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Suspected Afghan shooter is from Stryker brigade

By Gene Johnson

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 06:43 p.m. HST, Mar 12, 2012

SEATTLE >> A U.S. soldier suspected of killing at least 16 Afghan civilians in a nighttime assault is from a brigade that was the first in the Army to use the Stryker, a nimble eight-wheeled, light infantry vehicle built for a post-Cold War era.

Now, the brigade and the Washington state base where it is located are grappling with one of its own being accused of one of the worst atrocities of the roughly decade-old war in Afghanistan.

The name of the 38-year-old soldier was not released because it would be "inappropriate" to do so before charges are filed, Pentagon spokesman George Little said. The soldier is in custody at a base in Kandahar.

The staff sergeant was deployed Dec. 3 with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord located south of Seattle, a congressional source told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The news was the latest difficult episode for Lewis-McChord over the past few years.

Home to about 100,000 military and civilian personnel, it's had a spate of suicides among soldiers back from war. And most famously, four service members were convicted in the deliberate killing of three Afghan civilians during patrols in 2010.

The soldier accused in Sunday's shooting is not from the same brigade. Those soldiers were from the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, which has since been renamed the 2nd Stryker brigade.

The 3rd Stryker Brigade, the brigade to which the accused soldier belongs, was the Army's first brigade to use the Stryker. The brigade deployed three times to Iraq before sending 2,500 soldiers to Afghanistan for the first time last December.

For this most recent deployment, it left its 300 Stryker vehicles at home and, instead, has been using vehicles that were already in Afghanistan and are more resistant to roadside bombs.

The source said the soldier was assigned on Feb. 1 to a village stability program in Belambai, half a mile from one of the villages where the attack took place Sunday. Villagers described an armed soldier moving through homes, shooting residents.

The village stability operations are part of NATO's efforts to transition out of Afghanistan. They pair special operations troops with local villagers chosen by village elders to become essentially a sanctioned, armed neighborhood watch.

Army officials are reviewing the soldier's complete deployment and medical history.

In Washington state, Spc. Jared Richardson, an engineer at Lewis-McChord who served in Afghanistan, said the Army is working with soldiers to deal with their problems. But he said a decade of war has taken a toll on enlisted men and women.

"We're on uncharted territory now, and it's taking a toll on soldiers," Richardson said.

Jorge Gonzalez, executive director of Coffee Strong, a coffee shop near Lewis-McChord that doubles as a resource center for soldiers looking to leave the Army, said frequent Stryker deployments are taking their toll.

"There is definitely fatigue, many are on their third, fourth deployments. Many can't wait to get out," he said.


Associated Press writer Manuel Valdes contributed from near Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

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kainalu wrote:
We're suppose to be here helping these people. We have a rogue soldier soiling the rightous job of our military women and men. What a shame.
on March 12,2012 | 09:18AM
Changalang wrote:
One trillion dollars later and we have a double confirmation that nation building STILL does not work. Giving soldiers an impossible mission is a discredit to their training. Unless politicians decide to attack the heart of the enemy, which means complete and thorough neutralization of the Taliban in Pakistan, there is absolutely no chance of success when the host country of an insurgency remains politically off limits. The Vietnamization of Iraq and Afghanistan has done more harm than good at an unacceptable cost of blood and treasure.Let 'em go hard or let 'em come home. They have a country to protect and Hezbollah is infiltrating the Southern Border of the homeland. All politicians of both parties should re-read the Constitution and redeploy our fine volunteer warriors to defend our country.
on March 12,2012 | 10:32AM
iwanaknow wrote:
Time to pack it in, declare "victory" and come home. Wait til the Taliban take over and then we start all over again.
on March 12,2012 | 10:53AM
Changalang wrote:
Time to b0mb Pakistan into the Stone Age. Oh wait they are already there except for the secrets A.Q. Khan brought in to make them relevant. Drones and hit teams for the next 20 years would be the best way to spend the annual $2 billion we pay them to stab us in the back and kill our warriors. Dictators respect nothing more than a pending contract execution; Noriega was lucky the plan called for making an example of him instead of the obvious alternative; for example. If more "accidents" start happening to the right people, then the 90% illiterate population of Pak/Afghan will start thinking Allah himself is striking down the Taliban and corrupt Pakistani/Afghani officials for punishment in enacting the perversion of the Qur'an. The only way to win hurts and minds of the stvpid, is by using their own cultural sensitivities to one's advantage; PSY OPS 101. Cost-Risk-Benefit of Black Ops is non-debatable in comparison to the costly conventional approach that has thus failed. Tribal warlords are cheaper and easier than a discount Manila h00ker. If they are made to earn their cut on the poppy, then they will respect THEIR overlord more. It is the culture.
on March 12,2012 | 11:20AM
Changalang wrote:
Supposed to be in response to "iwanaknow". Darn that pesky censor software. :)
on March 12,2012 | 11:35AM
Oahuan wrote:
Time to bring home our heros. I can't imagine the stress they're going through.
on March 12,2012 | 02:13PM
mitt_grund wrote:
The burning of the Koran, now the murder of innocent civilians. Accidental, coincidental, or a conspiracy-devotee's dream? A conspiracy to force the return of U.S. troops to Iraq and Afghanistan? Or to embarass the administration and influence the election. Isn't the Pacific Northwest a hotbed of patriotic militia who have increased in number in response to Obama's presidency? At the beginning of this latest campaign, stumping around the U.S. both Romney and Santorum said it was a mistake to leave Iraq and Afghanistan without finishing the job. Didn't Romney say he would return troops to Iraq? And didn't Santorum say he would not just do economic war with China, he would "go to war" with China? But then again, it is just as likely that it is a conspiracy of the left-wing to expedite the U.S. exit from the Middle East. Or was it really just two separate incidents, a bunch of ignorant soldiers who just happened to burn a pile of Koran in front of Afghans so they could see it, and one fed-up staff sergeant who hated the people he was there to protect and befriend so much, that he went out and shot them, men women, and children, execution style in their sleep, exacting revenge for recent U.S. and British deaths? Our men and women overseas are getting tired of defending people who hate them, and now are killing our service people. Whatever, when our soldiers start killing and insulting the people they are supposed to help, it's time to pull out completely. There are probably more ticking time bombs out there. We are only making more enemies of people we were supposedly there to help, the longer we stay.
on March 12,2012 | 02:25PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Killing nine children,execution style? Children?unarmed?no less then the death penalty.
on March 12,2012 | 04:38PM
LittleEarl_01 wrote:
Another Korea! Another Vietnam! When will our leaders learn? Oh sure, it's easy to sit there in Washington and rattle the saber, but ask one of them to pick up a weapon and man a post, then it would be different. Our leaders talk about those who would mandate their beliefs on a population, however, haven't we attempted the same? As a three-tour Vietnam veteran, I believe we should remove our troops YESTERDAY. Wait, if we're not involved in a conflict somewhere, how is the military industrial complex to survive? Our leaders must pay back those entities for their political contributions. Seeing that these two conflicts are dying down, our saber rattling leaders are now focusing on Iran. SHAME!
on March 13,2012 | 04:41AM
serious wrote:
Once again: Afganistan is the graveyard of nations!!! Just like a ground attack on Russia in the middle of the winter!!!
on March 13,2012 | 06:48AM
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