Deployment comments under investigation
FALLUJAH, Iraq — The 3rd Infantry Division is conducting an investigation into the “situation” that allegedly prompted a soldier to tell a television reporter that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld should resign.
The Fort Stewart, Ga.-based 3rd ID has been the focus of intense media attention since last week, when soldiers from the division told a television reporter that they were tired, unhappy with the mission and angry with their leaders.
The incident was quickly followed by additional comments to various media outlets from other soldiers and spouses of deployed troops.
Capt. James Brownlee, spokesman for the 3rd ID’s 2nd Brigade in Fallujah, a restive city about 30 miles west of Baghdad, said Wednesday that none of the soldiers who made negative remarks to the press has been punished.
“Nothing has happened to any of them,” he said.
However, the original incident, in which several 2nd Brigade soldiers voiced unusually candid opinions to an ABC News reporter, is under a “15-6” investigation, Brownlee said.
According to the AR 15-6 guide, the investigation at this point would be informal and would include collecting witness testimony and following up with recommendations from the investigating officer.
One soldier, Spc. Clinton Deitz, told ABC News, “If Donald Rumsfeld was here, I’d ask him for his resignation.”
Another 2nd Brigade soldier told the same television outlet, “I’ve got my own ‘Most Wanted’ list. … The aces in my deck are [civilian coalition leader] Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and [Deputy Defense Secretary] Paul Wolfowitz.”
Brownlee said that “the situation,” not the specific soldiers, is the focus of the investigation.
“It is the situation — what made the soldier say what he said” that is being looked at, he said.
Brownlee said he did not know how long the investigation would last.
Asked if soldiers might eventually be punished, Brownlee replied, “I have no idea.”
On Monday, the 3rd ID commander, Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, decided to stop allowing reporters to spend time with his troops, other than to gather information for pre-approved “news features,” according to an e-mail response from Lt. Col. Birmingham, 3rd ID spokesman in Baghdad.
The 3rd ID is “no longer embedding media for short stays, effective the beginning of this week,” Birmingham said.
The only exceptions to the policy will be made for three journalists who were embedded with the unit during the war and have subsequently returned, Birmingham said.
Blount “instituted the new ground rules with the intent to give soldiers some opportunity to unwind among themselves,” Birmingham said.