Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Success Story

As I alluded in my last post, last week CPT Dusty Kawai helped his ANA achieve a huge success. I'm sure I'll get some of the details wrong but I'll try to hit the highlights as they were told to MG Black.

In January, as one of the soldiers was leaving an office, he was grabbed from behind and felt a cloth being placed over his mouth. When he awoke, he was being raped by the Brigade Commander, a LTC. After the assault was over, the soldier left the office, feeling sick from the drug he was administered as well in pain from the ordeal. (I'm trying to spare you the details.) He reported to a friend or medic. He was immediately examined and the physical evidence confirmed that he had been raped. He was also able to provide additional physical evidence that confirmed what had happened. (Again, trying to spare you the gross details.) Statements were taken by the victim and those who witnessed and observed the victim after the rape.

In the ANA, when a crime is reported, the Commander must initiate an investigation. In this case, the 2-star ANA General did not want to do anything so he collected the statements and hid them in his office so Dusty and the legal folks had no idea this had taken place.

A few weeks/months later, one of the soldiers snuck into the General's office, copied the statements, put them back and then forwarded the investigation up to the JAG's office at the Ministry of Defense (MoD). At that point, the nation's top JAG, BG Shir, ordered that an investigation be done.

When the MG found out about, he attempted to thwart the investigation by sending the LTC to a course at the KMTC. He also threatened to have Dusty fired for pursuing this investigation. I'm not sure why the ANA general thought he could fire the US ETT but he threatened Dusty anyway. Little does he know... Anyway, they finally got the LTC back from the KMTC and restricted him to base. Boy was he unhappy.

Again, I'm a little sketchy on the details, but as I remember, the only way they were able to get the official investigation going was when the deputy commander ordered the investigation take place. He did it when the MG was gone. At least that's how I remember it.

Then, when it was time for the investigation to begin, the MG would not authorize the ANA any vehicles in order to go to the location to conduct the investigation. So Dusty put together a US convoy and personally went down with the prosecutor, defense counsel and investigators to conduct this investigation.

That's one thing Dusty has really excelled at. He's gone with the investigators on so many of the investigations. He's really trained his ANA well on how to conduct a thorough criminal investigation. During his recounting of his experience someone asked him if he was ever afraid or felt threatened. He said that there have been several times when he's slept with his 9M on his chest because he was sleeping right in the middle of those he was investigating. (MG Black had asked me about and said his biggest concern for us was our safety. I leaned over to him and told him that I'd never heard Dusty tell me that before.) Anyway, I digress.

Dusty said that they found the victim who naturally had felt that nothing was being done with this case. He felt that like so many other cases, this one was going to be hidden away because the criminal was a senior ranking officer. Dusty rose to the challenge.

A terrific investigation was done. The key witnesses were protected so that they wouldn't be intimidated into changing their story. The defendant was restricted to base, as I said, and his movements were monitored so that he could not intimidate the witnesses. All the necessary court proceedings were done, the procedures were followed to the "T", the judges made all the right calls and the dirt-bag was convicted. He got 5 years in prison.

I know I've left out a lot of the details but believe me when I say that this case would never have been prosecuted so successfully had Dusty not been there every step of the way.

That's what we stressed with MG Black. With the Akhtar case and our rape case (8 year conviction), none of this would have been possible had the mentors not been there. There are two Corps here in the country that don't have JAGs and they have cases just like this that are not going anywhere because there is no ETT presence. I'm hoping that he'll be able to make it happen that more JAGs can get assigned to these positions.

Anyway, just wanted to share the story of his success.

Way to go Dusty!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

TJAG of the Army Visit

Remember a couple of months ago how the Navy's top JAG visited us here in Afghanistan? Well the Army's top JAG was here for a visit. MG Scott Black came to visit. He's a very warm, caring individual. He "scared" me when he said that he's heard about me and the success we're having here. I think that my friend, COL Diner, who works in Kabul must have said something to him. I hope that's the case. I would hate to think I've come to his attention some other way. He then made me even more nervous when we said goodbye and he said he'd be seeing me again. I hope it's just my over-active imagination working.

Several of us were able to travel to Kabul to the ISAF - the international coalition compound - for lunch and to meet him. It was great.

We were able to talk about the success we've been having here, tell him our "war" stories, impress upon him the importance of this mission and brag about ourselves.

Last week Dusty - my JAG down range - had a huge success with one of his trials. I was able to tell the General all about Dusty's accomplishments. I'll post his story in my next entry.

However, unlike the Navy JAG, no coins were forthcoming. Oh well.

Learn From My Mistake

For the last several weeks I've kept having this nagging thought that I needed to back up all the pictures I've taken on this deployment. Did I listen to that little nagging voice? Of course not. Then I thought, "when I'm home on leave I'll buy an external hard drive so that I can back up my pictures." What a great thought, don't you think?

Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to do that.

Last night my hard drive died a swift and bitter death. My IT guys are telling me that they do not have the capabilities of salvaging anything from the drive.

If I were not going on leave in the very near future I'd be much more despondant. As it is, the prospect of leave is the only thing keeping me from slitting my wrists. OK, not really but you know what I mean.

So now I am in the process of contacting anyone and everyone I can think of who might have taken roughly the same pictures I did.


From now on, I'm backing up all my photos. Do the same!!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Back to Blackhorse

My official replacement at Blackhorse arrived and is now in place. His name is CPT Daniel Dickert and he’s from South Carolina. I was able to take him down to Blackhorse and introduce him to the staff and the ANA.

It was so good to be back “home.” (I told him that when you start calling your base “home” you’ve been here too long – and I’ve been here way too long!!) It was also really weird. He was moved into my old room and I ended up staying there with him. As you may recall, I started on one side of the room and then switched to the other side when my roommate left. Well I moved Daniel to the side that I most recently left and I ended up staying on the side I originally started. Can you say deja-vus (or however you spell it)?

I introduced him to all the Marines. They can be a rather intimidating bunch but I assured him that they were a good bunch of guys.

My main goal was to introduce him to the ANA. I was pleased to see that that went well. But at the same time it was hard. I hate to admit that when I left I was getting a little burned out from all the problems but as I sat there for the 2.5 days getting back into the mentoring game, I realized just how much I missed being a mentor. It was so great to sit in Karim’s office and the judge’s chamber and “discuss” issues. As I’ve been preparing this course I’ve come across several issues that need to be resolved and I was able to at least get answers to my questions. I didn’t always agree with their interpretation but at least I got some answers.

The day we went to Karim’s office, almost his entire staff was there. They all gave me hugs which was unusual as they’ve never done that before. But you know what, I didn’t mind it as I’ve really missed them.

And then being back with my “family,” that was probably the greatest part about being back. Seeing Merrill, Steve, Larry and all the others was wonderful. Wais has really missed me as well as he gave me an Afghan hug, something he doesn’t normally do.

So now I’m back at Phoenix. Do I call this place home? Uh, no. It’s the place where I sleep at night and work during the day but it will never be home.

Speaking of home, I can now say with 100% confidence that I will be home in less than a week!!! Can I just say that I’m a little excited? OK, maybe more than just a little. I actually packed tonight even though it’s still a few days away, that’s how excited I am.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Faces of Afghanistan

Wanted to share some photographs. Some I took, some I found on the shared drive at Phoenix.

I'm calling this entry, "Faces of Afghanistan."

Hope you enjoy the photographs.

Oh, and thanks to all those who took the photographs. I wish I could say that I took them all.