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Witnesses to Afghan killings describe alleged mastermind as a solid leader

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Nov. 26, 2010 at 11:26 am |
November 26, 2010 11:26 am

The Army’s investigation into a group of Stryker soldiers who allegedly killed Afghan civilians paints Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs as the ringleader, but soldiers who served with him have been contradicting that picture at recent hearings.

Several witnesses who were stationed with Gibbs at Forward Operating Base Ramrod earlier this year say he was a solid leader.  In contrast, they say they didn’t trust Spc. Jeremy Morlock, who with Gibbs is accused of three murders. Morlock told investigators in May that Gibbs made up scenarios to kill civilians and they carried them out during patrols.

Here’s how Sgt. Eric Skinner described Gibbs at a pretrial hearing for another Stryker soldier accused of killing a civilian with Gibbs and Morlock:

“He was a cool guy as far as his personality. He always cracked jokes and didn’t like to micromanage. He didn’t like to be in everybody’s business.

Skinner said he wasn’t aware of the alleged schemes to kill civilians. He said he heard Gibbs call Afghans “savages,” but in a joking way.

Skinner was one of three soldiers who called Morlock a “liar” this week when they testified at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Gibbs appeared in court for an Article 32 hearing earlier this month. Aside from the murders, he faces other grotesque charges, such as keeping bones from Afghan corpses. The Army has several witnesses who could testify that Gibbs had those war “trophies,” but Morlock’s accounts will become crucial because few others saw the three suspicious killings that now make up the murder charges against them.

Along with Morlock, other soldiers who told investigators that they were aware of Gibbs’ kill schemes have refused to testify at the pretrial hearings that have taken place so far. Another picture of Gibbs could emerge when they are compelled to testify.

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