So what do I do to keep busy besides babysitting the ANA. Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this since I just wrote my “Burn in Hell” piece but I’m in a frustrated, angry mood and need to vent.
Part of my responsibilities as the Command Judge Advocate are to assist in the administration of discipline and punishment. Our command element are a group of Marines. Do you know one? Do you know a “true Marine?” Always right, always confident? You know the type. OK, in all fairness, every branch of the Service has one as do all walks of life.
Anyway, the Marines are used to administering Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP) a certain way. We had a case last week where several Army soldiers were reported buying Xanax (like Valium) through their terp on the local economy. The terp didn’t know that the drug was illegal so didn’t think anything of it until he had several guys coming to him asking him to guy huge amounts of the drug. That’s when he went to the Sergeant in charge and reported it.
It was reported that one guy took 11 Xanax before going on guard duty. Another took 8 and the third took 3. The guy who took 11 kept passing out all night – go figure. At one point, he passed out and fell on the firewood box destroying it. Of course he had no recollection of the event. That was the first night. The second night, they sat around joking and laughing about it in front of other soldiers. How stupid can you be? If you know criminals and drug users, you know they can be pretty stupid.
The command had enough probable cause to get a search warrant, but instead, they did a health and welfare inspection. Now there’s nothing wrong with doing a health and welfare inspection if it’s done right. They did it about as wrong as was possible. I won’t bore you with the details of what went wrong. Suffice it to say that a military judge (me), a civilian judge (my direct JAG boss) a prosecutor (me again, OK don’t count me again, but the prosecutor assigned to my JAG higher) and of course the defense counsel, all agreed that the search was illegal and all the drugs found would have been excluded. Well a certain Marine had the nerve to argue with me about it. He even made the comment that this was a case of the “good ole boy system.” I let him know that we would all have this same opinion regardless of the branch of service. Anyway, I explained a way that this problem could be resolved. We simply had to do a thorough investigation and stop at the point of the search. Simple, huh? You’d think.
OK, it ended up being that simple but getting there was not as simple. I kept getting the comment “that’s not how we do it in the Marine Corps” and “if these guys were Marines, this would have been resolved by now” and other such snide comments. I even got the comments suggesting that we were having these problems because we are “Guard Guys.” As if…two of the accused are Marines. So much for the “Guard Guy” theory.
He and I discussed the investigation and what needed to take place. We had guidance from the trial counsel, but Merrill went through the paperwork and came up with a great game plan which I took in and briefed COL Vitali.
Merrill really rose to the occasion. Besides preparing all the scope of the investigation, he prepared all the necessary paperwork – a first for him. He worked long hours to get it done and did a great job. He even got praise from one of these hardened Marines. (I don’t think I’ve told him so will have to be sure to mention it to him.) I tasked him with going with the investigating officer. That’s where he was all day today. They got back late and I saw him as I was leaving the gym and he was just going in. (Aaron, you said you were going to meet me in the gym at 5:00 p.m. Where were you today? Still not feeling well? What a lame excuse. Sheesh!!)
So I’ve been working and monitoring the investigation getting it ready to forward to our higher command. It was decided that we wanted this punishment dispensed at the General’s level since he can hammer them harder than COL Vitali. I hope these guys get fried. They were in charge of security at a crucial location at the camp they were guarding and here they were so strung out on prescription drugs that they didn’t know what they were doing.