Army probes whether GIs broke military code
Friday, October 15, 2004 Posted: 10:16 PM EDT (0216 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. military said Friday it is investigating whether members of a reservist unit in Iraq broke military code when they failed to follow orders to take part in a dangerous refueling mission.
The military said all 19 members of the Army's 343rd Quartermaster Company -- which has been in Iraq for nine months -- were told to report to duty Wednesday to deliver fuel from Tallil to Taji, a dangerous area north of Baghdad.
Relatives of the soldiers said the troops considered their equipment too unsafe to carry out the mission, according to The Associated Press.
One relative told CNN the gas to be delivered was contaminated with water and was previously refused on a delivery to a less dangerous area.
Some soldiers refused to take part in the mission, resulting in the investigation launched by their commanding officer to determine if there were any violations of the uniform code of military justice.
The military calls it "an isolated incident" and said it's too early in the investigation to speculate as to what exactly happened, why it happened or any action that might be taken as a result.
"Initial indication is that the soldiers scheduled for the convoy mission raised some valid concerns and the command is addressing them," the military statement said, according to Reuters, adding that some soldiers apparently expressed their concerns "in an inappropriate manner."
The mission was eventually carried out by other soldiers in the same unit.
"It was not a mutiny," said Maj. William Ritter of the 81st Reserve Support Command.
There have been no arrests, no one has been detained and everyone is back at their regular jobs, the military said.
Relatives of the reservists said the soldiers had been detained following the incident.
The soldiers refused the order because their vehicles were considered extremely unsafe, Patricia McCook told The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.
Her husband, Sgt. Larry O. McCook, was among those who refused the mission, The AP reported. She said her husband had telephoned her from Iraq saying he had been detained after disobeying orders.
Kathy Harris, the mother of 20-year-old Aaron Gordon of Vicksburg, Mississippi, said she received an e-mail from her son in the unit. It said the reservists were being ordered to deliver a load of contaminated fuel.
Harris said her son had just returned from a delivery in which the load of fuel was refused because it was contaminated and that they were being ordered to deliver the same fuel to an even more dangerous area.
He asked his mom to find out what the penalties were if he refused or if he "struck a superior officer." She said she e-mailed him back not to hit an officer.
Teresa Hill, the mother of 21-year-old Spc. Amber McClenny said her daughter left an urgent phone message Thursday about what had happened and called back Friday.
Hill said her daughter told her their punishment would depend on their actions in the next two weeks.
Her mom is concerned: "You can hear the fear in her voice," she said.