldier is under investigation for a video on his Facebook page that taunts smiling Iraqi children by asking if they’re gay, if they engage in certain sex acts and if they would grow up to be terrorists.

The two young boys did not appear to understand the questions, which were in English, but smiled at the camera and at times flashed “thumbs up” gestures during the 30-second clip.

Spc. Robert A. Rodriguez, who is based at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, was ordered to remove the video from his site, Army spokesman Maj. Bill Coppernoll said Monday.

“The incident is currently under investigation, and the Army will take appropriate action based on the findings of the investigation,” he said.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Rodriguez shot the video or just posted it, and discovering that will be part of the Army’s investigation, Coppernoll said.

The video is “disgraceful and clearly inconsistent” with standards expected of every soldier, he said.

Raleigh, N.C., television station WRAL first reported the video after another soldier stationed at Fort Wainwright shared it with friends in North Carolina, who took their concerns to the station.

WRAL aired part of the video and quoted from Rodriquez’s Facebook page before the site was made private.

Above the Facebook video posting — which was titled, “future gay terrorist!” — is written, “i got bored in iraq … so I kept myself entertained!”

The boys are shown on a dirt road, facing a camera.

A voice is heard asking the boys, “Are you going to grow up to be a terrorist?”

When the boys show two thumbs up, the voice on the video says, “Yeah. All right. Cool. Yeah, terrorist.”

There was no phone listing for Rodriguez in the Fairbanks area. Coppernoll said he did not know the soldier’s hometown, but the video of the Facebook page shown on WRAL indicated Rodriguez listed Miami.

“For anybody to be so cruel and disrespectful to children of any country but especially a country that we are occupying is really disgraceful and repugnant,” said Tim Stallard, a spokesman for Alaskans Together for Equality.

Child porn cases appear to dominate the caseload handled by the various military appellate courts

This is strictly an unscientific sampling, but Suits & Sentences has observed in regular checks of military appellate court opinions that, more often than not, the underlying charges involve child porn. Maybe this reflects a serious child porn problem in the military. Maybe it reflects underlying potential vulnerabilities in child porn prosecutions. Maybe the cases themselves are simply so vivid that they seem to appear in greater number than they actually represent.

On April 30, for instance, the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals considered the case brought by Airman Richard A. Usry. The appellate court upheld Usry’s conviction, with this effective rejoinder:

The appellant possessed over 30 video files showing explicit sex acts with children, and both sides addressed the appellant’s motivations in argument. The trial defense counsel told the military judge that the appellant was ‘simply curious because of his own abuse,’ and the trial counsel countered that viewing videos with names such as ‘Six Year Old Bedtime Rape’ is not some kind of therapy.”

Two of the five opinions rendered April 30 by the Air Force appellate court dealt with child porn.

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Rise in Fratricide Seen in the War on Terror

Incidents of fratricide in the U.S. war on terror increased in recent years, according to a new report (pdf) from the U.S. Army.

“Fratricide” — the unintended killing or injury of friendly forces — “is a harsh reality during combat operations,” the study states.  “Over the course of 2004-2007, the number of fratricide incidents increased, and experts speculate this is due to the high operational tempo and the reliance on technology during the current war.”

According to official data, “there were 55 U.S. Army fratricide incidents from 11 September 2001 to 30 March 2008.  Forty of these were Class A accidents” — involving damage costs of $2 million or more and/or destruction of an Army aircraft, missile or spacecraft and/or fatality or permanent total disability — “resulting in the deaths of 30 U.S. Army personnel.”

Human error is a primary causal factor in many fratricide incidents, the study indicated, and “therefore, human error must be considered in the design and development of fratricide countermeasures, including both technical and human-centric solutions… Improved supervision and leadership may have the greatest potential to reduce U.S. fratricide incidents.”

See “An Analysis of U.S. Army Fratricide Incidents during the Global War on Terror (11 September 2001 to 31 March 2008)” by Catherine M. Webb and Kate J. Hewett, United States Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, March 2010.

Soldier faces 17 years for running brothel

BALTIMORE — A soldier formerly stationed at Fort George G. Meade has been sentenced to 17½ years in federal prison for running a brothel out of his Millersville apartment.

Prosecutors say Craig Corey conspired with three other men from his hometown of Chillicothe, Ohio, to bring women to Maryland to work as prostitutes. He pleaded guilty to sex trafficking by force, sex trafficking of a minor and related offenses.

The men recruited at least 12 women from Ohio, New York, Virginia and other states to join the brothel and advertised their services on Craigslist. Prosecutors say one of the prostitutes was 16 years old.

The men also dealt drugs out of the apartment. Corey’s three co-defendants — Jacob Tyler, Robert Harris and Richard Johnson — pleaded guilty to similar charges.

Military police officer suspected of killing wife, baby

A 21-year-old military police officer who returned form Afghanistan two months ago likely fatally shot his wife and 8-month-old baby, police said Tuesday.

The bodies of Racquell Lynch, 19, and Kyirsta Lynch were found Monday by an apartment manager who opened up their Anchorage unit at the request of military police.

Authorities were looking for Spc. Kip Lynch, who had not shown up for duties at Fort Richardson Army Post. He was found severely wounded in another room.

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$750K bail for Lewis GI accused of killing wife

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A 28-year-old Army sergeant accused of killing his wife during an argument and hiding her body in a storage crate has been ordered held on $750,000 bail.

Sheldon Plummer appeared before a judge Monday in Olympia via video feed. He is being held in the Thurston County jail for investigation of second-degree murder in the death of 27-year-old Winter Plummer.

According to court documents, the Joint Base Lewis-McChord sergeant walked into a sheriff’s office Friday and confessed to killing his wife. The documents say Plummer told a detective that he strangled his wife after she attacked him with a knife during an argument in mid-February. In court, prosecutors said that Plummer sent text messages from his wife’s cell phone so her relatives would believe she was still alive.

The couple has a 2-year-old daughter.

Related reading

Lewis-McChord soldier says he killed wife

Army Wants Sensors to Nab Sweaty, Smelly Security Threats

No matter how well a terrorist covers their tracks, or how cool they are under pressure, the Pentagon wants to be able to detect, track, and even positively identify them from a distance. And they want to do it using nothing more than the heat and sweat that emanate from a person’s pores.

The military’s been after scent-based detection systems for years now. In 2007, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) solicited proposals for sensors to sniff out terrorists using unique genetic markers found in human emanations. The idea was based on research showing that mice each carried a unique “odortype” that was consistent despite variables like stress, hydration or diet. And odortypes are so powerful, they stick around for around a month after their host body has fled the premises.

But the most state-of-the-art tech, known as E-Nose, has only succeeded in distinguishing between two different people, and relies on “detecting human odor from the armpit region.” Now, the Army is launching Identification Based on Individual Scent (IBIS), and wants proposals for a more sophisticated detection system, that could “uniquely identify an individual based on scent,” at a geographical distance or after several hours or even days.

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18 veterans commit suicide each day

Troubling new data show there are an average of 950 suicide attempts each month by veterans who are receiving some type of treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Seven percent of the attempts are successful, and 11 percent of those who don’t succeed on the first attempt try again within nine months.

The numbers, which come at a time when VA is strengthening its suicide prevention programs, show about 18 veteran suicides a day, about five by veterans who are receiving VA care.

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Pentagon investigating alleged spy operation

WASHINGTON — A Department of Defense official is under investigation for allegedly hiring private contractors to gather intelligence on suspected insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a U.S. official said Monday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the case, told The Associated Press that Michael D. Furlong directed a defense contract to gather information about the region that could be shared with military units. After military officials suspected that he was using Defense Department money for an off-the-books spy operation, defense officials shut down that part of the contract, the official said.

The story was first reported by The New York Times in Monday’s editions, quoting unidentified military and business sources as saying that Furlong, now a senior civilian employee at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, hired subcontractors who had former U.S. intelligence and special forces operatives on their payrolls. The newspaper said some of the information collected by the contractors was used to track down and attack militants.

“The story makes some serious allegations and raises numerous unanswered questions that warrant further review by the department,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Monday.

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Trial for 1985 triple slayings begins

WILMINGTON, N.C. — A soldier acquitted of killing a mother and two of her young daughters in North Carolina about 25 years ago is now going on trial in military court after prosecutors say new DNA tests link him to the crimes.

Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis, 51, is charged with premeditated murder in the May 1985 stabbing deaths of Kathryn Eastburn and two of her daughters — 5-year-old Kara Sue Eastburn and 3-year-old Erin Nicole Eastburn. Opening statements in the court-martial are set for Wednesday and the death penalty trial could last up to two months, featuring 100 or more witnesses.

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Army Alcoholics: More Soldiers Hitting the Bottle

After Army Sgt. Edison Bayas‘s car finally came to a rest on its roof, his jumbled, drunken thoughts immediately turned to the men he left in Iraq, as if he was still on the battlefield.

But he wasn’t in Iraq. He was in an El Paso intersection with a blood alcohol content more than three times the legal limit, his 19-year-old victim nearly decapitated in her car a few feet away.

Bayas, a decorated career soldier, is now serving a 15-year-prison sentence for intoxication manslaughter. He’s just one of thousands of soldiers whose problems with alcohol spun out of control in the midst of two wars, mounting pressure and a continuing stigma that macho guys don’t get help.

After years of increasing alcohol abuse within their ranks, soldiers are now seeking treatment in record numbers, according to new figures put out by the Army.

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Kentucky jury recommends death for former soldier who killed 3 children

SMITHLAND, Ky. — A western Kentucky jury has recommended a death sentence for a former soldier who admitted killing three children.

The recommendation to send Kevin Wayne Dunlap to death row came Wednesday after nearly three hours of deliberation in Livingston County Circuit Court.

Dunlap pleaded guilty Feb. 9 to the slayings along with an attack on the children’s mother at their home in rural Trigg County in 2008. Dunlap also pleaded guilty to rape, kidnapping, arson and tampering with evidence.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Glycon Lee Ovey showed photos of the three slain children — ages 17, 14 and 5 — during his closing statements.

“Three living human beings on Oct. 15, 2008 — lives worth living,” Ovey said before pointing to Dunlap in the courtroom. “But the evidence shows that this killer took that away.”

Ovey pleaded with the jury to sentence Dunlap to death.

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Former soldier convicted of stealing pay, lying

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A former soldier has been convicted of stealing $100,000 in pay and lying to federal agents.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte said that 60-year-old Dyrrle Gene Osborne of Charlotte was found guilty on Tuesday.

A statement from federal officials said Osborne, a former master sergeant, was paid after he was no longer on active duty. Instead of returning the money, authorities say he spent it and then made false statements about it to the FBI and to the Army.

Osborne faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison for stealing the money and five years each for three counts of making false statements.

Army recruiter arrested in sex case

For the second time in less than a year, an Inland military recruiter has been arrested on suspicion of engaging in a sex act with an underage girl.

Christian Rigal Mercado, 25, of Moreno Valley, was jailed Wednesday after a security guard at the Inland Center Mall in San Bernardino reported that he saw him involved with the girl inside a parked car. Mercado later posted $50,000 bail.

The 17-year-old girl was a potential U.S. Army recruit, said San Bernardino Police Department Lt. Dan Keil.

Mercado, who was booked on suspicion of oral copulation with a minor, worked as a recruiter out of the Army’s office on Mt. Vernon Avenue in San Bernardino. He has been suspended from recruiting duties pending an investigation, army officials said.

“We’re a values-based organization, and basically, we have no tolerance for infractions of the law,” said Nya Paul, a spokeswoman for the Army’s Southern California Recruiting Battalion, which oversees the Inland region’s offices.

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Thousands protest in Tokyo against U.S. military presence in Japan

Thousands of protesters from across Japan marched today in Tokyo to protest against U.S. military presence on Okinawa, while a Cabinet minister said she would fight to get rid of a marine base Washington considers crucial.

Some 47,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan, with more than half on the southern island of Okinawa.

Residents have complained for years about noise, pollution and crime around the bases.

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Fort Drum Army scum faces child porn charges

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Federal prosecutors say an Army officer at Fort Drum who served in Iraq has been charged with possessing child pornography.

Prosecutors say Lt. Col. Christopher Butler used the screen name “daddyformommies” and sent images of child pornography over the Internet to an undercover federal agent in October 2008. The complaint unsealed Friday also claims Butler offered to share four child pornography videos and kept more than 200 images depicting child pornography on his computer.

The 43-year-old officer was arrested Friday and made his initial appearance in federal court in Syracuse. He has not yet entered a plea. His lawyer did not immediately return a call.

Fort Drum officials say Butler had been deployed to Iraq twice, most recently from May 2008 through May 2009.

Army scum found guilty in overdose death of girlfriend, 16

FORT LEWIS, Wash. — A 20-year-old Fort Lewis soldier has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the overdose death of his 16-year-old girlfriend in his barracks.

A military judge ruled Friday that Pvt. Timothy Bennitt was guilty of “aiding and abetting” Leah King’s wrongful use of the painkiller oxymorphone and anxiety pill Xanax.

Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks delivered the verdict on the fourth day of Bennitt’s court martial.

Earlier this week, Bennitt pleaded guilty to drug charges.

King died Feb. 15. She and a friend overdosed on a combination of drugs but the friend recovered. Bennitt was 19 at the time.

On Tuesday, Bennitt’s lawyers entered a guilty plea on his behalf for distribution of oxymorphone, oxycodone, marijuana and Xanax. He also pleaded guilty to use of oxycodone, oxymorphone, marijuana and cocaine.

Bennitt is originally from Rolling Prairie, Ind.

Recruitment ad: About 66,000 gays are in military

Download the full research brief

About 66,000 gay men and women are serving in the military, making up 2.2 percent of the total force, according to a new study by demographer Gary Gates.

The number of gay, lesbian and bisexual service members represents a slight increase from the author’s 2004 estimates. At the time, Gates analyzed data from the 2000 U.S. Census to estimate that 65,000 gay men and women served in uniform.

The new study largely replicates statistical methods used in 2004, but with new data and assumptions about the prevalence of homosexuality in the general population.

Instead of the decennial Census, Gates draws on data from the 2008 American Community Survey, a smaller sample of the population. Neither the Census nor the ACS explicitly asks about military members’ sexual orientation, but inferences can be made based on whether respondents indicate they are in the military and part of a same-sex household.

Gates is the co-author of “The Gay and Lesbian Atlas” and serves as a distinguished scholar at the Williams Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law.

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Two Fort Irwin soldiers ordered held in Barstow woman’s death

Two U.S. Army soldiers were ordered Monday held over for trial in the death of 29-year-old Sandi Lee Duncan, a former soldier.

Melvin Lee Satcher and Phillip Ryan Franke appeared for a preliminary hearing in Victorville Superior Court, where a judge heard witness testimony and determined that sufficient evidence existed to hold over the two men for trial on murder charges in Duncan’s death.

Satcher, 23, and Franke, 22, return to court Feb. 3 to enter a formal plea on the charges, according to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department detectives say the men killed Duncan, of Barstow, on Sept. 21 and dumped her body at the corner of Stoddard Wells Road and Dale Evans Parkway in Apple Valley.

Duncan and Satcher were both stationed together at Fort Irwin Military Reservation and attended classes at Barstow Community College.

Psychiatric disorders spiral among US troops

A new study indicates US troops who were withdrawn from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for medical reasons were increasingly evacuated for psychiatric reasons.

Psychiatric disorders rose from 2004 to 2007, despite an increased focus on treating mental health problems, the research study revealed on Friday.

Only 14 percent of troops taken out of combat operations on medical grounds during the four-year period were because of a combat injury, AFP reported.

The biggest single cause for a pullout was ‘musculo-skeletal’ and joint problems, which accounted for 24 percent of medical evacuations.

In contrast, psychiatric grounds accounted for five percent of evacuations in Iraq and six percent in Afghanistan in 2004; these figures rose to 14 and 11 percent respectively in 2007.

Researchers also said that repeat missions and declining public support for the Iraq war may partly account for the rise.

The study drew on data from more than 34,000 US personnel who had been evacuated to the main US military receiving hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.  [ Probably the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. ]

Steven P. Cohen of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore led the research team.

4 years in prison for ex-captain in theft case

HONOLULU — A former Army captain was sentenced Tuesday to four years and two months in federal prison for stealing $400,000 from the U.S. government while stationed at Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan.

U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor also ordered David Gilliam to pay about $450,000 in restitution to the government.

Gilliam, 39, previously pleaded guilty to theft, money laundering and filing a false tax return.

Gilliam was accused of stealing the money between April 2004 and April 2005. At the time he worked as a disbursing officer for the Army’s Alpha Detachment, 125th Finance Battalion, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Prosecutors say he smuggled the funds from Afghanistan to Hawaii, where he spent some of the money before relocating to South Carolina.

Stupid Soldier accidentally kills self with own gun

CRESTVIEW, Fla. — Sheriff’s investigators say an Army paratrooper on leave from Iraq accidentally shot and killed himself while showing his family his new handgun.

Army Spc. Andrew Steven Faulkner, 21, died Friday in Crestview.

Investigators say he was showing his mother, aunt, young cousin and others a Glock .40 caliber handgun when he accidentally fired it into his chest while trying to remove the magazine from the weapon.

Faulkner had been on leave since November following a yearlong deployment with the 82nd Airborne Division to Iraq.

“… the murder of pregnant 23-year-old Megan Touma does not warrant capital punishment”

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Prosecutors say an Army sergeant accused of killing a pregnant soldier will not face the death penalty if convicted.

The Fayetteville Observer reported Thursday that prosecutors determined the murder of 23-year-old Spc. Megan Touma of Cold Spring, Ky., did not warrant capital punishment.

Sgt. Edgar Patino of Hope Mills is charged with first-degree murder. He was arrested in July 2008, a month after Touma was found dead in a bathtub in a Fayetteville motel. She was seven months pregnant and had been at Fort Bragg for less than two weeks.

Lawyers plan to meet Friday to discuss Patino’s bond. He is being held in the Cumberland County jail.

Authorities say Patino and Touma had been stationed together in Germany. He has admitted being the father of her unborn baby.

Related reading

Bragg looks at pregnant soldier’s last days

Police treating pregnant GI death as homicide

Army specialist jailed for threats against fellow soldiers, commanders

ARLINGTON, Va. — An Army specialist is in jail, accused of making threats against fellow soldiers, including in a vulgar, violent rap song that describes shooting those responsible for his stop-loss orders.

Spc. Marc Hall, an Iraq veteran based at Fort Stewart, Ga., has been in custody since early December. He’s been charged with “conduct prejudicial to the good order and discipline of the armed forces,” allegedly threatening violence on multiple occasions, according to Army charge sheets.

Hall is accused in various specifications of threatening to “go on a rampage,” attack other soldiers if he was deployed, and shoot the brigade and battalion commanders.

Another count accuses him of distributing “original songs wrongfully threatening acts of violence against members of his unit.” Hall reportedly mailed a copy of the song to the Pentagon after receiving his stop-loss orders over the summer. The song, posted on Hall’s personal Web site, does not name anyone specifically.

“[Expletive] you colonels, captains, E-7 and above
You think you so much bigger than I am? …
I’m gonna round them up all eventually, easily, walk right up peacefully
And surprise them all, yes, yes, y’all, up against the wall, turn around
I got a [expletive] magazine with 30 rounds, on a three-round burst, ready to fire down
Still against the wall, I grab my M-4, spray and watch all the bodies hit the floor
I bet you never stop-loss nobody no more.”

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Former Army Ranger Tries to Hire a Hit on a Federal Prosecutor

SEATTLE — A former Army Ranger convicted of leading a 2006 Tacoma bank robbery in a terrifying military-style heist has pleaded guilty to attempting to hire a hit man to kill a federal prosecutor.

Luke E. Sommer also pleaded guilty Monday to attacking a robbery co-defendant behind bars because he thought the man had ratted him out.

Sommer, 22, of Peachland, British Columbia, pleaded guilty in federal court to assault with a deadly weapon and solicitation of a crime of violence. Under terms of his plea agreement, he will face 20 years in prison in addition to the 24-year sentence he received in the August 2006 robbery of a Bank of America branch.

Court documents say Sommer offered an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent as much as $20,000 to kill a federal prosecutor in March, shortly after Sommer was sentenced on the bank robbery charges.

Sommer also pleaded guilty to attacking a co-defendant with a prison-made knife in January 2009 at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac. The victim suffered a minor stab wound.

Related reading

Prosecutors: Ex-Ranger assaulted heist partner

Former Lewis Ranger sentenced in bank robbery

Okinawa: U.S. soldier hit-and-run case going to prosecutors

Nearly two months after a 66-year-old Yomitan man was struck and killed alongside a northern Okinawa roadway, police say they’re ready to present the case against an American soldier to prosecutors.

The U.S. Army staff sergeant assigned to Torii Station had met with police shortly after the incident on a Yomitan road November 7th, but stopped talking to officials on advice of his legal counsel after questions arose about the accuracy of translations, and the denial of permission for his defense attorney to be present during police interrogation. Police say they’ve now enough evidence on the soldier to take the case to the Naha District Prosecutor anyway.

The 27-year-old soldier has been confined to Torii Station by the base commander, U.S. Army Colonel James Woodard. Authorities say it’s probable he’ll remain in U.S. military custody until Japanese authorities hand down an indictment, as specified in the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement.

Iraqis outraged as Blackwater case thrown out

In this Oct. 2007 image, Mohammed Hafiz holds
a picture of his 10-year-old son, Ali Mohammed,
who was killed when guards employed by
Blackwater allegedly opened fire at Nisoor
Square in Baghdad. Iraqis responded with
bitterness and outrage Jan. 1 at aU.S. judge’s
decision to throw out a case against Blackwater
guards accused in the killings.

BAGHDAD — Iraqis seeking justice for 17 people shot dead at a Baghdad intersection responded with bitterness and outrage Friday at a U.S. judge’s decision to throw out a case against a Blackwater security team accused in the killings.

The Iraqi government vowed to pursue the case, which became a source of contention between the U.S. and the Iraqi government. Many Iraqis also held up the judge’s decision as proof of what they’d long believed: U.S. security contractors were above the law.

“There is no justice,” said Bura Sadoun Ismael, who was wounded by two bullets and shrapnel during the shooting. “I expected the American court would side with the Blackwater security guards who committed a massacre in Nisoor Square.”

What happened on Nisoor Square on Sept. 16, 2007, raised Iraqi concerns about their sovereignty because Iraqi officials were powerless to do anything to the Blackwater employees who had immunity from local prosecution. The shootings also highlighted the degree to which the U.S. relied on private contractors during the Iraq conflict.

Blackwater had been hired by the Department of State to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq. The guards said they were ambushed at a busy intersection in western Baghdad, but U.S. prosecutors and many Iraqis said the Blackwater guards let loose an unprovoked attack on civilians using machine guns and grenades.

“Investigations conducted by specialized Iraqi authorities confirmed unequivocally that the guards of Blackwater committed the crime of murder and broke the rules by using arms without the existence of any threat obliging them to use force,” Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement Friday.

He did not elaborate on what steps the government planned to take to pursue the case.

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Threatening troops may become a felony in SC

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A South Carolina lawmaker plans to introduce a bill that would make it a felony to threaten violence against military members or their families because they are serving their country.

The Post and Courier of Charleston reports the proposal would make the threats a felony with up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Rep. Harry B. “Chip” Limehouse III says he came up with the bill after authorities accused an Army major and psychiatrist of killing 13 people and injuring 30 at Fort Hood in Texas in November.

The Charleston Republican says he wants to create another layer of protection for American soldiers and their families, who should never feel threatened on this country’s soil because of their service.

Why Won’t Congress Shine Light on Rape-Murder of Pvt. LaVena Johnson?

Villagers may recall that Army Pvt. LaVena L. Johnson is the 19-year-old Missouri woman who died in Iraq after being raped, beaten, shot and set on fire. The Army has ruled Johnson’s death a suicide from a self-inflicted rifle shot. The case is profiled in the forthcoming documentary, “LaVena Johnson — The Silent Truth,” due for release in 2010. It examines whether there is an army coverup of the rape and murder of women soldiers. (WARNING: Video contains graphic images of the crime scene)

Langley-Eustis merger on track for Jan. 31


HAMPTON, Va. — Two Virginia military bases will merge next month, but officials say little will change in the short term.

Langley Air Force Base and Fort Eustis will become Joint Base Langley-Eustis starting Jan. 31.

Military officials say the process of combining operations is expected to last through October.

Col. Kevin Altman, commander of the 1st Mission Support Group at Langley, says the merger is not designed to reduce the number of military personnel or civilian workers at the bases. Instead, he says it’s a way to become more efficient and save money in the long term.

About 16,000 soldiers and airmen are currently stationed at the bases.

Not Just Drones: Militants Can Snoop on Most U.S. Warplanes (Updated)

Tapping into drones’ video feeds was just the start. The U.S. military’s primary system for bringing overhead surveillance down to soldiers and Marines on the ground is also vulnerable to electronic interception, multiple military sources tell Danger Room. That means militants have the ability to see through the eyes of all kinds of combat aircraft — from traditional fighters and bombers to unmanned spy planes. The problem is in the process of being addressed. But for now, an enormous security breach is even larger than previously thought.

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Lightning-gun tech ‘approaching weaponisation’

[ Scam, scam, scam ]

The Pentagon continues to pour funding into Arizona-based laser plasma lightning blaster-gun firm Applied Energetics, formerly known as Ionatron. The US Army says that the firm’s lightning guns are “approaching the level of maturity needed to begin weaponization”.

The military assessment came as the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) inked a new $3.1m deal with Applied last week.

“Now that the technology is approaching the level of maturity needed to begin weaponization we will be more closely coordinated with Applied Energetics through this contract to fulfill Army mission needs,” said Ben Lagasca, chief of “Advanced Energy Armaments” at ARDEC.

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Troops admit to abusing prescription drugs

About one in four soldiers admit to abusing prescription drugs, most of them pain relievers, in a one-year period, according to a Pentagon health survey released Wednesday.

The study, which surveyed more than 28,500 U.S. troops last year, showed that about 20 percent of Marines had also abused prescription drugs, mostly painkillers, in that same period.

The findings show the continued toll on the military from fighting wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Those wars have required troops to serve multiple combat deployments.

“We are aware that more prescription drugs are being used today for pain management and behavioral health issues,” Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director of the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force, said Wednesday. “These areas of substance abuse along with increased use of alcohol concern us.”

The survey showed that pain relievers were the most abused drug in the military, used illicitly at a rate triple that of marijuana or amphetamines, the next most widely abused drugs.

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Army General Adds Pregnancy to List of Reasons to be Court-Martialed

A U.S. Army general in northern Iraq has added pregnancy to the list of reasons a soldier under his command could be court-martialed.

The new policy, outlined last month by Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo and released Friday by the Army, would apply to both female soldiers who become pregnant on the battlefield and the male soldiers who impregnate them.

Civilians reporting to Cucolo also could face criminal prosecution under the new guidelines.

Army spokesman George Wright said the service typically sends home from the battlefield soldiers who become pregnant. But it is not an Army-wide policy to punish them under the military’s legal code, he said.

However, division commanders like Cucolo have the authority to impose these type of restrictions to personnel operating under their command, Wright said.

Cucolo oversees forces in northern Iraq, an area that includes the cities of Kirkuk, Tikrit and Mosul. His Nov. 4 order was first reported by the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

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Retired Army Major Sentenced to 57 Months in Prison for Role in Bribery Scheme Involving DOD Contracts in Kuwait

A retired major in the U.S. Army today was sentenced to 57 months in prison for his role in a bribery scheme related to Department of Defense (DOD) contracts awarded in Kuwait, announced Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer and Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division Christine A. Varney.

Christopher H. Murray, 42, a resident of Cataula, Ga., was also ordered by Judge Clay D. Land of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia – Columbus Division to pay $245,000 in restitution and to serve three years of supervised release following the prison term.

Murray pleaded guilty in January 2009 to a five-count criminal information charging him with four counts of bribery and one count of making a false statement. According to the court documents, in 2005 and 2006, then-Major Murray served as a contracting specialist in the small purchases branch of the contracting office at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. As a contracting specialist, Murray was responsible for soliciting bids for military contracts, evaluating the sufficiency of those bids, and then recommending the award of contracts to particular contractors. In this capacity, Murray solicited and received approximately $225,000 in bribes from DOD contractors in exchange for recommending the award of contracts for various goods and services.

See document here.

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Cold War Museum to Open in Virginia

The Cold War Museum, founded by Francis Gary Powers, Jr. and John C. Welch, has found a physical home and will open to the public in 2010. The museum will lease a modest two-story building and storage facility at Vint Hill, located in Fauquier County, Va., less than 30 miles from Washington Dulles International Airport. The lease was signed with the Vint Hill Economic Development Authority, the owner of the 695-acre former U.S. Army communications base.

Powers is the son of Francis Gary Powers, a Central Intelligence Agency pilot whose U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union in May 1960. The senior Powers was held in Soviet custody until 1962, when he was traded for “Rudolph Abel” (Vilyam (Willie) Genrikhovich (August) Fisher), a Soviet Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti (KGB) agent who had been captured by the United States.

According to Francis Gary Powers, Jr., “We have been seeking a location for the museum for several years in which to display our unique collections of international Cold War-related artifacts.”

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Army deserter convicted of killing West Virginia minister

WAYNE, W.Va. — An Army deserter faces up to life in prison for his role in the slaying of a West Virginia minister.

Stephen Wilson of Cincinnati was convicted of second-degree murder and first-degree aggravated robbery Thursday night in Wayne County Circuit Court.

The 21-year-old Wilson faces 10 years to 40 years on the murder charge and 10 years to life on the robbery charge. The charges stemmed from the death of the Rev. Mark McCalla in June 2008 at a gun range in the Beech Fork Wildlife Management Area.

Co-defendant Daniel Smith of Newport News, Va., is serving a life sentence with the chance for parole after being convicted in August of first-degree murder.

The Army has said Wilson and Smith went absent without leave from Fort Drum, N.Y., in May 2008.

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Testimony starts in murder trial of deserter

Deserter goes on trial for minister killing

Desertion probe delayed for 2 held in killing

Deserters suspected in murder of minister

Army Captain Pleads Guilty to Pilfering $700k

PORTLAND, Oregon — An Army captain pleaded guilty Monday to charges that he stole nearly $700,000 from the U.S. government while serving in Iraq.

U.S. District Court Judge Ancer Haggerty set sentencing for March 1 after Capt. Michael Dung Nguyen entered guilty pleas to theft and money-laundering charges. The maximum sentence for each offense is 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

A federal grand jury indictment alleged that between April 2007 and February 2009, the 28-year-old stole more than $690,000 in U.S. currency entrusted to him as the battalion project purchasing officer in Muqdadiyah, Iraq.

The funds were designated for payment of security contracts as well as for humanitarian relief and reconstruction.

Prosecutors say Nguyen mailed the stolen money to himself at his family’s Portland home before he returned from Iraq to Fort Lewis, Washington. Then, prosecutors say, he opened new accounts at several banks and deposited $387,550.

The indictment alleges Nguyen used some of the money to buy new vehicles along with computers, electronics and furniture.

During a search of the family’s home, investigators found more than $300,000 of the stolen currency hidden in the attic, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Nguyen agreed to forfeit all of the stolen money as well as all of the personal property purchased with the stolen funds, the department said.

The investigation of the theft was initiated by the Portland office of the Internal Revenue Service after the discovery of large, frequent currency deposits and substantial expenditures “above Capt. Nguyen’s legitimate level,” the agency said.

Campbell soldier, dad found dead in apartment

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Police say that two men found shot to death in a Clarksville apartment were a Fort Campbell soldier and his father, and they are investigating the deaths as a murder-suicide.

Clarksville police found the bodies Sunday inside an apartment near the gates of the post on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line. According to a police statement, there were no signs of forced entry into the home.

The Leaf Chronicle of Clarksville reported that police have identified the victims as 22-year-old Emanuel Joseph Bluebird and his father, 51-year-old Norman Bluebird.

Kelly Tyler, a spokeswoman for Fort Campbell, said the younger Bluebird was a soldier stationed there.

Assorted New Military Doctrine

According to a new U.S. Army field manual, when a soldier is about to throw a hand grenade at any enemy target he should normally follow the specified procedures and assume one of five authorized positions (standing, kneeling, etc.). However, “If a Soldier can achieve more distance and accuracy using his own personal style, he should be allowed to do so….”  See “Grenades and Pyrotechnic Signals” (large pdf), U.S. Army Field Manual 3-23.30, October 2009.

Other noteworthy new U.S. military doctrinal publications include the following (all pdf).

“Marine Corps Space Policy,” Marine Corps Order 5400.53, September 28, 2009.

“Joint Urban Operations,” Joint Publication 3-06, November 8, 2009.

“Counterterrorism,” JP 3-26, November 13, 2009.

Army Deserter on trial for death of minister

WAYNE, W.Va. — An Army deserter is set to stand trial on charges of robbing and killing a minister in West Virginia.

Jury selection was set to begin Monday in Wayne County Circuit Court for the trial of 21-year-old Stephen Wilson of Cincinnati.

Wilson is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in connection with the fatal shooting of the Rev. Mark McCalla. McCalla was killed June 19, 2008, at a gun range in the Beech Fork Wildlife Management Area in Wayne County.

Co-defendant Daniel Smith of Newport News, Va., was convicted in August and sentenced to life with the chance for parole.

The Army has said Wilson and Smith went absent without leave from Fort Drum in New York in May 2008.

Related stories

Deserter goes on trial for minister killing

Desertion probe delayed for 2 held in killing

Deserters suspected in murder of minister

Army Responds to “Near Epidemic” of Suicide

Facing a rising number of suicides in its ranks, the U.S. Army last week published new guidance (pdf) for improving the mental health of soldiers and for preventing or responding to suicide attempts.

“The key to the prevention of suicide is positive leadership and deep concern by supervisors of military personnel and [Army] civilian employees who are at increased risk of suicide,” the new publication explained.

Factors contributing to suicide are said to include loneliness (”an emotional state in which a person experiences powerful feelings of emptiness and spiritual isolation”), worthlessness (”an emotional state in which an individual lacks any feelings of being valued by others”), hopelessness (”a strong sense of futility, due to the belief that the future holds no escape from current negative circumstances”), helplessness, and guilt (”a strong sense of shame associated with actions they believe are wrong”).

The Army directed its commanders to carry out a series of efforts to promote soldiers’ health, to reduce the stigma associated with addressing mental health issues, and to “manage at-risk soldiers, to include processing for separation as appropriate in a timely manner.”

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Lawyers: Green should have had military trial

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A former Army soldier who raped a girl, 14, and killed her and three family members in Iraq challenged his convictions Monday, saying he was wrongly tried in a civilian court and should have faced a military trial.

In a 71-page appeal filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, attorneys for Steven Dale Green are seeking to have the law used to prosecute him — the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act — overturned.

The law, passed in 2000, allows the federal government to try former soldiers, their spouses and contractors in civilian courts for crimes that happened overseas.

“That’s the overarching issue,” said Green’s defense attorney, Darren C. Wolff of Louisville.

Green is also contesting whether the military validly discharged him before he was charged in civilian court.

A message left for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Louisville, which prosecuted Green, was not immediately returned Monday. Prosecutors have until Jan. 5 to file a response.

A jury convicted Green, 24, a former 101st Airborne Division soldier, in June of raping and killing 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi. He also was convicted of killing three of her family members in the March 2006 attack.

Green, of Midland, Texas, is serving a life prison sentence without parole. The other four soldiers charged in the plot faced military trials, known as a court martial.

Federal Public Defender Frank Heft wrote that Green faced more severe punishments in civilian court, which violated his rights to equal protection and due process.

Much like the strategy at trial, the appeal does not contest Green’s guilt in the crimes near Mahmoudiya, Iraq, about 20 miles south of Baghdad.

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Female Army Soldier Charged with Murdering Marine Couple and Abducting their Baby

An Article 32 hearing is scheduled to begin Monday at Fort Lewis, Wash., for Spc. Ivette Davila, who is accused of killing two fellow soldiers and abducting their baby in March 2008.

A Fort Lewis investigating officer will examine evidence in charges against Davila, who is accused of killing a married couple, both medics assigned to Fort Lewis.

Sgt. Randi Miller, 25, of C Company, Madigan Army Medical Center, and her husband, Staff Sgt. Timothy Miller, 27, of the 47th Combat Support Hospital, 62nd Medical Brigade, were fatally shot at their home off post on March 1, 2008.

Davila, then 22, was arrested the next day by Pierce County law enforcement officials. The prosecutor deferred the case to Fort Lewis.

Davila is charged with two counts of premeditated murder, burglary, breaking and entering with intent to commit murder, kidnapping and obstruction of justice. She may face the death penalty.

Davila, a chemical operations specialist, allegedly shot Randi Miller twice while she was lying in bed and Timothy Miller multiple times as he took a shower. Police found the bodies in a bathtub in the home, doused with muriatic acid. The baby was unharmed.

Davila allegedly disclosed after her arrest that her ex-boyfriend had apparently chosen Randi Miller over Davila, according to court documents.

The Department of Gomer Pyle

I was an average high school student. I had to attend summer school between my junior and senior years just to graduate with my class and even then, on graduation night, I wasn’t sure thered be a diploma waiting for me. I was always more interested in playing ball and chasing girls. I was more successful at the former than the latter.

After graduation I did manage to earn an athletic scholarship to play baseball at a small Florida college but after two years of playing ball, and earning less than one years worth of college credit, I realized I was wasting my time as well as the colleges resources and decided I needed to do something else until I figured out what I wanted to do.

So, being the son of a 20-year retired Air Force Tech Sergeant, I joined the military. I spoke to all the branches and in the end it was the Navy that won me over for a six-year enlistment. They enticed me with visions of advanced electronics training, fantastic marketability in the civilian world and a chance to see the world. Remember the old Navy slogan: Its not just a job, its an adventure.” Oh boy!

From the moment I arrived in Orlando, Florida for my basic training I realized what a joke it was. If you want to know what military basic training is like just watch any episode of Gomer Pyle, its exactly like that. Just as ridiculous.

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Psychiatrist warning of violence danger among returned Marines fired

UPDATED AND EXPANDED: In the wake of the Fort Hood tragedy, there have been media reports that mental health staff had been concerned about Major Nidal Malik “AbduWali” Hasan, but did not report their concerns to higher authorities. Rather, these staff hoped he would disappear, into Fort Hood and then Afghanistan. The press and pundits have been extremely critical of those professionals for failing on act on their concerns.

Meanwhile, Mark Benjamin today tells of a psychiatrist serving the military who did express his concerns about potential tragedy, and was “disappeared” by firing as a consequence. Benjamin tells the story of Dr. Kernan Manion, a civilian contract psychiatrist at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina who repeatedly warned that Marines recently returned from combat zones were in danger of acting violently, whether toward themselves or others.

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