Plagued by one scandal after another, from violent mental breakdowns to steroid abuse and allegations of killing for sport, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state this year developed a reputation as the most troubled base in the military. As the year wound down, the Army was conducting a top-to-bottom review of the 5th Stryker Brigade amid reports of misconduct from a wide swath of its soldiers and a failure of its leaders to curtail the issues.
Most disturbing has been the revelation that a dozen soldiers are linked to accusations of war crimes stemming from a recent tour in Afghanistan. Five of those soldiers are charged with murder in the deaths of three innocent Afghans. Some soldiers also allegedly mutilated corpses and took body parts for trophies. Base leadership has been accused of failing to act when the parents of one soldier passed on warnings after their son told them about one murder and acknowledged that he was aware of plans to commit more killings.
More than 14,000 servicemembers returned from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan to the base, which has one of the most robust medical facilities in the country. But the medical center was accused of turning away National Guard soldiers seeking mental health care, and three other soldiers linked to the base experienced very public mental breakdowns resulting in the deaths of two of them in confrontations with police.
And, finally, news broke in November that several soldiers, including a captain, in the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment had admitted using steroids before a 2009 deployment. Several soldiers who admitted using the drugs estimated that half of the battalion’s 700 soldiers were steroid users.