TACOMA -- “Susie” and “Chaka" are both Army wives, both have husbands in the 4th Stryker Brigade, both are too scared to talk on camera or let us use their real names. That’s because both of their husbands are under restrictions right now, confined to barracks on Joint Base Lewis-McChord while the Army investigates a huge theft case.
“They’re not feeding the married ones,” Susie said as she plans what to bring her husband to eat. “They took their cell phones. Then they gave them back but they wouldn’t let them turn them on.”
It’s the same story from Chaka.
“It’s not fair. The officers they can come and go but the others can’t,” she said.
But an Army spokesperson says some of those perceptions might be wrong. He tells us all the married soldiers get stipends for meals, and they can spend that money on base in base facilities, or have food brought in and get reimbursed. As for cell phones, he says the soldiers were asked to turn them in and all of them did. They can still use them to make ca`lls, but they have to come and get permission to do so. In addition, we're told there are five officers who are under the same restrictions. The spokesperson tells us they have other duties that take them out of the barracks which might make it look like they are coming and going freely, but they are under similar restrictions.
The Criminal Investigation Command is looking into the theft of $600,000 worth of gun-scopes, sighting mechanisms, night vision equipment and more. The equipment was taken from a storage area connected with the 4th Stryker Brigade. Now the investigators are offering a $10,000 reward for information in the case.
An Army spokesperson says the case and the restrictions on personnel are open-ended, with no way to predict when they might end. No actual weapons are involved and the Army doesn’t believe there is any immediate threat to public safety.
Still, Major Chris Ophardt says, “It’s expensive stuff. And we want it back.”
He admits it's an extreme case.
“We have not had a restriction like this in recent memory,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chaka and Susie say the soldiers are all being given lie-detector tests, something the base, the Stryker Unit and the Investigators will not confirm.