TACOMA, Wash. -- Top military leaders were at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Friday, addressing issues surrounding the military base near Tacoma but answering no questions about the JBLM soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians last weekend.
General David M. Rodriguez, commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), fielded questions about the base's reputation in light of the recent high-profile events.
"It's a tragedy," Rodriguez said of the recent massacre in Afghanistan. "We are disappointed and shocked like everybody else."
While he didn't address specific questions about the killings, he said he was confident about the base's abilities, calling it a powerful asset to the Army. In response to recent news headlines calling JBLM "on the brink," Rodriguez shared his impressions of the base.
"I think that's an unfortunate headline. We have a lot of confidence in the chain of command of leadership here and we think we're doing very, very well," said Rodriguez. "Again, that doesn't solve every problem."
He also addressed issues regarding Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and questions regarding multiple deployments. He said JBLM was looking at command procedures and multiple deployments on a case by case basis. He said there were no cookie cutter solutions to re-deployments, but acknowledged there were challenges.
"I'm confident there's sufficient screening prior to repeated deployments. We continue to learn and get better at that every time. We're not perfect, but we've made tremendous progress on that and I am confident that the system is working overall," he said.
As for the impression that there was controversy at the base, in light of multiple recent events linking JBLM soldiers to crimes, Rodriguez responded: "There's nothing different here than most places. Those things happen. Everybody knows that doesn't reflect our standards and our values, nor does it reflect the majority of leaders and soldiers who serve here every day as well as overseas."
A JBLM soldier, who remains unidentified, is suspected of going on a shooting rampage in villages near his base in southern Afghanistan early Sunday, killing nine children and seven other civilians and then burning some of their bodies.
A U.S. senior defense official said soldier is expected to be flown out of the Middle East to the U.S. military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., as early as Friday. Officials said that transfer was necessary because there was no appropriate detention facility to hold him in Afghanistan.
The soldier's family has hired high profile Seattle lawyer John Henry Browne to represent the 38-year-old staff sergeant. Browne said his client had twice been injured during tours in Iraq and was reluctant to leave on his fourth deployment.
Some reports have indicated that alcohol may have been a factor in the shootings. Browne said that as far as the soldier's family knew, he did not have a drinking problem.
Browne is declining to release the soldier's name because of fears of retaliation against his family.
Browne recently represented Colton Harris-Moore, the youthful thief known as the "Barefoot Bandit."