SEATTLE – A news website that focuses heavily on the U.S. military has published a scathing article about Washington state's Joint Base Lewis-McChord, saying it has "developed a reputation as the most troubled base in the military."
Stars and Stripes cites revelations that a dozen soldiers have been accused of war crimes in Afghanistan. Five of them are charged with murdering three Afghan citizens.
In September, Sgt. Joshua Tabor, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, was sent to jail for "waterboarding" his 3-year-old daughter because she didn't know her ABCs.
The article also mentions that the medical center at JBLM was accused of turning away National Guard soldiers seeking mental health care.
In addition, several soldiers in the Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment reportedly admitted using steroids before being deployed in 2009. Some of them allegedly said about half of the battalion used steroids.
General Barry McCaffrey, (Ret.), said there has been a “severe discipline breakdown” with the leaders of the Stryker Brigade, based at JBLM.
“Is the base having a problem? Categorically, no,” said McCaffrey. “Is there a severe leadership problem? Absolutely.”
"I'm seeing lots more DUIs, more spousal abuse and then a rapid increase in sex crimes I prosecute as well," said Dominique Jinhong, who prosecuted the waterboarding father case. She claims certain soldiers she has investigated get preferential treatment from the Army.
"If the soldier is liked, then you'd see less cooperation from the command, and I'm talking about the company level. But if they're kind of a so-so soldier because they're not doing well in the unit, then they kind of back off and do whatever you want to cooperate," said Jinhong.
A JBLM spokesperson issued the following stateent in response to the article in Stars and Stripes.
"We are surprised at Stars and Stripes' uninformed characterization of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Certainly, a small number of highly visible but isolated episodes have challenged JBLM this past year, in the same way all large communities are challenged by the acts of a few. We are dealing appropriately with those incidents. However, they pale in comparison to the remarkable accomplishments of the bases' 40,000 service members, 55,000 family members and 15,000 civilian employees, who have contributed so much to the nation and to our surrounding communities. A short list of those accomplishments highlights include preparation, deployment, combat duty and redeployment of 18,000 skilled service members last year; establishment of groundbreaking new programs to support our returning warriors; the successful merger of Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base into what we now know as JBLM; and a multi-billion-dollar construction boom to improve the quality of life and training capabilities of the installation.
More to the point, JBLM remains one of the Army's most requested duty assignments. It's the result of the sterling reputation earned daily by the men and women of Joint Base Lewis-McChord."
“My experience, and my family’s experience have been positive,” said Sgt. Dan Mowrey, who has served at JBLM since 2003. "Certainly, in any organization especially the size of the Army, you run into individuals that there might be issues with."