A local pro-soldier, anti-war group calls Joint Base Lewis-McChord a “rogue base,” after learning a JBLM Army staff sergeant was suspected of murdering 16 civilians in Afghanistan, and they’re calling for a Congressional investigation into “systemic failures” of JBLM leadership.
“This was not just a rogue soldier,” writes Jorge Gonzalez, executive director of Coffee Strong , a resource center for solders located 300 meters from the base gates. “If Fort Lewis was a college campus, it would have been closed down years ago.”
Coffee Strong describes itself as a veteran operated, anti-war, pro-soldier organization. It operates a coffeehouse that it says provides a “safe place for soldiers to share the effects of disastrous wars.”
“In 10 years of war, JBLM has produced a Kill Team, suicide epidemic, denials of PTSD treatment, denials of human rights in the Brig, spousal abuse and a waterboarded daughter, murders of civilians including a park ranger, increased sex crimes, substance abuse, DUIs, police shootings of GIs, police violence toward protesters, differential treatment of GIs, and much more,” says Gonzalez.
Gonzalez served at JBLM for 5 years with the 3rd Stryker Brigade.
“These abuses are not because of a few bad apples, but because of the base’s systematic dehumanization of soldiers and civilians, both in occupied countries and at home,” he says.
I’ve contacted JBLM for their response to the group’s characterization of the base.
CBS military analyst and retired U.S. Army Major Mike Lyons says, “There’s something obviously from a cultural prospective that’s taking place there (at JBLM). People need to take a second and third look with regards to the command structure there.”
JBLM supports more than 42,000 service members, and there have been several high-profile investigations involving a few of its soldiers.
Four soldiers from a Stryker brigade out of Lewis-McChord have been sent to prison in connection with the 2010 murders of three unarmed men during patrols in Kandahar. They were accused of forming a “kill team” that targeted Afghan civilians for sport. The court martial cases showed evidence the soldiers slaughtered victims with grenades and machine guns during patrols, then dropped weapons near their bodies to make them appear to have instigated the attack.
Earlier this year, part of the base was on lockdown when military items valued at $630,000, were stolen from JBLM. The Army charged a 22-year-old soldier with the theft. Another soldier stationed at the base is facing charges of premeditated murder in the stabbing death of a 19-year-old girl.
In Sunday’s crime, investigators say the JBLM soldier opened fire on Afghan villagers as they slept, killing 16 people. Most were women and children. They believe the soldier acted alone and then returned to base to turn himself in. He’s in custody at a NATO base in Afghanistan. We’re learning the accused JBLM solider had a brain injury , but had been cleared for deployment in December.
A U.S. soldier, part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, stands outside a military base south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, March. 11, 2012. Afghan President Hamid Karzai says called the attack, allegedly by a JBLM soldier, ‘an assassination’ and demanded an explanation from the United States.
Allauddin Khan/AP Photo
By Linda Thomas