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Kosovo investigation into possible Guard abuses continues

STUTTGART, Germany — The probe of 17 National Guard officers and noncommissioned officers, accused of mistreating junior troops during a peacekeeping deployment in Kosovo, is taking longer than initially expected as military legal advisers continue to investigate all the allegations, according to a spokeswoman for the mission in Kosovo.

“Actions are still under review,” said Army Capt. Joy Staab, a spokeswoman for the Multinational Battle Group East in Kosovo. “It is a large investigation, and leadership needs to thoroughly review all the evidence to determine the final outcome. We anticipate the review process may take up to a month.”

Initially, commanders expected charges against the 17 leaders from a Georgia-based National Guard company to be filed within a week after the allegations came to light in a Feb. 23 Stars and Stripes report. U.S. Army Europe launched a joint investigation with Guard officials in Kosovo soon after a formal complaint was made in early February by a private in the unit, who reported a hostile work environment.

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The consequences for the soldiers could range from courts-martial and Article 15s — a nonjudicial punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice — to general officer memorandums and counseling, depending on the degree of culpability, according to Army officials.

While commanders have declined to detail the nature of the abuses, Col. Jeffrey J. Liethen, who commands 750 troops assigned to Multinational Battle Group East in Kosovo, last month described the abuses as both physical and psychological in nature.

“It was a range of tactics,” Liethen said.

While the investigation continues, the accused guardsmen have been removed from their unit and assigned other jobs, according to Guard officials.

Meanwhile, military officials have said the company of soldiers from Georgia’s 3rd Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment are in need of retraining to reverse the effects of a bad command climate.

Last month, a team of soldiers from Hohenfels, Germany, was dispatched to Kosovo to work with the company of guard soldiers as part of an effort to prepare less-experienced soldiers to serve in positions of leadership. The Hohenfels group, which consists of two infantry platoons and a command team, will serve as mentors and trainers and also participate in missions.

vandiverj@estripes.osd.mil

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