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Soldier to be discharged, charges dropped in comrade's suicide

Posted December 17, 2012

— A court-martial for one of the soldiers accused of hazing a comrade in Afghanistan before he committed suicide last year has been dismissed, and he will be separated from the Army, authorities said Monday.

First Lt. Daniel Schwartz's case was handled through an Article 15, which is a non-judicial punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, authorities said.

Schwartz was one of eight soldiers in the 1st Brigade Combat Team 25th Infantry Division out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, charged in the death of Pvt. Danny Chen. Chen, 19, shot himself in a guard house at an Afghanistan base Oct. 3, 2011.

The Army said the soldiers hazed Chen in the weeks before his death. According to court documents, Chen was kicked, dragged from his tent, forced to crawl on a gravel path and had sandbags tied to his arms. The son of Chinese immigrants, he also was called racial slurs like "dragon lady" and forced to speak to his fellow soldiers in Chinese.

Chen's family agreed to Article 15 disposition of Schwartz's case, authorities said.

The other seven soldiers have already been convicted in the case.

Sgt. Jeffrey Hurst was sentenced to reduction in rank and hard labor without confinement for 45 days; Sgt. Andrew J. VanBockel was sentenced to reduction to the grade of E4, 60 days hard labor, with a 45-day credit, and a reprimand; Spc. Thomas Curtis was sentenced to reduction in rank and three months confinement, with seven days credit for time served; Sgt. Travis Carden was sentenced to reduction in rank and forfeiture of two-thirds of his pay for one month; Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas Jr. was sentenced to three months in prison and a one-rank demotion; Spc. Ryan J. Offutt was sentenced to six months in prison, demotion to private and a bad conduct discharge; and Sgt. Adam Holcomb was sentenced to 30 days in prison and the loss of one rank.

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  • cdavison Dec 18, 3:24 p.m.

    Falling asleep on Guard Duty requires action under the UCMJ and not the actions these cowards took. Not sure I ever saw a manual on Hazing. Low-crawling in gravel, calling him names like Egg Roll...where in God's name was the leadership. This is how we treat our own? The title of this article is offensive in that the Officer was not PVT Chen's Comrade...he was his Enemy. And as usual the Sergeant's who didn't get enough time or punishment got the shaft while the Officer walked. Disgusting and Pathetic. Master Sergeant, US Army Retired.

  • westernwake1 Dec 18, 8:58 a.m.

    If you fall asleep on guard duty, these are common things that your unit will do to you.

    Falling asleep on guard duty is basically sentencing your comrades to death. A little bit of discipline from your fellow soldiers should be expected.

    All of these sentences are absurd.

  • Bob3425 Dec 17, 3:46 p.m.

    Ol Forrester may well be the case, however, NCO are suppose to take of their men. Falling asleep on guard duty in combat is serious, however, they were not correcting the problem by doing what they did. I do think some of the sentences were hash.

  • Ol Forrester Dec 17, 2:58 p.m.

    No mention of the cause of the hazing. I had read that it was because Chen kept falling asleep on guard duty in Afganistan. Has anyone heard differently? That not like nodding off at your desk in Raleigh. Lives did depend on him staying alert.