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Killing warning missed in slayings of Afghan civilians

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Stryker BrigadeJoint Base Lewis-McChord’s operations center was hindered by high turnover and inconsistent training when it missed an early warning that could have tipped off the Army about a series of murders allegedly committed by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, according to an Army investigation obtained by The News Tribune.

Lt. Col. Charles Roede’s report primarily faults the noncommissioned officer who failed to act on a phone call he received Feb. 14, 2010, describing plots to kill Afghan civilians.

Staff Sgt. James Michael Beck’s “egregious error in judgment” ensured that no one else heard an alarm from the father of a Lewis-McChord Stryker soldier who had grown fearful of platoonmates scheming to kill civilians, Roede’s report says.

The whistleblower, then-Spc. Adam Winfield, would join in killing a noncombatant three months after his father’s call. Winfield took a plea deal and is serving a three-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter. Winfield and four platoonmates from the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division came home in June 2010 accused of murdering three Afghan civilians. Two have pleaded guilty; two more are awaiting courts-martial.

Winfield’s father said he wasn’t surprised by the report’s findings when a News Tribune reporter described them to him Wednesday. The document was completed a year ago, and he has not seen a copy of it.

“It’s not hard to believe they were making mistakes pretty much everywhere,” Christopher Winfield of Cape Coral, Fla., said in an interview.

Roede was asked by former Lewis-McChord senior Army officer Lt. Gen. John Johnson in September 2010 to investigate Christopher Winfield’s phone call. The Army has kept the finished document under wraps while Adam Winfield’s case moved through military courts.


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