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Category: Iraq policy


Yes, yes I did suffer a gaping flesh wound while doing yoga in Baghdad

Ever since my story about an Army Special Operations unit summiting Mount Adams last month was published, friends and readers ask, “Did you really do that with them?”

That’s when I stand a little straighter, smile, and say, “Yeah, I kept up with the guys.”

The guys are an elite team from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The summit stands at 12,276 feet. The hike called for about 7,000 feet of elevation gain over two days with temperatures dropping into the low 20s. I had reason to be proud.

What I don’t tell my skeptical friends is that I spent the

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Defense attorney for Army killer Sgt. John Russell argues troubled troops deserve better care

Nearly every time I write about the Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier who murdered 16 Afghan civilians in Kandahar Province, I get calls from readers who argue the Army should drop its charges against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.

They feel that Bales was a hero for serving with honor on three previous deployments to Iraq with Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. They believe his actions can be explained somewhat by the psychological toll those tours of duty took on the 39-year-old father of two. (They can find info about how to help Bales here.)

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Sergeant who killed five troops at Baghdad clinic grew paranoid in weeks leading up to slayings

Sgt. John Russell grew increasingly paranoid in the days before he killed five fellow U.S. service members at a Baghdad combat stress clinic, soldiers who knew him testified today.

His belief that his unit was trying to kick him out of the Army was one of the reasons his commander, Capt. Mark Natale, referred him to counseling instead of disciplining him for an insubordinate, expletive laden outburst in early May 2009.

If he could go back to that moment, Natale would not be so generous.

“If I would’ve known what I know now, I probably would have zip-tied his (butt)

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Survivor of Baghdad fratricide saw gunman’s boots and knew “it’s one of our people”

Sgt. Dominic Morales still hears an “evil chuckle” in his nightmares.

He remembers it as the frightening laugh Sgt. John Russell emitted just before he shot another helpless, unarmed soldier in the face inside a Baghdad combat stress clinic four years ago.

The victim “didn’t have a weapon. He was just a sitting duck,” Morales testified today at the second day of Russell’s court-martial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Russell, 48, has already pleaded guilty to killing a Navy commander and four soldiers at the  Camp Liberty combat stress clinic on May 11, 2009. He’s on trial facing a life sentence

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“I wanted the pain to stop,” Army sergeant says in pleading guilty to killing five others

1:10 p.m. update:

Sgt. John Russell returned to a Baghdad combat stress clinic “in a rage,” seeking out the doctor who he believed had encouraged him to commit suicide that day.

He didn’t see the doctor, but he attacked the clinic nonetheless.

Russell, 48, today admitted that he shot five fellow military service members to death at a combat stress clinic at CampLiberty in Baghdad on May 11, 2009.

“I wanted the pain to stop,” he testified in court at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Russell of Sherman, Texas struck a plea agreement with the Army that capped his maximum punishment at

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Soldier accused of killing five service members at Baghdad clinic expected to plead guilty next week

A soldier who faced the death penalty on charges that he murdered five service members at a military mental health clinic in Baghdad reached a plea agreement with the Army this week and is expected in court at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Monday.

The Army’s announcement of the agreement and coming court date signal the end of a four-year effort to bring Sgt. John Russell, 48, to trial for allegedly killing Navy Cmdr. Charles Springle and the Army’s Maj. Matthew Houseal, Sgt. Christian Bueno-Galdos, Spc. Jacob Barton and Pfc. Michael Yates Jr. on May 11, 2009.

The charges marked the

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JBLM officer looks back at three combat tours in new book, “Iraq Full Circle”


Col. Darron Wright thought he knew who the bad guys were on his first deployment to Iraq. They were Sunni Muslim insurgents giving his soldiers hell in the communities around Saddam Hussein’s hometown.
By his last tour six years later with a Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker brigade, Wright found himself sharing tea and meals with leaders of some of the same groups – men he blamed for those early fatal attacks on American soldiers and vicious assaults on Iraqi civilians.
“This dude had so much blood on his hands,” Wright, 44, remembered from a 2010 meeting with

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Inslee’s tax credit for hiring veterans and a Seattle job fair aim to smooth transitions for soldiers


Lt. Gen. Robert Brown visited Amazon this week to praise the company’s veterans’ hiring initiatives. Photo by Maj. Johnpaul Arnold.

Army and state leaders this week put a spotlight on programs aimed at hiring more veterans, seeking to build ties between the military and private employers as the Armed Forces enters a period of downsizing.

Gov. Jay Inslee today proposed a tax credit that would go to businesses that hire unemployed veterans.

His proposal says the credit would be up to percent of wages (maxing out at $3,000) for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans or

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