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Jan/Feb 2008 Fiction

Excerpted from the Shahid Dastgerdi Report: Article 18-6 Investigation of the 759th Military Police Brigade

by Rob McClure Smith

Photo by Steve Wing


Background

1. (U) On 19 January 2012, Lieutenant General (LTG) Elmer Fitzgerald, Commander, Combined Joint Task Force 13 (CJTF-13) requested that the Commander, US Central Command, appoint an Investigating Officer (IO) in the grade of Major General (MG) or above to investigate the conduct of operations within the 759th Military Police (MP) Brigade. LTG Fitzgerald requested an investigation of Islamist Miscreant Termination Operations (IMTO) by the Brigade on the evening of 8 March 2011. LTG Fitzgerald further requested a comprehensive and all-encompassing inquiry to make findings and recommendations concerning the fitness and performance of the 759th MP Brigade.

2. (U) On 31 January 2012, the Commander, CFLCC, appointed MG Peter Schwartzman, Deputy Commanding General Support, CFLCC. MG Schwartzman was directed to conduct an informal investigation under AR 18-6 into the 759th MP Brigade’s IMTO procedures.

Specifically, MG Schwartzman was tasked to:

a. (U) Inquire into all the facts and circumstances surrounding allegations of improper IMTO procedures outside Tehran Confinement Facility 12 (TCF-12), this inquiry to focus specifically on incidents that transpired on the evening of 8 March, 2011 in the vicinity of Shahid Dastgerdi soccer stadium.

b. (U) Investigate the training, standards, deployment, command structure, internal procedures, and command climate in the 759th MP Brigade, as appropriate.

c. (U) Make specific findings of fact concerning all aspects of the investigation, and make any recommendations for corrective action, as appropriate.

 

Findings

In addition to MG Honaker's and MG McCracken's earlier site reports, the investigation team reviewed facility staff logs/journals and numerous digital recordings pertaining to the incident of the evening of 8 March 2011. (ANNEXES 4-20, 38, 94, and 95).

Following systematic review, it is our finding that the 759th MP Brigade experienced challenges adapting its task organizational structure, training, and equipment resources from a unit designed to conduct standard IMTO operations in the COMMZ (Bangladesh).

Further, reviewing available documentation, we find abundant evidence that the 759th MP unit did not receive adequate Disassembly/Termination (D/T) specific training during their mobilization period. Specifically, the 759th MP Brigade lacked adequate personnel training for a mission that required mandated D/T procedures outside TCF-12 such as the procedure at Shahid Dastgerdi hereafter detailed.

Further, there is comprehensive evidence in the statements of numerous witnesses and participants that soldiers throughout the 759th MP Brigade were not proficient in their basic D/T skills, as exemplified particularly in the events of the evening of 8 March 2011. We consider this finding indubitable (in this regard see below and Appendix XV/iii).

 

Interviews

a. (I) SPC Jean Hallam, 759th MP Brigade, stated in her sworn statement regarding the incident of 8 March that the executee, IM74435, had been originally, as per required SOP, taken from Tehran Confinement Facility 12 (TCF-12) and conveyed in an armored Personnel Carrier, clad only in a cotton shirt, to the reconfigured termination site at Shahid Dastgerdi. Hallam testified that: We got off to a lousy start when one of them new Strykers broke down over where the Azadi tower used to be. So everyone that night was right away pissy and beat from the get-go. We had to ditch the Judas Cradle and Spanish Donkey and some other kit. SPC Hallam, however, also went on to observe: It was usual SOP though, not a biggie, the skin to be torn from the IM's chest, arms, and legs with the pincers, the hands burnt with phosphorous, your usual burning resin and wax and hot sulfur deal. Rocket science it ain't. I was definitely concerned about the D/T spec though because I'd never seen one done. SGT Willis said not to fret and how he'd figure the disassembly and in fact led me to believe he'd seen a couple done to IMs over Mashhad way the year before by the Israelis during the second eastern insurgency. He said the Yids had gotten excellent at it by now. SPC Hallam observed that SGT Willis was in charge on this occasion: What I was told was how BG Ellington was indisposed again. SPC Hallam was further led to believe that her unit commander was upset by the specifics of the original D/T order and noted that the latter had in fact been thought by her subordinates to be emotionally unstable since the Home Soil Patriot martial law declaration earlier in the year. SPC Hallam observed the following in this regard: BG Ellington was I thought well nutso by then, and what with her massive crying jags and such it weren't like nobody paid her any mind no more anyway.

b. (I) SGT Elliot Abrams, 759th MP Brigade, stated in his sworn statement as follows: The sulfur got lit pretty much alright but the flame was so lame that just the very top skin of the wrists it was got burnt, and that just a tad, a bit blackening. Then SPC Willis took the new steel pincers, the ones with the big carved H, which must have been about a foot and a half long, and pulled at the calf of the right leg, then at the thigh, and then at some of the fleshy parts of the right arm, but he had all kinds of malfunction issues. Specifically addressing the nature of these ensuing problems, SGT Abrams noted the following: Well, I think he found it pretty much impossible to rip off the pieces of flesh the right way. The same as how the new batch of pilliwinkes were badly designed and just wouldn't grip right all the way. You know, he'd set about the same spot two or three times, twisting at the skin as he went, and what he took away only left a spirally flesh wound about the size of a nickel every time. It looked like some weird-ass pock marking. When asked if he recalled what opinions SPC Willis may have expressed regarding the equipment failure, SGT Abrams stated: SPC Willis said they was another fucking useless piece of Hali (sic) crap and that the military needed to get the finger out and design their own intelligence gathering apps in future, something like that. Profanity was used and this was very upsetting to the religious members of the unit. SGT Abrams observed that the IM cried out profusely during the procedure, at one point raising his head and looking first at the strips of flesh hanging from his breastbone and then at SPC Willis as he dipped the iron spoon in the pot. Finally, SGT Abrams stated that (sic): The other staffs to my understanding had been giving Willis compliments on the way he had been handling the terminations, but this one was obviously more difficult with the built-in D/T element and that, and he wasn't up to the task, matter of fact towards the end it had all gotten completely out of hand not to mention embarrassing as well.

c. (I) SPC Jason Willis, 759th MP Company, in his sworn statement, admitted that he was present for the entire duration of the D/T procedure: I was there for a lot of it but don't have a recollection of everything, except how it took forever. It was SGT Abrams' idea to use the motorbikes due to there being an unavailability of horses regionally. But someone, maybe SPC Reardon, said we'd best sever the sinews and hack the IM's joints or whatever first. All the while the IM was screaming, to Allah I guess, and the crowd that we had had detained and assemblaged (sic) by the Kurds outside the mosques earlier that day was kind of restless and mopey. Must have been quite a few hundred by then. It was muggy too, I remember that, had rained the day before, and everyone was sweating quite a bit. I helped with the ropes and we got one on each limb. Despite all the pain and not being comfortable exactly, the IM raised its head from time to time and I got the impression the IM was staring at me also. I supposed maybe the ropes had gotten tied too tight. It had been shaved in a hurry so I saw there was a lot of razor cuts on its face. But the translator weren't there, I don't know why, it's typical, so I couldn't be sure if that was what was up or not. Our regular Trans is a Paki doesn't really speak the lingo anyways, which is a problem in general. So I untied the ropes some anyways and it didn't make no difference as far as I could tell. After a while I left because I was feeling sick to the stomach and all that caterwauling was giving me a serious case of the fantods. At which point it was I think SPC Hallam called me a goddamn pussy. SPC Willis further observed: I was totally unknowledgeable (sic) at that time of the existence of the D/T operations manual. It was some duration later it was found in BG Ellington's office stuffed in back of some desk, which was not real useful.

d. (I) Mr. Adel L. Pirhabi, a US civilian contractor was questioned about the procedures for the final termination. In his sworn statement he observed (sic): The bikes tugging hard, they had all pulling on a limb you see. After a quarter an hour, with no go, the bikes had to be tied up again, and then two more brought from Chaleh Maydan, which took a long time and made four. Then one broke down would you believe at all? And they had to fix it up. They said it was something to do with the oil pan. The ones tied at the arms were made to pull towards the head like this, see? Those at the thighs pulled towards the arms, which I think was breaking the body at the joints maybe. You say 'joints'? The arms didn't look right. Like how a doll would be broken, yes? Not socketed right? This was done by the soldiers a lot of times and with no success. The man kept raising his head and looking at his body all twisted and praying loudly. At last, I heard I think it was SGT Abrams say to SPC Willis that there was no way, and told him to go back and ask BG Ellington if they could just maybe cut up instead. No way was happening is what I remember he said and shaking his head. While SPC Willis was away, SPC Rodriguez went over to and kissed this man on the forehead. No one said anything, but I found that a very odd thing indeed. Someone say he is not himself since the radiation dosing in Esfahan when he was in Operation Natural Resource Salvage. SPC Willis came back and said BG Ellington was still out of it. That was what he said I remember. He said the stupid bitch was out of it. Stupid bitch I remember is a phrase. Pirhabi described the culmination of the termination procedure thus: Then SGT Abrams took a knife and sliced the body at the thighs. SPC Otterbein said they ought to sever the legs a bit at the joints too for it to work and the same with the arms and shoulders, since the flesh should be cut almost to the bone. I think there was a big argument then and a drawing was made with a bayonet in the dirt track at the edge of the soccer pitch that a number of the soldiers crouched down around and were looking at for a time. It was then SPC Reardon hit SPC O'Connor. In any case this was done too, but I didn't see who did that. Someone must have though. I didn't watch everything because it was a quite unpleasant time. I think SPC Otterbein is from Wisconsin and that there men hunt a lot, so maybe him? Or he is from the Southern states? Some are having accents I cannot match. It went better certainly then. The bikes could do their job much quicker and it was all over lickety-split.

e. (I) SPC Jose Rodriguez, 109th Area Support Medical Battalion, a medic, testified in his sworn statement that although he had told his immediate superiors that the executee was dead subsequent to the earlier procedure, the truth was that he was unsure: I saw the man move, his lower jaw moving from side to side as if he were talking. I still think that the time we lifted the trunk to throw it on the stake like that, he might still have been alive. I didn't want to say anything else because the kill crew (sic) was all so hostile that nothing worked properly. SPC Rodriguez testified also that when the trunk and the rest were covered with logs, SPC Hallam failed to ignite the fire properly. She got really mad about it, cursing up a storm. I told her to calm down, gave her the last tabs of Effexor. The wood had gotten soaked since there was a heavy rain the night before swept down from the Alborz. There was a lot of thick smoke before it caught and the smoke went belching through the stadium like a fog. I remember the white against the black burqas. SPC Kopeli it was took the pictures on his cell. Next day also I remember how there was this dog laying on the grass where the fire had been, which I chased away a few times. But it kept coming back. I suppose it maybe just found that spot warmer than any other. But I wasn't taking any chances. SPC Rodriguez opinionated that actions of this nature in his experience generally run counter to the smooth operation of a reprisal termination event, since they fail adequately to maintain observers in a compliant and docile state: I thought some of them Persians seemed to be getting upset by the whole event. A lot of them wouldn't look. The Kurds had to keep poking them face front with the M-16s. I know the public stuff's supposed to show them what's what, consequences and so on, but the thing was so stupid and took so long and everyone just ends up feeling bad. I felt terrible bad. I think children might be excused attending too. That's another stupid element.

 

Addendum: During the course of this investigation a lengthy interview was conducted with BG Ellington that lasted over six hours, and is included verbatim in the investigation Annexes. BG Ellington was extremely emotional and confrontational during much of her testimony. Particularly disturbing in her testimony was the complete unwillingness to either understand or accept that many of the problems inherent in the 759th MP Brigade were caused or exacerbated by poor leadership and the refusal of her command to establish, communicate and enforce basic standards and principles regarding effective IMTO procedures among its noncommissioned officers. (ANNEX 53 and the Personal Observations of the Interview Team)

 

Recommendations

a) Specific (Personnel)

1. (U) That BG Susan Ellington, Commander, 759th MP Brigade be relieved from Command and given a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand for the following acts previously referenced in the findings:

*failing to ensure that MP soldiers at theater-level termination facilities had appropriate SOPs for dealing with Islamic miscreants and that Commanders and Soldiers had read, understood and would adhere to these SOPS.

*failing to establish basic proficiency in assigned D/T tasks for Soldiers throughout the 759th MP Brigade,

2. (U) That SPC Jose Rodriguez, 109th Area Support Medical Battalion be court-martialed for giving aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war.

b) General (Procedural)

1. (U) That each termination facility commander publish a complete and comprehensive set of Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs) regarding termination protocols, and that all personnel be required to read the SOPs and sign a document indicating that they have read and understand the SOPs.

2. (U) That in accordance with the recommendations of MG McCracken's Assessment Report, and the findings and recommendations of this investigation, all units in the Greater Asiatic Theater conducting Islamist Miscreant Termination Operations in support of Operation Persian Liberation (OPAL) be OPCON for all purposes, to include action under the UCMJ, to CJTF-13.

3. (U) It is further recommended that CJTF-13 dedicate and train a public termination unit (PTU) subordinate to the Joint Interrogation Debriefing Center (JIDC) Commander that will henceforward establish the conditions for the successful public termination of miscreants before assembled witnesses. Regarding D/T reprisal Operations, it is stated that the function of such Operations is to provide a safe, secure, and humane environment that supports and evidences the expeditious application of maximum corporal force in designated public forums.

Approval and implementation of the recommendations of this Investigation and those highlighted in previous assessments are essential to establish the conditions with the resources and personnel required to prevent future occurrences of ineffectually applied and rendered termination operations in the Greater Gulf Region. It is our hope that the establishment of the PTU in the Persian Theater will result in synergy between MP and MI resources and an integrated, synchronized, and focused strategic public Islamist Miscreant Termination Operation (IMTO) program of maximal efficiency.

 

MG Peter Schwartzman,
Deputy Commanding General Support, CFLCC.

 

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