The following statement was written by current and former soldiers in 4th Battalion 9th Infantry Regiment at Fort Lewis, Wash. As of this statement, soldiers in Charlie Company of this battalion have been held on lockdown in their barracks for several days as a form of collective punishment, due to the failure of their officers to maintain control of sensitive items. Soldiers are even being denied the right to contact their families, who are now left in the dark. This statement is currently being distributed on Fort Lewis and around the country calling on everyone to take action to pressure the commanders at 4/9 Infantry to end the unfair and senseless lockdown of the barracks.
The Fort Lewis, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment is again being subjected to abusive treatment by its chain of command. At this moment, Battalion Commander LTC James Dooghan has Charlie Company on lockdown. This means the soldiers who have done no wrong are being held against their will, not allowed to leave the base or even their barracks 24 hours a day.
Battalion Commander LTC Dooghan has also denied soldiers their right to properly prepare themselves to leave the military by ACAP (Army Career and Alumni Program—a mandatory series of workshops that are essential to helping soldiers transition from military to civilian life) and forcing them to participate in training exercises.
Enlisted soldiers in 4/9 Infantry are on lockdown because of the negligence of their officers and senior NCOs, who failed to maintain positive control over their sensitive items. Somehow over $630,000 worth of equipment have gone missing from C co.
Who pays for the failures of this unit’s leadership? The soldiers and their families. Incompetent leaders are punishing the entire company with a lockdown to cover their tracks. Why should service members be denied free time or the right to be with their families when we have committed no wrong? Why should officers exercise such reckless control over our lives?
The denial of ACAP rights is almost unheard of in the military. This deprives soldiers of the right to prepare for the difficult transition to civilian life. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans face disproportionately high rates of unemployment, homelessness and suicide upon separating from the military because of the failure to adequately provide the support and services we deserve--denying soldiers the right to ACAP is denying us the most essential tools we need to succeed in this transition, which will affect the rest of our lives.
The Fort Lewis 4/9 Infantry has become known around the world. It is one of the most troubled bases in the U.S. military, at the center of numerous public scandals regarding its treatment of soldiers. Suicides in the unit continue at an alarming rate with no accountability for the officers who refuse to address the PTSD crisis.
But 4/9 Infantry is also known for its soldiers speaking out and fighting back for their rights. 4/9 Infantry soldiers have been organizing together for better conditions since the preventable suicide of fellow soldier Sgt. Derrick Kirkland. In August, several members and veterans of 4/9 Infantry held a high-profile speak out outside Fort Lewis drawing attention to the criminally inadequate mental health treatment afforded to service members. The action made national headlines.
The current lockdown is the same old story: the officers and senior NCOs exhibit carelessness and incompetence, and then lower enlisted soldiers suffer—from mental health issues that go unaddressed, to pointless combat patrols, to collective punishment for the ineptitude of military officers.
It is for these reasons that active-duty soldiers throughout the entire U.S. military are joining together to take collective action. The problems we face can only be changed by the rank-and-file working and organizing together.
All across the country, this statement is being circulated by soldiers, veterans and supporters, calling on everyone to call the 4/9 Battalion Headquarters to demand an end the lockdown and the right to ACAP. Active-duty service members are coming together and organizing to stand up for our own interests against the abuses from our chain of command. Join us!