Three Guard soldiers suspected in Kosovo hazing to face courts-martial
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 8, 2012
STUTTGART, Germany — Three National Guard soldiers accused of hazing junior troops with a range of tactics that allegedly included racial slurs and sexual harassment while on a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo will face courts-martial in Germany in the coming months, U.S. Army Europe announced Tuesday.
“The Soldiers pending Courts-Martial have been charged with failure to obey lawful orders or regulation, and cruelty and maltreatment,” said Col. Bryan Hilferty, USAREUR spokesman, in a statement. “One of the Soldiers has also been accused of indecent exposure. All of these charges are merely accusations, and all accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
The Army did not release the names of the three soldiers — a first sergeant, a staff sergeant, and a sergeant. The soldiers could face discharge from the military, reduction in rank, confinement, loss of pay or a combination, according to USAREUR.
The charges were preferred on April 24 and were referred to a special court-martial a day later by the commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, according to USAREUR.
All three courts-martial are expected to take place in August.
More than a dozen soldiers from Georgia’s 3rd Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment were investigated in connection with the hazing incidents, which authorities said took place between December and January.
Four soldiers received General Officer Article 15s — a nonjudicial punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice; three soldiers received General Officer Memoranda of Reprimand; two soldiers received Field Grade Article 15s; and one soldier received a locally filed reprimand from his brigade commander, according to Hilferty. Several others were cleared of culpability during the course of the investigation.
The USAREUR investigation was launched soon after a formal complaint was made in early February by a private in the unit, who reported a hostile work environment. Army criminal investigators learned there were widespread problems in the company, according to USAREUR.
USAREUR and Col. Jeffrey J. Liethen, who commands all of the National Guard units assigned to Multinational Battle Group-East at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, launched a joint investigation.
“As it turned out, there was an atmosphere within the leaders of this company of indiscipline and no adherence to Army values,” Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, USAREUR commander, said at the time.
In addition to racial slurs and sexual harassment, junior troops also were forced to perform “excessive repetitions of physical exercises” that did not meet Army standards, according to USAREUR.
The charges come at a time of increased focus on hazing in the military. On Tuesday, House lawmakers introduced legislation that seeks to create a national database to track hazing incidents and help the military determine their causes and provide a statutory definition of hazing in theUCMJ, which would help ensure prosecution.