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October 8, 2013 at 10:33 AM
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD (AP) — A nurse from Madigan Army Medical Center and three of her fellow soldiers in a special operations force were killed by an improvised bomb blast Sunday in Afghanistan, the Defense Department said.
Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno, 25, of San Diego, was based at the hospital at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and volunteered as a member of a cultural support team with a special operations task force that deployed in June.
Also killed in Sunday’s blast in the Zhari District of Kandahar Province were Sgt. Patrick C. Hawkins, 25 of Carlisle, Pa.; Sgt. Joseph M. Peters, 24, of Springfield, Mo.; and Pfc. Cody J. Patterson, 24, of Philomath, Ore.
Hawkins and Patterson served out of Fort Benning, Ga., with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Peters belonged to the 5th Military Police Battalion out of Vicenza, Italy.
Serving with a special operations cultural support team is one of the few ways for female soldiers to go outside the wire on combat missions with all-male Army Ranger or Green Beret teams, The News Tribune reported.
“We’ve lost a superb officer and a caring nurse who served with marked distinction and honor throughout her career.” said Madigan Command Col. Ramona Fiorey. “We are all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of this great American solider.”
Born in San Diego, Moreno received her commission as an Army officer after graduating from the University of San Francisco with a bachelor of science degree.
She graduated from the Army airborne course in 2009 and arrived at Madigan in 2010, where she served as a clinical staff nurse in a medical surgical unit until she sought a special operations assignment.
It’s a dangerous assignment that calls on American women to interact with Afghan females to gain information that might not be available to male soldiers because of cultural differences in a Muslim country, The News Tribune reported. In October 2011, medic Lt. Ashley White was killed on a mission in Afghanistan with two Rangers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Moreno “was a talented member of our team who lost her life while serving her country in one of the most dangerous environments in the world,” said Lt. Col. Patrick J. Ellis, Commander of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. “Her bravery and self-sacrifice were in keeping with the highest traditions of the 75th Ranger Regiment. She was making a difference in Afghanistan and that legacy will live on.”
Moreno is survived by her mother, Marie V. Cordero, and her sisters Jearaldy Moreno and Yaritza Cordova of San Diego. Her brother, Ivan Moreno, serves in the Army.
June 19, 2013 at 10:41 PM
Relatives say a 21-year-old man who grew up in Kennewick was one of the U.S. soldiers killed in an attack at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
The Tri-City Herald reports that Joelle Ellis of Kennewick says her son, Spc. 4 Robby Wayne Ellis, was standing at a bus stop on the base with other soldiers when he was hit.
American officials have confirmed four U.S. troops were killed when the base came under attack late Tuesday by indirect fire — likely a mortar or rocket.
Ellis was an Army truck driver. He served in the 32nd Transportation Co., based at Fort Carson, Colo. The newspaper says he was seven months into his first tour of duty in Afghanistan and was due to return to the U.S. in August. He had re-enlisted for another five years.
June 5, 2013 at 9:16 AM
UPDATE 5:45 p.m: During the hearing Thursday, Bales did not offer an apology to his victims.
In a meeting with reporters after the court session, defense attorneys said this hearing did not provide an opportunity for an apology, which they say would come during the sentencing phase of the courtmartial scheduled for August. “Today was his acceptance of responsibility,” said Maj. Greg Malson, a defense co-counsel.
Afghans have expressed anger at the prospect that Bales would not receive a death sentence for the murders of 16 people.
Defense attorneys said that Bales has expressed remorse for his crimes. Malson said that “what he wants more than anything” is for Afghans to understand that other soldiers now on the ground in the Afghanistan had nothing to do with what happened in those two villages.
Emma Scanlan, another defense co-counsel, indicated that events leading up the crime, including Bales’ illegal use of at least seven ounces of hard alcohol and his use of steroids provided by Special Forces soldiers, would be brought out during the sentencing phase.
“We know all these things to be true, as does the government,” Scanlan said. “You take that with somebody on his fourth deployment and the stresses of combat and you get in some parts of the situation that you are in today.“
UPDATE 3:45 p.m: In a final session of the plea hearing, the Army judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, questioned Bales’ attorneys about their preparations for the sentencing phase of the trial scheduled for August.
The defense attorneys are considering whether to call expert witnesses that can testify about Bales’ mental health. In the weeks before the sentencing, the defense attorneys will have these possible witnesses review the results of an Army sanity board review conducted earlier this year that found Bales fit to stand trial. Emma Scanlan, a defense co-counsel, says some evidence will be provided. But it is unclear whether any of the defense’s possible expert witnesses, including a neuropsychologist, will be called to testify.
John Henry Browne, another defense co-counsel, said that his client did receive a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder from Madigan Army Medical Center.
UPDATE 2:10 p.m.: Shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday, an Army judge accepted a plea deal that enables Staff Sgt. Robert Bales to avert the death penalty. As part of that agreement, during today’s hearing, Bales pled guilty to murdering 16 Afghans, and attempting to murder six others as well as b burning bodies, illegal use of steroids and drinking alcohol in violation of military regulations.
Under the terms of agreement, Bales will be sentenced to life imprisonment with – or without – the possibility of parole depending on the outcome of another phase of the courtmartial now scheduled to begin Aug. 19.
UPDATE 2 p.m.: The hearing resumed at 1:30 p.m. with the Army Judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, going over the agreement reached with prosecutors that calls for Bales to avert a death penalty as he pleads guilty to 16 murders and six attempted murders.
Bales affirmed that he did enter the agreement voluntarily. Nance, shortly before 2 p.m., said he would accept the agreement.
UPDATE 12:26 p.m.: Through the morning hearing, we have heard Bales, for the first time, speak the names of his 16 victims and acknowledge he killed them. There were nine female victims and seven male victims..
The nine female murder victims, as listed in an Army charging document, were Na’ikmarga, Gulalai, Shah Tarina, Zahrah, Naazyah, Masuma, Farida, Palwasha and Nabia.
The seven male murder victims were Khudai Dad, Nazir Mohammad, Mohammad Dawud, Ismattullah, Akhtar Mohammad, Faizullah and Issa Mohammad
The court is now recessed for a lunch break.
UPDATE 11:20 a.m.: Late in the morning, a prosecutor, Lt. Col. Jay Morse, said he was concerned about a discrepancy between a stipulation of facts that was agreed upon prior to the hearing, and what Bales has said in court.
In court, Bales said he formed the intent to kill people in the first village of Alkozai as he raised his weapon and prepared to fire on each victim.
In the stipulation, Bales said he formed the intent after an initial struggle with a grandmother, which prompted him to try to kill everyone inside the compound
The judge asked Bales for clarification, and he confirmed the version in the stipulation.
“As I entered the compound- I had a brief struggle with a woman I know now to be Na’ikmarga,” Bales said. After completing that struggle (the woman died) Bales said he decided to try to murder anyone he encountered in the compound.
The hearing is now in a brief recess.
UPDATE 11:10 a.m.: Bales said he remembers a kerosene lantern in an Afghan compound where the remains of burned bodies were later found. But he told the judge he doesn’t remember picking up the lantern and setting the bodies on fire.
That prompted some questioning from the judge.
Bales said he is now convinced from reviewing investigative reports, and listening to witness testimony at a pretrial hearing, that he did in fact use the lantern to set the bodies on fire.
Bales affirmed that he tried to murder six people who survived in the first village he visited during the March 11 rampage.
“I did intend to kill them but they survived… Sir, I did not have any legal justification to shoot them,” he told the judge.
UPDATE 10:55 a.m.: Bales has confirmed to the Army judge that he understands all of the elements of all the crimes that he is charged with, including premeditated murder. He now is going through each murder and briefly recounting the actions of each of his crimes on the morning of March 11, 2012.
“I observed a female I now know to be Palwasha,” Bales told the judge. “I formed the intent to kill Palwasha, and then I did kill her by shooting her with a firearm and burning her. This act, again sir, was without legal justification.”
He recited similar narratives for each of the 16 victims.
The judge asked Bales why he killed them.
“As far as why, I have asked that question a million times since then, and there is not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things that I did,” Bales answered.
UPDATE 10 a.m.: Nance, the Army judge, is reviewing one by one each “specification” of crimes on the charge sheet. This exercise is intended to make sure that Bales fully understands the legal elements of these crimes. Each murder victim is named as part of this review, and Bales has so far responded that he understands the charges.
ORIGINAL POST: Joint Base Lewis-McChord Staff Sgt. Robert Bales today pleaded guilty to the murders of 16 unarmed civilians — mostly women and children — in a March 2012 rampage through two villages that constituted the most serious U.S. war crimes case from Afghanistan.
If the deal is approved, the 39-year-old soldier from this Western Washington base would receive a life sentence, either with or without the possibility of parole, and avoid a possible death penalty.
Bales appeared in the courtroom in his Class A blue uniform, flanked by attorneys, and answered several questions from the judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, in a clear firm voice. The pleas were entered by his attorney, Emma Scanlan, and included guilty pleas to charges that he murdered 16 Afghans, assaulted six others, burned bodies and illegally used a steroid.
Scanlan entered a plea of not guilty to the charge that Bales attempted to impede an investigation into the case by damaging a laptop computer.
At the time off the crimes, Bales was on his fourth deployment to a combat zone.
In a sentencing phase of the trial scheduled later this year, defense attorney John Henry Browne said, his client will argue that there were numerous mitigating factors and that he should be sentenced with the option of parole.
The earliest that Bales would be eligible to be considered for parole would be after serving 10 years in prison.
The prospect of Bales avoiding a death penalty angers some of the survivors in Afghanistan, who did not want him tried in the United States.
“We ask that the governments of Afghanistan and USA that the criminal be brought here for justice. We want to see him hung,” said Mohammad Wazir, an Afghan who lost 11 members of his family to the killings, in an interview last year with Lela Ahmadzai, a journalist who produced a web documentary on the massacre for the Germany-based 2470 media.
May 29, 2013 at 1:49 PM
The Army staff sergeant charged with slaughtering 16 villagers during one of the worst atrocities of the Afghanistan war has agreed to plead guilty in a deal to avoid the death penalty, his attorney told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is scheduled to enter guilty pleas to charges of premeditated murder June 5 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle, said lawyer John Henry Browne. A sentencing-phase trial set for September will determine whether he is sentenced to life in prison with or life without the possibility of parole. The judge and commanding general must approve a plea deal.
Browne previously indicated Bales remembered little from the night of the massacre, but he said the soldier will give a full account of what happened before the judge decides whether to accept the plea.
Browne told The Seattle Times that his client, in the proposed plea deal, is not fighting the charge that the murders were premeditated. But in the sentencing phase, Brown said that the defense will argue that there were mitigating factors to the crime, and that Bales should receive life with parole.
Browne said he hopeful the plea deal will gain the approval of the commanding general.
Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield, a spokesman for I Corps at JBLM, said Wednesday that a plea hearing was scheduled for Bales on June 5, but said he could not provide details about the hearing.
Bales, an Ohio native and father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., slipped away from his remote southern Afghanistan outpost at Camp Belambay early on March 11, 2012, and attacked mud-walled compounds in two slumbering villages nearby.
Most of the victims were women and children, and some of the bodies were piled and burned. The slayings drew such angry protests that the U.S. temporarily halted combat operations in Afghanistan. It was three weeks before American investigators could reach the crime scenes.
Bales was serving his fourth tour in a combat zone, and the allegations against him raised questions about the toll multiple deployments were taking on American troops. For that reason, many legal experts believed it that it was unlikely that he would receive the death penalty, as Army prosecutors were seeking. The military justice system hasn’t executed anyone since 1961.
Nevertheless, the plea deal could inflame tensions in Afghanistan. In interviews with the AP in Kandahar in April, relatives of the victims became outraged at the notion Bales might escape the death penalty and even vowed revenge.
“For this one thing, we would kill 100 American soldiers,” said Mohammed Wazir, who had 11 family members killed that night, including his mother and 2-year-old daughter.
“A prison sentence doesn’t mean anything,” said Said Jan, whose wife and three other relatives died. “I know we have no power now. But I will become stronger, and if he does not hang, I will have my revenge.”
Three of Jan’s other family members were wounded, including his 7-year-old granddaughter, who was shot in the head.
Seattle Times staff reporter Hal Bernton contributed to this report.
April 26, 2013 at 5:28 PM
Capt. Aaron Blanchard, a 32-year old Army helicopter pilot who grew up in Selah, Yakima County, was killed Tuesday in Pul-e Alam, Afghanistan, according to the Army.
Blanchard was one of two pilots from the 2nd Aviation Division 10th Mountain Division who died Tuesday from what the Army called “wounds sustained from enemy indirect fire.”
The second pilot who died was 1st. Lt. Robert Hess, 26, of Fairfax, Va.
Blanchard began military service with the Marine Corps, joining in January 2000, and deploying to Iraq in January 2003. After separating from the Marines, he completed Reserve Officer Training Corps school and was commissioned in the Army in June 2009.
His mother, Laura Schactler, told the Yakima Herald-Republic that the 1999 Selah High School graduate served two tours of Iraq before flying an Apache Longbow as an Army pilot.
“Being a pilot is a very competitive thing, and he excelled at it because he wanted it so bad,” Schactler told the newspaper this week. “He was living his dream, and not very many of us get to do that.”
Blanchard deployed with his unit to Afghanistan this month.
Blanchard’s awards include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the NATO Medal and the Combat Action Badge.
He was based out of Fort Drum, New York.
Blanchard is survived by his wife, two children, parents and two brothers who live in New York state.
April 26, 2013 at 6:05 AM
YAKIMA (AP) — The mother of a Fort Drum Army helicopter pilot who grew up in Washington says he was killed Tuesday in Afghanistan.
Laura Schactler of Selah told the Yakima Herald-Republic that 32-year-old Aaron Blanchard and another soldier were killed at a forward operating base by missile fire. He had been in Afghanistan about a week before he was killed.
The deaths have not been officially announced by the Defense Department.
Blanchard leaves a wife and two young children in New York state and his parents and brothers in Washington.
A 1999 graduate of Selah High School, Blanchard served two combat tours in Iraq as a Marine before becoming an Army pilot to fly an Apache Longbow. He was based at Fort Drum in New York in 2011.
March 24, 2013 at 5:27 PM
A Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier died Thursday of wounds sustained during an attack in Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense.
Small arms fire in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan injured Sgt. 1st Class James Grissom, 31, earlier this month. He later died at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
Grissom, originally from Hayward, Calif., was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group.
This was his first deployment to Afghanistan. He’d previously deployed to Iraq in 2009.
Grissom is survived by his wife, parents and sister.
January 17, 2013 at 6:51 PM
A 25-year-old Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier died Wednesday of wounds he sustained from a improvised explosive device in the Panjwai district of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, according to the Department of Defense.
Sgt. David Chambers of Hampton, Va. was assigned to 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. That unit is assigned to Headquarters, 7th Infantry Division when at JBLM.
Chambers entered the Army in May 2009 and was first deployed to Afghanistan in June 2010. After returning in May 2011, he deployed again to Afghanistan in November 2012.
His awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Army Achievement Medal with 3rd oak leaf cluster, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with 1 campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Driver’s Badge.
The Panjwai district is one of the most volatile parts of the war in Afghanistan, as our military reporter Hal Bernton wrote about in a story last year about how soldiers try to detect IEDs before being hit by them.
“It’s a very small piece of Afghanistan,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Volk of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the story. “But it’s a very large part of the fight.”
December 31, 2012 at 8:37 AM
The Associated Press
A soldier from north Florida has been killed in Afghanistan.
The Department of Defense says Pfc. Markie T. Sims of Citra died Saturday in Panjwal, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
The 20-year-old was assigned to the 38th Engineer Company, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, under control of the 7th Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
November 13, 2012 at 12:22 PM
The Associated Press
SPOKANE — The Department of Defense has announced the death of a soldier from Spokane in Afghanistan.
The military said 26-year-old Sgt. Matthew H. Stiltz died on Monday at Zerok, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with indirect fire.
Stiltz was assigned to the Army’s 1st Battalion out of Fort Riley, Kan.
About The Today File
The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times and edited by Assistant Metro Editor Nick Provenza.
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