1st ID soldier gets 11 months for drug use, refusing to join unit in Iraq
WüRZBURG, Germany — An Israeli combat veteran serving in the 1st Infantry Division was sentenced Monday to 11 months in prison for smoking marijuana and for twice refusing to join his unit in Iraq because he felt it wasn’t properly trained for combat, attorneys in the case said.
Pfc. Tomehr Jochnowitz, 25, of the Schweinfurt-based 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, pleaded guilty to two counts of desertion as well as one count each of leaving his duty post, missing a troop movement and use of marijuana. He was acquitted of failing to obey an order.
In addition to the prison term, Judge (Lt. Col.) Robin Hall ordered him to forfeit all pay, reduced him to the lowest enlisted rank, and handed him a bad-conduct discharge, said the military prosecutor, Capt. Jonathan Larcomb.
Jochnowitz grew up in Israel with dual citizenship after his American-born Jewish parents emigrated in the 1970s, said his civilian attorney, David Court.
In the late 1990s, Court said, he served three years in the Israeli Defense Forces as a sniper combating Palestinian insurgents in Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon. After his tour ended, he moved to the United States and went from job to job until he enlisted in the Army as an infantryman May 2003.
Four months later, Jochnowitz arrived in Schweinfurt to join the 1-26 Infantry, just as that unit was preparing for a one-year deployment to Iraq that would begin in February 2004.
But according to a court document, Jochnowitz quit his unit without permission Feb. 12 and traveled to the Netherlands, where he smoked marijuana. He returned five days later just as his unit was leaving for Iraq, but he failed a drug test. Given a second chance to deploy Feb. 23, he fled a second time and turned himself in the next day.
Court argued that Jochnowitz believed his unit wasn’t fully prepared for war, and that he had said so to his chain of command.
“He’s not somebody who doesn’t understand military service,” Court said. “He realized they weren’t cognizant of what they were doing or getting into.”
But, he added, Jochnowitz later realized he’d been wrong to abandon his unit and pleaded guilty to most of the charges.
His fellow soldiers in the 1-26 Infantry have patrolled since early March in the troubled city of Samarra. Five of the battalion’s troops died and about two dozen were injured in a car-bomb attack against the Iraqi National Guard headquarters there July 8. The unit also reportedly was a big part of a successful counter-insurgency assault in Samarra late last week.