The military on Friday identified the soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers earlier this week as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a 38-year-old father of two who had been injured twice in combat over the course of four deployments and had, his lawyer said, an exemplary military record.
Pentagon officials, who have been scouring the sergeant’s military and health records for clues, have said little about what they think motivated the killings. But one senior government official said Thursday that Sergeant Bales had been drinking alcohol before the killings and that he might have had marital problems.
“When it all comes out, it will be a combination of stress, alcohol and domestic issues — he just snapped,” said the official, who had been briefed on the investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity because the sergeant had not yet been charged.
Mr. Browne has disputed those assertions, telling reporters on Thursday that the sergeant’s marriage was sound and questioning reports about drinking. On the day before the shootings, he said, the sergeant had seen a fellow soldier lose his leg from a buried mine.
There will be trials within trials going on. In addition to Sgt. Bates Joint Base Lewis-McCord will be on trial.
It is home base not only of the soldier accused in this weekend’s shooting of civilian women and children in Afghanistan, but also Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, who was recently convicted of killing Afghan civilians for sport.
It’s also the base of Iraq War veteran Benjamin Colton Barnes, the suspect in the killing of a Mount Rainier National Park ranger on New Year’s Day. (Barnes’ body was later found in the park.) “Beltway Sniper” John Allen Muhammad – executed in 2009 for killing 10 people around Washington, D.C. – was also stationed at Lewis-McChord.
(CBS/AP) – March 12, 2012 – Diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder at an Army Medical Center located at the home base of the soldier accused of fatally shooting 16 Afghan civilians has been under scrutiny by Army investigators.
The forensic psychiatry unit at Madigan Army Medical Center had come under fire for reversing diagnoses of PTSD for nearly 300 service members during the past five years. The head of Madigan Healthcare System was recently placed on administrative leave.
The Army initiated an investigation following an Army ombudsman’s memo indicating that hospital officials were encouraging psychiatrists to limit diagnoses of PTSD in order to reduce costs.
So Bates was on his 4th combat tour in 10 years. And these wars are not your grandfather’s wars. WWII and even Korea were a few days or weeks of battle followed by a few days or weeks of relative quiet giving soldiers some unwinding time. Iraq and Afghanistan are 24/7 wars. No time to unwind. I was in the military during Vietnam. There was one thing you knew – you went to Vietnam for a one year tour – no more unless you volunteered to return. The pressure is enough to break the strongest and it’s important to make sure that the broken don’t return. When they do this is what happens.
I am in no way trying to suggest that Sgt, Bales’ action should be excused – I simply wonder if he is the only one who should be on trial.
Cannonfire has a post on the malaria drug Lariam given to troops in Afghanistan.