Nearly 100 soldiers on lockdown as JBLM investigates stolen gear

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by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on January 8, 2012 at 11:33 AM

Updated Monday, Jan 9 at 8:37 AM

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --  On Saturday night, a company of soldiers was on lockdown for the fifth consecutive night while military police investigated a theft of hundreds of pieces of sensitive military equipment.

Since Tuesday, about 100 soldiers have been confined to one building on base.

JBLM spokesman Major Chris Ophardt said no one can go home until military police finish their criminal investigation, leaving some off-post families without cars, money, and loved ones.

Afghanistan veteran David Tirasedtanun is among them, and missing his birthday, to the anger of his mother and stepfather.

"This is not the way to do it," said Kevin Dunbar of the lockdown.

"I'd like to see him come home," said Shelley Dunbar.

A flyer posted on base offers a $10,000 reward for tips leading to an arrest. It says the thief or thieves stole the gear sometime between Dec. 14 and Jan. 3, the base's holiday break.

Maj. Ophardt said no weapons were taken, "nothing that could put the public in danger."

Rather, the stolen items include hundreds of pieces of weapon attachments like rifle scopes, as well as night vision goggles for helmets, individual systems that determine range with lasers, and some cables.

The soldiers involved are all part of the Stryker 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. They were initially confined Saturday, said the Dunbars, but allowed to return home Sunday. The current lockdown began Tuesday, they said.

Shelley Dunbar said she understood the reasons behind the confinement, that her son works within a culture that holds each soldier responsible for their comrades.

"If one fails, all fail. If one person's in trouble, they all get in trouble," she said.

Still, she disagreed with the tactics, saying the situation leaves David paying for his own meals on post, while leaving his wife and young son with few modes of transportation.

"He's always strived and worked very very hard to be first in everything that he does, and also along with his men," Shelley said. "So when something like this happens, it frustrates the devil out of him."

"You expect soldiers to be upstanding and not do this kind of behavior, but I'm also upset with the way the military [is handling] this," said Kevin Dunbar.

However, lockdowns are a common military practice in cases like these, said Ophardt.

In March 2001, about 150 soldiers were experiences something similar over just one pair of missing night vision goggles.

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