Last of accused in Pvt. Danny Chen's death to be removed from Army

By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: December 17, 2012

Pvt. Danny Chen's platoon leader will be booted from the Army after being punished outside of a court-martial.

First Lt. Daniel L. Schwartz was the last of eight soldiers from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, to be punished in Chen's death.

Chen, 19, was a Chinese-American soldier from New York who committed suicide in Afghanistan in October 2011.

Military officials said Chen was driven to suicide by members of his platoon while at a small combat outpost in southern Afghanistan.

The charges against the eight members of Chen's unit put a focus on hazing and racism in the military, and the cases attracted international media attention at Fort Bragg.

Schwartz was the only officer charged in the case.

Had the case gone to trial, he would have faced six specifications of dereliction of duty.

According to charging documents, he was accused of neglecting to foster a climate where everyone is treated with dignity and respect regardless of race, and failing to ensure Chen's physical wellbeing.

Schwartz also was accused of failing to report his soldiers for possessing and consuming alcohol and for needlessly detonating a hand grenade near the outpost.

According to Fort Bragg officials, Schwartz's case was disposed of in an Article 15, a non-judicial punishment allowed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The Army consulted with Chen's family prior to proceeding with the Article 15, officials said.

As part of the punishment, Lt. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, initiated an administrative elimination of Schwartz. Other details were not released.

With Schwartz punished, all of the cases related to Chen have been completed.

The cases were tried on Fort Bragg because Chen's unit served under the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division while it was in Afghanistan.

None of the soldiers were convicted of the most serious charge, negligent homicide, and critics have questioned whether the punishments have suited the crimes.

Of the other seven soldiers:

Staff Sgt. Andrew J. VanBockel was demoted two ranks, reprimanded and forced to perform 15 days of hard labor for hazing, dereliction of duty and maltreatment of a subordinate.

Sgt. Adam Holcomb was convicted of maltreatment and sentenced to 30 days in prison, the loss of one rank and the forfeiture of more than $1,100 after a seven-day trial.

Spc. Ryan Offutt pleaded guilty to hazing and mistreating Chen and was sentenced to six months in prison, a demotion to private and a bad conduct discharge following a plea agreement.

Staff Sgt. Blaine Dugas, Chen's platoon sergeant, was demoted one rank and sentenced to three months in prison following convictions for using alcohol in a combat zone and dereliction of duty.

He will not have to serve any time in prison because of credit for 90 days in prison based on unlawful pretrial punishment.

Sgt. Travis Carden was demoted one rank and will forfeit two-thirds of his pay for a month following convictions of hazing and maltreating Chen by calling him racially disparaging names and ordering him to perform pushups with his mouth full of water.

Spc. Thomas Porter Curtis IV was demoted to private and sentenced to three months in prison after pleading guilty to hazing and maltreatment.

And Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst was demoted to specialist, reprimanded and sentenced to 45 days of hard labor for dereliction of duty.

All eight of the soldiers were part of 3rd Platoon, C Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Pvt. Danny Chen


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