New documents obtained by the KING 5 Investigators reveal stunning details about recruiter misconduct in the Washington National Guard.
They expose the tactics of one “burned out” recruiter and raise questions about what the Guard did when it caught her and another soldier red-handed.
In 2006, the U.S. Military was straining to gear up for the "surge" in Iraq. In November of that year re-enlistment papers were submitted for Washington National Guard soldier Mike Patrick.
The problem was the signatures on the forms weren't his.
We showed Patrick 127 pages we just received under the Freedom of Information Act, never before seen details about the investigation launched when he complained to superiors.
“It sounds crazy. It sounds like something out of a movie," said Patrick as he read through the paperwork for the first time.
Sgt. Wendy H. Schaefer is the signed recruiter on Patrick's re-enlistment documents.
In a written statement to military investigators she said, "I became very burned-out on recruiting." Later she wrote, “I was very depressed and most of my work was done by others I paid to do it for me."
Schaefer admitted to paying soldiers and civilians from her own pocket for each lead and promising Guard-funded bonuses of up to $1,000 for each enlistment.
"It's hard to believe this would have gone on and somebody wouldn't have caught this," said Patrick.
The Guard quickly recognized that signatures and initials on Patrick's contract did not square. It determined that a soldier, who served with Patrick, was paid a $1,000 bonus for Patrick's supposed re-enlistment.
"I knew him. I didn't know him well," said Patrick.
Investigators determined that Schaefer "created an environment that may have caused some of these 'paid assistants' to fabricate documents in order to get money."
Schaefer would not open the door and talk to us when we reached her at her Kent apartment.
She left the Guard, and in an e-mail told us, "They never took any disciplinary action against me."
The soldier who was paid the bonus was also free to move along. According to his Facebook page he now works for a military contractor in Iraq. He wouldn't comment for this story. We’re not naming him because there is no record he was ever charged.
"It appears to me that nothing really was done," said Patrick. “It sends a message of tolerance."
Mike Patrick did suffer with an unfavorable discharge rating that held up his security clearance at a civilian job a couple years later.
The Guard apologized and upgraded him to a fully honorable discharge a day after KING 5 told his story in 2008.
The documents we received in the Patrick case do not explain how anyone would possibly think they could get away with signing over a soldier's life. About the same time as Patrick's predicament, another recruiter controversy was brewing, one that wouldn't be uncovered right away.
Former Sgt. Keith Jackson says he signed a one-year contract. But, at the end of that year, the Guard claimed he’d signed a two-year contract, which two recruiters swore they witnessed him sign.
"I didn't sign it,” said Jackson. “This isn’t my signature,” he said, looking at the document.
Just released documents show the recruiters, who had no connection to Patrick's case, claimed Jackson was trying to "get out of (his second) deployment" to Iraq, first by requesting a transfer and then through his forgery claim.
Jackson’s response: "I really don't know what to say to that. The evidence says otherwise."
Perhaps Jackson's most powerful evidence is the re-enlistment document itself, which says Jackson was sworn in at a recruiting station in Issaquah on a date his travel records show he was overseas for his full-time job as a military contractor.
"We couldn't have been in the same room together. I was in Iraq, he was here," said Jackson.
In the document the recruiters certify "I have witnessed the signature" on the enlistment form, Jackson's. But how could that be if the signing happened over a cell phone as the recruiters claim in their just-released statements?
While the Guard denies the forgery it granted Jackson an honorable discharge soon after KING 5 first told his story.
The former Army sergeant’s fight these days is in federal court. Jackson sued the two recruiters in a case a judge dismissed on procedural grounds. Last week, Jackson’s attorney filed an appeal.
The Washington National Guard would not appear on camera for this story. The Guard says military “careers ended” for soldiers in the Patrick case, but it wouldn’t specify if their discharges were honorable or if they were punished.
The Guard says the Jackson case is another story, and that it stands by the statements of their recruiters.