Skip to comments.Sniper team tells of pressure from above [SSgt Hensley, Sgt Vela, and Spc. Sandoval]
Posted on 10/05/2007 8:31:30 AM PDT by RedRover
BAGHDAD -- Here they were, hardened combat soldiers, grounded on a military base far from the palm groves, canals and marshes where they once prowled.
But at least for a moment this week, they were still the Painted Demons, the elite sniper unit that struck fear in the so-called triangle of death south of Baghdad. That couldn't be taken away: not by breaking them up, as the Army had done, and not even by the murder trials of three of their members at Camp Victory.
Interviews and court transcripts portray a 13-man sniper unit that felt under pressure to produce a high body count, a Vietnam-era measure that the Pentagon officially has disavowed in this war. They describe a sniper unit whose margins of right and wrong were blurred: by Hensley, if you believe Army prosecutors; by the Army, if you believe the accused.
The main line of defense for Vela and Hensley is a shocking one: In their zeal to get more "kills" out of snipers, officers of the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, allegedly pushed a program of leaving weaponry as "bait," and allowing snipers to kill anyone who came to pick the items up. That, defense attorneys say, led to loose rules of engagement that the Army now says amounted to murder.
"Our government is asking our soldiers and Marines to make morally bruising decisions under the most horrific conditions imaginable," [said Sgt. Vela's attorney, James Culp] "When the government doesn't like the results, they isolate and vilify the soldier while hiding behind security clearances, classifications and unreasonable expectations."
(Excerpt) Read more at latimes.com ...
Freepers interested in helping, can go to the Sgt. Evan Vela Defense Fund
These men are called Snipers because that’s what they do. If congress don’t like what they do, send them home. Don’t whine when they kill a few terrorists.
Perhaps the Pentagon should just put all of our combat soldiers in prison as soon as they get home.
Political Correctness is what is going to keep us in
Iraq for a thousand years.
“But the rising kill rate brought greater scrutiny. After two specialists in the sniper unit were caught sleeping on watch, they alerted Army officials to what they suspected was the baiting program”
I think this quote from the story says a lot. How much is made up? What kind of a pleas deal did thes two get? How much are they willing to lie to conver their incompetence?
It IS that simple. In this case, and in the recent Green Beret case, the Army leadership is failing its men.
I have never seen or heard such an anguished indictment of leadership in all the time I've been associated with the Army. It makes your hair stand on end. This is a MUST read article. Go to the link.
The members of the unit -- and they still consider themselves a unit -- are angry over what has happened to them. They blame those outside their ranks. Sgt. Richard Hand, who was on the May 11 mission in which Vela said he shot the Iraqi, lashed out at the prosecutors and the Army command during his testimony in July. He criticized officers for not understanding life on the sniper teams, which survive by their wits in the Iraqi countryside.
"If you've never been outside the wire, you really have no basis -- you don't have a basis to judge what I do or what I don't do. You've never been in a life-or-death situation, where you've had to count on the guy to your left and right," Hand said.
"People who stay back here, in my opinion, are not mentally in the game. They've never been out there."
Any officer or noncom in a leadership position that has anything to do with snipers should be required to read the book of the career of Carlos Hathcock “White Feather.” He was one, if not the best at what he did and a survivor.
At least our government is consistent. It sounds like it operates in Iraq the same way it operated at Rudy Ridge, Idaho.
I do not see how the government can compel my son to testify in Sandovalâs trial and again in Hensleyâs trial and still put him through his own trial. Much like they were used as pawns in the governments scheme at Iskandariyah, Evan is being used as a pawn again. The charges need to be dropped now. I can see the horror of war behind his eyes. I can see it in all those young men. Behind the laughter and the camaraderie there is a subtle thread of knowledge that they do not want to have. Everyone over there is tired. Mentally and physically. I was there for six days and I am the same. They are all numb.
LOL !! Fobbits — good moniker and brings up the Hobbit image. Thanks for a laugh in this serious story. I just can’t comprehend the depths that the lack of leadership from the upper echelons have sunk to since I left the Navy. Sure, politics played a part then, but it was not as flagrant as it seems now, nor did it seem to extend much outside the Beltway.
Thanks for your insight from the land side of the team.
Fobbit = REMF
Different war, same old S***.
Prayers for all that serve and have served.
Glad you’re home, Curtis. Hope your boy is with you soon.
Heard from Jim Culp that he believes this is the most important case he’s ever tried.
Keep us posted on developments, will you? You and your son have friends have.
Thank you for keeping Red abreast, and through him the rest of us, in the activities going on in this case. Likewise, I hope your son is home soon, along with his team mates, and they can fully recover the dignity and worth that this debacle seems to have stripped from them.
Hey, HP, we’ve prayed for you and Evan an awful lot.
Do you have any info on Hensley’s legal team? We want to make sure ALL of our guys are adequately represented. If you’ve got anything, feel free to freepmail me on it.
Grace & Strength,
Wish I could take credit for it, brit, but I laughed when I first heard it, too.
It was from my son in an email from when he spent his year in Iraq. He was regularly outside the gate of their FOB; sometimes I think he lived outside the gate.
In any case, the troops themselves came up with the name for those who live their time in Iraq on the FOB, but are never in the big wide open. It is especially meant for those who SHOULD be outside leading, guiding their men, but who ride desks because something always “comes up.”
I laughed out loud first time he used it.
Here, here. or is HEAR HEAR
Round these parts, we say “Bump!”.
(BTW, “ping” means “have a look”.)
Absolutely. Welcome to the post modern world.
Welcome to Free Republic. According to the LA Times article, Sgt. Vela’s preliminary hearing began on Sunday. Is this his article 32? I thought it had been pushed off until later.
Nov. 10 is the tentative reschedule date for the 32.
Maybe we could get all the people on death row, lifers, on
sniper teams. Then when somebody starts crying they are
criminals, you can just smile, nod, and say “yeah, I KNOW”.
Typical, the grunts do the heavy lifting and then their very own officers turn on them.
Where were they supposed to get the bait? Who provided the detcord, ammo, AK's, etc?
1. It was issued.
2. It was supposed to be located on the battlefield?
3. It dropped from the sky from a genie?
My money’s on the genie. It is the only logical , reasonable explanation. Everything else is a whimsical flight of fancy.
I have decided that it is time to get Evan released.
The bait came from Sgt.Maj. Knight, from Lt.Col. Balcavage, (aka, BadCabbage) from Col. Garrett, who got it from one of our government agencies that like to sneak around. He gave it directly to Hensley. Remember they told Mike H. to skip Lt. Didier and Capt. Levine and report directly to BadCabbage.
I have spoken with other soldiers in the last 18 months. I am told that every FOB in Iraq has bait. The difference in our case is that the bait was micro-chipped in order for the eye in the sky to track it. That is why that “spook” from “Techtron” approached me in Camp Victory to tell me how concerned his “Company” was about Evan’s well being. I was comforted to hear from him that “they” knew where I lived and worked and for how long.
So nice to have “Guardian Angels” that develop high tech weapon systems watching over me.
Perhaps I never told you this story. Tom Junod was so intrigued he actually researched Techtron. Looks like a dummy/front corporation.
Or the bait was dropped from the sky by a Genie.