Several soldiers at yesterday’s pre-trial hearing for Staff Sgt. David Bram at Joint Base Lewis-McChord testified that they weren’t aware of drug use in their platoon until word got out that Pfc. Justin Stoner had raised concerns about his comrades smoking hashish in a room he shared with a specialist.
That’s despite the relatively close group of housing units where the soldiers lived at Forward Operating Base Ramrod in southern Afghanistan.
Sgt. Michael Hefter was in a squad that reported to Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, who allegedly devised schemes to kill Afghan civilians during his deployment this year with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Gibbs is at the center of the Army’s investigation into his platoon, and he allegedly assaulted Stoner with Bram and four others.
Hefter testified yesterday that he was unaware of any drug use in his platoon.
Lt. Stefan Moye, who led the platoon beginning in March, also said he didn’t know his soldiers were smoking hashish. His said his living quarters were about 15 feet from Bram’s. Moye also walked through the platoon’s housing area regularly.
Sgt. First Class Jason Ditmer said he checked in with his soldiers from time to time to borrow movies or to ask how they were doing. He didn’t see signs of drug use, either, until Stoner blew the whistle on May 3.
Moye and Ditmer said every soldier in the platoon took a urine test after Stoner was assaulted on May 5. To their knowledge, none tested positive for drug use.
Those accounts somewhat contradict sworn statements from other soldiers in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment that described drug use as rampant at FOB Ramrod. Twelve soldiers from Stoner’s platoon stand accused of various crimes, and are awaiting trials at Lewis-McChord.
Stoner told Army investigators that he was concerned he and his roommate were being set up to take the fall if soldiers were caught smoking hashish in his living quarters. His identity leaked quickly as platoon leaders prepared to investigate his accusations, soldiers testified yesterday.