Madigan Army Medical Center, located on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where Afghan massacre suspect, Sgt. Robert Bales was stationed, is under investigation for allegedly down-grading post traumatic stress diagnoses to other mental illnesses that do not prevent deployment or qualify soldiers for disability payments. Read more at the Army Times.
According to the NY Times, family and friends are 'shocked' that he is the man accused of this horrific crime.
He was not the star, just a well-regarded young man who seemed to try to do the right thing. That was Robert Bales, “our Bobby,” friends said. He was a busy, popular kid, but he made time for the autistic man down the block. Other neighborhood boys admired him. As a high school linebacker, he was good enough to be captain, but also gracious enough to help a more talented player take over his starting position. It was good for the team, he said.
That solid-guy reputation followed him into the Army infantry. He joined at the relatively seasoned age of 27, just a few weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and became respected for his maturity and calm, including in battle. “He was a damn good leader and a damn good soldier,” said Zachary Parsons, who served with Staff Sergeant Bales in Iraq in 2007.
So when many of his old neighbors from Norwood, Ohio, and former battalion mates from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State heard the news that Sergeant Bales had been accused of coldbloodedly shooting to death 16 Afghan civilians on March 11, nine of them children, they were not simply shocked. They grieved.
Michelle Caddell, 48, who knew Sergeant Bales when he was growing up, watched a video clip of the news over and over and over again, mesmerized by disbelief. “I wanted to see, maybe, a different face,” she said, fighting back tears. “Because that’s not our Bobby. Something horrible, horrible had to happen to him.”
Friends, relatives and his lawyer say they have an idea of what that horrible thing was: war.
Three deployments in Iraq, where he saw heavy fighting, and a fourth in Afghanistan, where he went reluctantly, left him struggling financially, in danger of losing his home.
And there were more direct impacts. During his deployments, Sergeant Bales, 38, lost part of a foot and injured his head, saw fellow soldiers badly wounded, picked up the bodies of dead Iraqis, was treated for mild traumatic brain injury and possibly developed post-traumatic stress disorder, his lawyer and military officials said.
But there are also glimpses of a darkness in his personal life. Sergeant Bales’s past includes an arrest on a misdemeanor charge of assault on a woman, which was dropped after he completed anger-management counseling; an accident in which he overturned his car, something he attributed to falling asleep at the wheel; and an accumulation of rejections and disappointments.
A year ago, according to a blog written by his wife, he was denied a promotion to sergeant first class, a rank that would have brought not just added responsibility and respect but also money at a time when his finances seemed stretched.
Neighbors remember him, in between earlier deployments, as a gung-ho solider, eager to get back to the fight. But that seemed to have changed. He trained to become a recruiter, a job that would have allowed him to skip Afghanistan, but the Army kept him in the infantry. And though he felt that his injuries were significant enough to keep him out of combat, his lawyer said, Army doctors said he was fit to deploy. Weeks later, he arrived in one of the roughest precincts of Afghanistan. Read more at the NY Times.
While her husband was deployed, Sgt. Bales' wife blogged about Army life. Read more at KFI News.