Airman jailed for not using housing allowance to pay rent
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Senior Airman Boderick M. Bennett’s own men carted him away.
A 35th Security Forces Squadron member who served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bennett was ordered to four months’ confinement Thursday in a special court-martial. He pleaded guilty to not paying his rent with his overseas housing allowance (OHA) and misusing his government travel credit card.
After his trial, security forces personnel were called to take Bennett to jail. Military officials said Thursday they were unsure whether Bennett, 27, would serve his time in a squadron detention cell or elsewhere.
Bennett admitted in court to depositing his OHA in his bank account rather than using it to pay his rent. Unlike with the basic allowance for housing received stateside, military members overseas must use OHA to pay rent and utilities.
Trial prosecutor Capt. Jared Grimmer said Bennett, who lived in the base dormitory at the time, had agreed to watch the off-base house of a fellow airman while she was deployed. But he ended up moving into her house and, without her permission, getting his name put on the lease as a roommate, Grimmer said. From November 2005 to July 2006, he pocketed about $10,600 in OHA, while the deployed airman continued to pay the rent.
Capt. Jonathan Wasden, Misawa area defense lawyer, said that while Bennett did indeed violate government regulations, the act resulted from a misunderstanding. Bennett, he said, had an arrangement with the other airman to live at the house and pay the utilities — though he also neglected to pay those.
Military investigators became aware of the wrongdoing after the deployed airman returned and was told she owed the government months’ worth of OHA, for the period during which Bennett was receiving OHA worth half the home’s rent, Grimmer said after the court-martial.
Bennett paid back the OHA and utilities debt before the trial, Grimmer said.
With his travel card, Bennett racked up about $1,000 in unauthorized purchases, including car rental and gasoline he used to visit friends and family in the United States while he was en route to and from a deployment.
In an unsworn court statement, Bennett said he deployed six times during his 10 years in the Air Force. While a machine gunner on a Humvee in Kirkuk, Iraq, there were “days I thought I would die,” he said.
“All I ask is you consider my service to my country and my family,” he told the judge.
The judge also reduced Bennett to the rank of E-1 and ordered him to forfeit $500 of his pay and allowances per month, for four months.
Bennett was scheduled to separate from the Air Force in June. His wife is expecting their first child in the fall.