Archive for Saturday, July 27, 2002

Fort Bragg stunned by recent slayings of soldiers’ wives

July 27, 2002

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— The wives of four Army soldiers at Fort Bragg, N.C., have been slain in the past six weeks, allegedly by their husbands, in a rash of violence that has shocked the Special Operations Command and left Army commanders deeply concerned, officers at the base said Friday.

Three of the servicemen involved were members of Special Operations units and had recently returned from Afghanistan. Two of those soldiers killed themselves, police said. The fourth slaying, which occurred earlier this month, was allegedly committed by a sergeant from a regular Army unit that was not involved in the Afghan war.

In addition to these six deaths, an officer assigned to the Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg was shot and killed earlier this week as he slept in his home in nearby Fayetteville. No arrests have been made in that case, a spokesman for the Fayetteville police department said.

"It's mind-boggling," Henry Berry, manager of an Army family support program, said at a news conference at the base Friday. "To be absolutely honest, I was completely caught off guard."

Fort Bragg is one of the Army's biggest bases. It is home to about 40,000 troops, including two elite units, the 82nd Airborne Division and the Army Special Forces Command, that have played key roles in the Afghan war.

Special Forces troops were at the fore of the U.S. offensive in Afghanistan last fall, coordinating airstrikes against Taliban and al-Qaida front lines and also working with local Afghan opposition forces. Parts of the 82nd Airborne recently were deployed to Afghanistan to replace units from the 10th Mountain and 101st Airborne divisions.

Commanding officers, especially in Special Forces, are puzzled and concerned by the string of killings, military officials said. "They're running around in circles here," one senior officer said in a telephone interview.

"I've never seen anything like it," said retired Air Force Col. John Carney, who spent almost two decades in Special Operations units. He said he knows many of the commanders of the units involved.

Carney said he expects that commanders at Fort Bragg will conduct a review of how troops and their families were handled as they returned from Afghanistan to "try to figure out where they missed signals, and hopefully avoid future problems."

The domestic murders on the base were first reported in Friday's editions of the Fayetteville Observer.

At the news conference, Col. Jerome Haberek, a Special Operations chaplain, said, "We're going to evaluate everything we do."

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