Staff Sergeant, United States Army
When Staff Sergeant Gibbs arrived to a new assignment, it came to his attention that the platoon did not have the minimum combat load of grenades and bullets, a potentially fatal impairment in a war zone. He brought his concerns to the platoon sergeant and it was revealed that the “host” company commander and the “mother” company commander were engaged in a juvenile rivalry and couldn’t agree on who had to provide ammunition. A sergeant told SSG Gibbs that their platoon had been detached from infantry and attached to the Calvary. The Company commanders did not like this hybrid arrangement and Calvary wouldn’t release the ammunition out of spite. SSG Gibbs met with another infantry unit and informed them of the platoon’s vulnerability and he was successful in getting them the supplies they needed. Internal conflicts like these set the stage for a climate of restlessness that tormented a young squad eager to “get in on the action” and prove themselves to their absentee superiors.
Unbeknownst to SSG Gibbs, a few of the soldiers had obtained hashish from an Afghan guardsman and were sneaking into Stryker vehicles to get high. These personnel carriers had fences attached to their perimeter, specifically designed to prevent rocket propelled grenades (RPG’s) from hurting the passengers inside and provided a perfect cover for their illicit behavior.
A few years older and more experienced than the men in his unit, SSG Gibbs spent rare moments of downtime away from the frat boy-like antics that had begun to escalate into something more sinister. With a wife and young son back home, SSG Gibbs’ personal endeavors centered on advancing his military career and providing a bright future for his loved ones. As he penned letters to his family, members of SSG Gibbs’ squad were conspiring to commit acts so heinous, they would be immediately thrust into the darkest annals of military history.
During an investigation into the rampant drug use that plagued the unit, one of the offending soldiers saw an opportunity to ward off felony charges of possession and use of an illegal substance by romancing glory-hungry criminal investigative command agents (CID) with a shoddily crafted tale of premeditated murder and hubris that scandalized a nation.
As the soldiers in SSG Gibb’s unit corroborated their stories, SSG Gibbs was isolated and immediately interrogated for what he naively believed was a simple drug investigation. With the knowledge that he would pass a drug test with flying colors tucked securely in his back pocket, SSG Gibbs readily complied when CID summoned him headquarters in Khandahar Province. After an amateurish good cop/bad cop routine that left SSG Gibbs bewildered, the agents begin to grill the staff sergeant about a string of murders disguised as legitimate “kills.” Thinking the agents were applying the Reid technique – an intense method of interrogation where a suspect is pressured into saying things that could be held against him – SSG Gibbs is surprised when the agent’s line of questioning switched to murder instead of focusing on the smaller offenses committed by his unit. When he learns the grim truth – that soldiers in his unit were murdering innocent Afghan civilians and planting weapons to substantiate the crime – SSG Gibbs is shocked. But he believes that by holding steadfastly to the truth, he will be exonerated. Little did he know that the military and US government were moving swiftly to isolate the incident and distance themselves from their own shortcomings. They had found the perfect scapegoat.
Months of isolation, mental, and emotional abuse followed. Pre-trial and pre-conviction, SSG Gibbs was sent to Kuwait where he was forced to stand, cuffed, while facing a wall with dried blood on it in a room void of cameras or humane personnel. SSG Gibbs was told that if he made any movement at all, the correctional officers would slam his face into the concrete. The officers took turns screaming at SSG Gibbs and threatening him, a miserable song and dance that was repeated each time he was transferred to a different facility. Some of the guards refused to turn on his lights and SSG Gibbs was forced to sit days at time in a completely dark, windowless room.
As SSG Gibbs was subjected to unspeakable horrors, a vicious 24-hour news cycle consistently regurgitated the propaganda issued by the military. Soldiers who may have considered doing the conscionable thing by admitting that SSG Gibbs had neither orchestrated nor taken part in the killings were implicated in a host of transgressions that would be buried if they agreed to assign blame to SSG Gibbs.
During a mass search, child pornography was found on an Army medic’s computer and he faced a courts-martial that would destroy his life. One week before the medic’s trial, all charges were dropped in exchange for an inflammatory statement made against SSG Gibbs. One by one, each soldier’s story began to align with the prosecutor’s agenda. SSG Gibbs had become a “get out of jail free” card for those who were dirty and it became necessary for those who weren’t to say something against him to avoid being targeted.
In exchange for lighter sentences, the actual perpetrators of the war crimes testified against SSG Gibbs, claiming that the staff sergeant bullied them into shooting a fifteen year old repeatedly at close range. With unshakable honesty and conviction, SSG Gibbs recounted the missions leading up to the courts-martial. The prosecution tried to convince an ill-prepared jury that within two weeks, SSG Gibbs had successfully convinced a small group of impressionable young soldiers to commit murder. The premise was faulty but the spectacle was successful.
SSG Gibbs was found guilty of murder, planting weapons and illegal dismemberment. He is currently serving a life sentence in the United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) in Ft. Leavenworth, KS with the chance of parole after ten years.