Monday, August 24, 2009

Dead soldier's family reacts to Iraq cruelty probe

By MEGHAN BARR, The Associated Press | Posted: Monday, August 24, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When Adrian Wilhelm learned that his son committed suicide just four days into his deployment in Iraq, he knew right away that the facts didn't add up.

His son, 19-year-old Pvt. Keiffer Wilhelm, had been excited and upbeat just weeks earlier as he prepared to ship overseas. He was planning to buy a new car. He was exercising diligently, shedding at least 20 pounds in time for boot camp.

Then, suddenly, he was dead. Now his family is struggling to process the stunning news that four of Wilhelm's fellow soldiers stand accused of abusing him and other soldiers in his platoon with excessive physical fitness and cruelty before his death.

"They just acted like they were a bunch of street hoods," Adrian Wilhelm said from his home in Plymouth, Ohio. "They thought they were above the law."

The soldiers have been charged with cruelty and maltreatment of subordinates, among other charges. The military says there is no direct evidence that the soldiers' alleged misconduct caused Wilhelm's death, which remains under investigation.

Wilhelm died Aug. 4 of a gunshot wound to the head in Maysan province in southern Iraq. His unit is part of the first brigade to deploy to Iraq for the new U.S. mission to train Iraqi security forces.

"There's no way he could do what he did without being pushed to the limit," Adrian Wilhelm said.

In recent days, Wilhelm's family has watched as unconfirmed reports of the abuse leaked out in the media. Adrian Wilhelm says he's read that his son was forced to crawl in the dirt until his legs bled, and that he was harassed about his weight.

"We found all that out on the news," he said. "That was information that no one truly knew."

A portrait of a young, idealistic soldier devoted to the Army began to emerge from interviews with family and friends in the small northern Ohio town where Wilhelm grew up. A high school wrestler who battled weight issues, Wilhelm worked hard to get in shape before his deployment, said Linda Walker, a close family friend who encouraged him to enlist in the Army in December.

"Keiffer was the most non-threatening person you would ever want to meet," she said. "I just don't think he was ready for the brutality from his own troops."

Wilhelm had a boisterous laugh and was affectionate with everyone, his father said.

"He always gave everyone hugs, that was his thing," his father said. "He'd squeeze you until your back cracked. He'd pick you up off the ground."

The last time Adrian Wilhelm saw Keiffer alive was in early May, when the family gathered in Arizona for the wedding of his eldest son. He seemed happy, excited to begin a new chapter of his life, his father said.

The military identified the four accused soldiers as Sgt. Enoch Chatman, Staff Sgt. Bob Clements, Sgt. Jarrett Taylor and Spc. Daniel Weber of B Troop, 2nd Squadron, 13th Calvary Regiment from Fort Bliss, Texas.

Chatman, of West Covina, Calif., was charged with four counts of cruelty and maltreatment, one count of making a false statement and one count of reckless endangerment.

Clements, of Eastland, Texas, faces four counts of cruelty and maltreatment, three counts of making a false statement, one count of impeding an investigation and one count of reckless endangerment.

Taylor, of Edmond, Okla., was charged with two counts of cruelty and maltreatment, one count of making false statement and one count of reckless endangerment.

Weber, of Frankenmuth, Mich., has been charged with three counts of cruelty and maltreatment, one count of reckless endangerment and one count of impeding an investigation.

The allegations of abuse prompted the family to go public about what happened to their son, Adrian Wilhelm said.

"I felt like I couldn't protect him over there," he said. "I at least want to try and make things right here for him, somehow."

--submitted by Lois Vanderbur

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fort Bliss soldiers charged with cruelty

EL PASO -- A Fort Bliss soldier who died in Iraq earlier this month was physically and verbally abused by soldiers now formally charged with cruelty.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Army suicides nearing a grim mark

Web Posted: 08/14/2009 12:00 CDT

By Sig Christenson - Express-News
The Army had almost as many suicides and “potential” suicides in the first seven months of 2009 as it did for all last year, when 143 soldiers killed themselves, according to figures released Thursday.

Sixty-two active-duty soldiers committed suicide from January through July, the Army said, while another 17 reservists not on duty killed themselves.

The deaths of 34 active-duty soldiers and 28 reservists remain under investigation, bringing the total number of confirmed or pending suicides to 141 — just two shy of 2008, despite intensive efforts to reverse the problem.

“It's not that the Army lacks programs to confront the problem of suicide,” said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director of the Army's Suicide Prevention Task Force. “The long-term challenge is determining which programs are most effective for our soldiers, and ensuring Army leaders — from junior noncommissioned officers to the most senior leaders — know how to help their soldiers take advantage of these programs.”

The new numbers of potential and confirmed suicides eclipse those for this time last year. Then the Army tallied 79 confirmed active-duty and 32 reservists suicides amid the sixth year of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and increased fighting in Afghanistan, where GIs have fought since 2001. The Army has collected data on suicides since 1980.

War veterans have accounted for the majority of suicide victims, and statistics obtained by the San Antonio Express-News show a sharp rise in the number of deaths on post and in the combat zone in the past four years.

Three of the nation's busiest posts — Fort Hood, Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Bragg, N.C. — reported 183 suicides since 2003.

Fort Hood, home to the 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry Divisions, has had more suicides than any post in the Army — 75 through July 31.

The Army said the post has had nine suicides this year, with two occurring in the war zone. Two of the Fort Hood suicides occurred in the past few weeks.

Sgt. Matthew D. Berryhill, a 38-year-old veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, was found July 21 in his post home with a gunshot wound.

Spc. Jimmy Foxworth, 23, was found dead Aug. 5 at a Killeen apartment. Police didn't release information, but an autopsy done by the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas said Foxworth died from a gunshot wound to the head.

They are the latest victims, but a review of suicides by post in the United States and abroad, as well as an analysis of Army demographic data for 2009, suggests the problem has been growing worse.

Fort Hood, Fort Campbell and Fort Bragg had a total of 183 suicides since the invasion began. But the three posts combined for 125 suicides from 2006 to 2009.

The posts are home to divisions that have served at least three years each in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The suicide rates for all three posts over the years generally were higher than the civilian rate, 14.06 per 100,000 for ages 17 to 55, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Fort Sam Houston had two suicides last year and one this year. The post confirmed that Arizona National Guard Pfc. Janie May Askew, 43, of Scottsdale, committed suicide. She was found in her barracks April 22 after shooting herself in the head with a handgun.

An Army demographic analysis shows she was the only woman in April to kill herself out of 12 confirmed or potential active-duty suicides. Only four of the 141 victims so far this year were female.

The Pentagon has said the typical Army victim historically is a 25- to 26-year-old Anglo NCO, and that two-thirds of all suicides come from the ranks of war-zone veterans. Both trends continue this year, with 88 serving at least one combat tour. Some of the dead this year have deployed three times, and 11 were in the war zone when they killed themselves.

Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, has said there is no proof that multiple deployments increase the risk of GI suicides.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, has told the Express-News there must be a connection. But in a July 16 media roundtable, Army Secretary Pete Geren noted that a third of those committing suicide never had gone to the war zone.

One expert at the roundtable, Dr. Robert Ursano of the Uniformed Services University, said the issue will require intensive review as the Army and National Institute of Mental Health do a five-year study.

“There's no question that repeated deployments increase stress on individuals, stress on families, and stress on the community, but it's a much more complicated picture,” he said. “There are complicated webs involved in these issues of stressors on individuals and communities and we need to tease those out so we can understand what piece each one contributes.”

News Researcher Mike Knoop contributed to this report.

Find this article at:

--submitted by Tracy Shue

Friday, August 14, 2009

Army Suicide Data for July 2009

The Army released suicide data for the month of July today. Among active-duty soldiers there were eight potential suicides in July. In June, the Army reported no confirmed suicides and nine potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the June report, four of the nine potential suicides have been confirmed and five remain under investigation.

There have been 96 reported active-duty Army suicides during the period Jan. 1, 2009 – July 31, 2009. Of these, 62 have been confirmed, and 34 are pending determination of manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 79 suicides among active-duty soldiers.

During July 2009, among reserve component soldiers not on active duty, there were four potential suicides. During the period Jan. 1, 2009 – July 31, 2009, among that same group, there have been 17 confirmed suicides and 28 potential suicides; the potential suicides are currently under investigation to determine the manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 32 suicides among reserve soldiers not on active duty.

The Army's Suicide Prevention Task Force has implemented a number of improvements to the Army's health promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention programs in recent weeks. These include completion of major revisions to Army health promotion policy and augmenting behavioral health staffs at many installations to enhance access to counseling services for soldiers and families.

"It's not that the Army lacks programs to confront the problem of suicide," said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. "The long-term challenge is determining which programs are most effective for our soldiers and ensuring Army leaders, from junior non-commissioned officers to the most senior leaders, know how to help their soldiers take advantage of these programs."

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance should contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center. Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental U.S. is 1-800-342-9647, their Web site address is . Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.

The DCOE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at and at .

The Army's most current suicide prevention information is located at .

--from a Department of Defense bulletin, verbatim.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Army Completes Staff Sgt. Maseth Death Investigation

The Army announced today that the investigation into the tragic death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth has been completed. The extensive, eleven-month investigation conducted by the Army Criminal Investigation Command concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prove or disprove that any one person, persons or entity was criminally culpable in the death of Maseth.

The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology medical examiner previously found the cause of Maseth's death to be electrocution and the manner accidental. The completed Criminal Investigation Division death investigation concurs with those findings.

"This has been a complex investigation involving numerous people, circumstances and contractual agreements," said Brig. Gen. Rodney Johnson, commanding general, U. S. Army Criminal Investigations Command. "It was a lengthy, thorough and detailed investigation. Reviewing the many documents and issues did take an extraordinary amount of time, but we wanted to do everything we could to get it right. We owe that to Staff Sgt. Maseth and his loved ones."

The investigation revealed that there were numerous entities and individuals, both contractors and government employees, who breached their respective duties of care; however none of those breaches, in and of themselves, were the proximate cause of his death. The investigation was closed with a finding that there is insufficient evidence to prove or disprove any criminal negligence in the soldier's death.

"As with all of our criminal investigations, if new, credible information becomes available, we stand ready to reopen the investigation to pursue the truth, wherever it may lead," Johnson said.

There have been 18 reported deaths due to electrocution in Iraq since March 2003, including 16 service members and two contractors. Fourteen of these cases occurred in the field away from military facilities or in work situations that included performing maintenance on electrical systems.

After a series of electrical accidents and incidents, Multi-National Force–Iraq created Task Force Safety Actions for Fire and Electricity in August 2008 to assess and analyze fire and electrical safety issues in Iraq and then direct actions to remedy those hazards.

As of July 25, the task force has inspected more than 67,000 of the approximately 90,000 pieces of equipment and facilities in Iraq, many of which were substandard structures dating from the Saddam Hussein era. The task force is ahead of schedule to complete the inspections by November. The inspections have led to the correction of nearly 14,000 deficiencies found thus far as the facilities are brought into compliance with the United States National Electric Code. Most deficiencies have been related to electrical grounding and bonding that enables the proper functioning of circuit breakers.

Since Maseth's death, there has not been another confirmed electrocution death of a soldier in Iraq.

For more information, contact Army Public Affairs, Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, , or 703-697-2564.

For questions regarding the criminal investigation contact CID Public Affairs, Chris Grey,, or (703) 806-0372.

For questions about Task Force SAFE, contact the MNF-I Press Desk at

-- Department of Defense bulletin verbatim

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Cheryl Harris at Press Conference re KBR Bonus

You can see videos of Cheryl Harris, the mother of Sgt. Ryan Maseth, who was electrocuted while serving in Iraq. Senators Casey and Dorgan were also at the press conference.

Videos of the three statements can be found by clicking here. Look under the listing to the right of the current video.